Whether you’re up to date on every new technology or a veritable luddite, odds are you’ve heard of 3D printing and the amazing things that it can do. It’s recently been used to create an artificial vertebra in surgery, Local Motors is at work trying to perfect a car, and it’s been under scrutiny in its personal limits ever since people learned that they could even print a functional gun.
Through this new, emergent technology, businesses are starting to see the potential for not just new new designs, but manufacturing and distribution systems. As it gains prominence, it’s gone from a flashy novelty to something you should seriously consider in the coming years.
One underrepresented area that 3D printing excels in for absolutely any business is marketing. The applications for customisation and rewards for customers are limitless, and it’s the point at which publishing and design companies are more apt to utilise the coming trend as it stands now.
Printing allow customers to engage with your product, printing their own personalised creations. Just take Microsoft’s foray into the technology. To drum up exposure around their game Halo 5, players could create unique soldiers to play in multiplayer, and in turn upload these custom creations to a partnered 3D printer, who would manufacture a personalised status.
While that example is dependant on the ability to customise within the product, it’s just the beginning. The future extrapolation of this is clear; we’re going to see increasing amounts of personalised merchandising and marketing campaigns. Imagine a couple of future campaigns for different media types:
- ‘Send us a picture of your face, we’ll turn you into a Hogwarts character!’
- ‘The person to send us the best photo of themselves surfing gets a statue of themselves in that pose!’
- ‘Get a custom trophy of your choice in our in-house style!’
- ‘Send in your plans for a 3D printed car. We’ll race ‘em and give a prize to the winner!’
The most amazing thing about this is that most of these have been already done. It might not have been Hogwarts specifically that your face got transposed onto, but you can get it in Lego. The technology is here and usable, it’s only got to be picked up and ran with.
We’re about to enter a time where 3D printing stops being something you hear of far, far away, and starts to become increasingly accessible to regular households. It’s coming, and advancing quick (we’re already working on multi-substance prints and even food printing.
On the publishing front, we’ve already got 3D printed book sleeves and covers, and for photographers there’s the capacity for the 3D photograph (and let’s not forget the initial stirrings of a 3D printed camera).
Designing products is simpler, too. Nike report that prototypes take a matter of days, not weeks, to create. Any realisation of concept — whether you’re planning to make the final through the process or not — can be sped up by nigh-instant construction.
This idea can even be pushed to in-media examples. Let’s say you’re publishing a technical manual a few years into the future when 3D printing becomes accessible easily to the common home (prices are dropping, but they’re not quite there yet).
On page thirty-four, there’s an instruction on learning to undertake a fairly complex procedure. There are diagrams, but that’s hardly something you can come to grips with for a kinaesthetic learner (or for complicated moving parts). Luckily, there’s a link to a 3D example that you can print off and work from yourself in situ.
Let’s take this one step further again.
The concept of mixing media within media isn’t new, but 3D printing allows us to extend it to ludicrous levels.
Fantasy books used to wow us with extensive maps of faraway lands and drawings of castles. Now, instead, you can print a landscape or create-a-dragon yourself. A Star Trek book can come with its own recorder. A Batman comic or DVD comes with its own action figure and replica batarang.
The best thing is? All you need is a schematic. Formerly bundling anything with a book is a huge space-consumer, and book-stores are loathe to carry them. Instead of a free bookmark, it’s a free print-your-own bookmark.
Depending on your product, we might even see a whole new distribution method entirely. Instead of international shipping, small-scale custom orders can now be custom-fit in any warehouse with a printer that fits the scale — just add schematics.
On top of this, some lucky companies might be able to shave off some of their manufacturing costs altogether. Selling 3D printed schematics runs the risk of printer piracy, but allows people to manufacture their own stuff — saving you and them a load of money by passing the buck on a potentially very costly arm of the chain.
Merchandising becomes localised, custom orders become accessible, and transport costs become negligible.