3d Printing, S-W-E-E-E-E-E-T…
So your girlfriend’s eyes roll back in her head when you start talking about your ideas on that awesome 3d Printer you want.. Yes, she has no respect! Well, there is a good chance her opinion may start to change soon.
So what is going on in the 3d Printing world? Well a couple of big things!
The first is a deal between one of the most successful confectionary manufacturers in the world Hersheys and one of the leaders in 3d Printing, 3d Systems.
What is that going to mean? Well the mind boggles. Imagine, covering your girlfriends eyes, creating a bit of suspense and then boom, you show her the 12 inch chocolate bar in form of her name!(Man, that is seriously romantic.)
Or better yet, a fully edible outfit! (See, let your mind run!)
Edible 3d Printing
Well for a few reasons, I don’t think this is going to be too far off in a highly commercial way.
1/ A company you may not have heard of called Fracktal Works is making a printer that will 3d Print chocolate. Yes, seriously, it prints chocolate. Or will do. It is on track to be released in 2015 in the Indian market. But, if I was a betting man, I would think that there will be some competition from the big guys in this area pretty soon. Let your mind run with this one for a while…. My mind boggles.
Courtesy of 3dPrint.com
Personalised chocolate bars could be just the start. Think about a multi colour print head that can print jelly… Wow. I can see that 4 colour process printing may be just around the corner. That would give us full living colour edible objects.
2/ Not too long ago in January 16, 2014, 3d Systems (DDD) did a deal with Hershey’s (HSY) to work on creating edible foods, including confectionery treats. So think about that for a moment, one of the biggest confectionary manufacturers in the world and one of the most powerful 3d printing companies in the world are about to create 3d Printing systems that will produce confectionary. That is going to be big.
3d Printing Edibles – Fast Moving
This is going to be a fast moving area. I would expect that there will be a number of 3d Printing units capable of printing edibles that will land in the next 12 months. The complexity of 3d printing of chocolate is a degree of difficulty lower than printing multi colour edible jelly. But, you could ‘bet your bottom dollar’ that someone is working on it as I write this.
Is 3d Printing Of Edibles A ‘Small Business’ Opportunity?
With a little bit of visualisation, I can see that there could be a strong small business opportunity in the 3d printing of things like personalised chocolate bars. Put an online design tool up that takes a customers specified name, start taking orders and start printing. Darn, it looks pretty compelling.
Of course something like this is already being done on ChocEdge Although, I think the coming generation of printers will enable much greater creativity, through higher resolutions and the ability to deposit in true 3d. Most of the samples shown on ChoceEdge seemed to be more along the lines of a 2d model. I am sure 3d with higher resolution, will take this to a whole new level. The technology cost will also drop to a point where it is within the grasp of small business entrepreneurs.
The Tipping Point Of 3d Printing
One of the things that makes all the difference is a thing called the ‘tipping point’ coined by Malcolm Gladwell. This is where factors such as the cost of manufacturing, features, speed of the underlying process and growing awareness of the new technology reach a stage where exponential growth happens in an industry. At this point change does not happen gradually, it bursts out to a whole new level. I am sure we will see these sort of tidal waves of change happening in 3d Printing as certain thresholds are broken.
So who would have guessed that Indian’s have such a sweet tooth? 🙂 It seems that they see the benefit of getting a jump on some of the large players. In the 3d Printing space, speed can be a factor in the penetration of this new technology. The chocolate printer is actually being developed by a school, the company is Fracktal Works . This means that they are not so encumbered by some of the things that can slow a major corporate entity down. Of course, whether they are successful in the end will likely rely on becoming an entity like the big hitters anyhow. But in the short term, companies like MakerBot (MakerBot of course has been gobbled up by Statasys) have been able to innovate at huge speed due to their humble beginnings. The rapid rise and profusion of small players to medium size, is one of the biggest factors in the devaluations of the bigger hitters like 3d Systems in my opinion. They certainly have tried to acquire as much as they can that is ‘unique’, but the shear volume of innovation in this area is hard to keep up with no matter how deep your pockets.
I will be keeping my eye out for interesting patents. This is probably one of the main areas that can protect the innovator from some of the competition.
Well at least I have the next present for my wife figured out….
And yes, Sheldon your chocolate Yoda is not far away.
Talk again soon!
I do not provide investment advice and am not an investment advisor. I am simply an interested observer of 3d Printing, 3d Innovation and tech companies in general. So please do your own research and make sure to seek good advice, if you are going to use your hard earned money investing. I have done my best to check the facts, but of course, once again do your own independent research. Lance White
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