Another anouncement regarding the Windows 8.1 support of 3D printing. The article contains an interesting comment related to the "maybe biggests bottleneck"when it comes to the distribution of 3D printing technology and software: know-how - or more specific: special know-how you need nowadays to develop 3D models with CAD and modeling software. Basically it´s possible to leapfrog this step in case you can scan an existing model, but even then you´ll usually need to edit/repair the file to optimze the print result/object.
While Gartner research director Pete Basiliere names this fact as a severe roadblock regarding the distribution of 3D printer hardware to (end) consumers one could argue against that prediction on several levels:
- the development of software e.g. HMTL - already some companies (not only startups but established companies as well) are on their way to develop new a lot more intuitive user interfaces to simplify complex steps in developing or editing 3D models.
- the key to 3D printing and whether it makes sense to have a 3D printer in your living room may not be that deeply connected to the consumers ability to use modeling/CAD software as it seems: the combination of a fast growing number of easy to obtain 3D models (market places, sharing platforms - e.g. shapeways, thingiverse etc.) and the development of "smarter hardware" (partially replacing "assembly lines" by offering a set of tools in on package; e.g. milling) as well as more capable file formats (I remember a presentation from Adrian Bowyer stating the disadvantages or shortcomings of *.stl) may reduce the necessity of know-how a lot. You search and discover the item you want, you buy the model, you print it - end of story.
- micro tasking may also be a factor (but with a smaller impact regarding mass market). There are already several platforms offering (payed) help in case you need a specialist to create a 3D model based on a sketch.
- roadblockers for 3D hardware distribution may lie in other areas of 3D manufacturing: size (restrictions towards the size of printed objects), materials (availability, usability) and complexity added by necessity to use several materials in one production step, easy access to high tech printers via 3D printing farms (e.g. shapeways but also staples and may be other retailers)