Why people turn down the opportunity with 3D printing?

During the past year I have discussed with several industries and disciplines about the possibility to apply 3D printing technology in their activities in some form or another. I have been curious about the new opportunities and visions people create when they are faced with new technology, and also about the fears and sceptisism.

google 3dp

Metal 3D printed part

The discussions have taken place with people from manufacturing, construction, education, arts, making of musical instruments, bike builders, museums, designers, researchers, handcrafts, subcontracting, OEM, and many more.

In most cases the discussions and first reactions take similar paths: ”Our business is so conservative and traditional that I don’t see 3D printing coming into our activities in any way. The technology is far too expensive for us. And I believe, 3D printing is not mature enough or reliable for our business.” And they are right. This is of course the case when you come from a tradition and have established well-working and optimized practises.

Does this sound familiar? The experiences and encounters are more or less similar among all 3D printing evangelists and practitioners when they discuss with nonbelievers.

Simultaneously exploring the same industries and disciplines yields numerous examples and use cases how people already apply 3D printing in that specific application, industry, or discipline, and generate revenues with the new technology. The same observation emerges by looking at the industry forerunners and industry reports. 3D printing is applied in new areas and applications every day.


”No additive process (3D printing) can duplicate strength of the base material that could have been cast, moulded or machined from bar, let alone compete with the complex structures of composites” (Bike expert, 2013)

”First metal 3D printed bicycle frame”, ”Custom 3D printed titanium mountain bikes”, ”Robot Bike Company teams with AM experts on custom 3D printed bike frame”, ”Custom 3D Printed Carbon Fiber Bike Frame” (News titles on 3D printing and bikes, 2016)

What can we learn?

  • Forerunners do change the industry. Whatever business you think of, there is already somebody applying or exploring 3D printing. The number of these forerunners is overwhelming. And they seem to turn exploration and demonstrations into new businesses very quickly.
  • We are dealing with the phenomena of fast and slow thinking (Kahnemann). This is something deeply human which we can’t avoid. Fast thinking is automatic reaction that focuses on maintaining status quo and safety. It is often irrational and based on the incomplete, even conflicting, information that we have in the active memory. To my mind, forerunners are masters in slow thinking – combining and creating new information with deeper thought, and passing the phase of fast thinking without damage.
  • There are knowledge gaps. It is obvious that most of us don’t know enough about 3D printing and current status. And why should we? The technology is developing fast and it is really worksome to get proper information beyond the hype texts, successful demonstrations (forgetting the failed ones) and videos.
  • Consistency. It is interesting that the protective attitude against applying 3D printing is so similar across people and professions. Why guitar builders think that 3D printing will never come to their business? Why metal manufacturing company uses exactly the same words to turn down the opportunity?


3dvarius and classical

Classic violin and 3D-printed electric violin 3DVarius play together

The industrial renaissance and digitalisation, where 3D printing is one essential element, is a great task for all educators, knowledge generators and advocates. We all will be challenged by the new opportunities, the inefficiency of old practices and by the new business models and economy that have started to emerge.

We must think slow.

Pekka Ketola, June 12, 2016

3DSTEP & ideascout.


Ramping up 3D Printing Competence

Tampere business region takes the fast lane for building special competences in industrial 3D printing. How this all started and what is going on right now?

In October 2012 innovation company ideascout Ltd invited Finnish SMEs to co-create new opportunities that are based on the emerging 3D printing business. Altogether 30 companies co-created practical insights and an action plan and so a systematic development process started. Somewhere along the next steps a vision for strong local competence concentration emerged and this led to numerous multidisciplinary development, training and investment activities.
Event by event, meeting by meeting, larger population engaged in and got inspired by the opportunities. After field studies and opportunity exploration a special competence and community development activity – 3D Printing Academy – was executed in 2015 by ideascout and funded by local development organisations, such Pirkanmaan Liitto (Council of Tampere region) and Tredea (Tampere Region Economic Development Agency). This led to the creation of a 3D printing community of 600 members. The key event was the first local 3D printing conference in 2015 with over 300 participants. Big numbers for a relatively small business region!
In May 2016 the situation is extremely fascinating. Tampere business region has established high quality training activities on 3D printing with local universities and other organisations and investments are in place for getting high quality equipment. The first Finnish 3D printing cafe, 3DCrush, is running, local 3D printer manufacturing has started (Prenta) and several top level additive manufacturing research activities have been initiated. Dealers for industrial 3D printers provide machines for companies. A special opportunity is also found in the training of former Nokia and Microsoft professionals to be the next generation 3D printing practitioners. Just to give some examples.
The Vision is very much alive in front of our eyes and the industrial revolution is becoming reality. This year will show the new big steps toward industrial 3D printing in Finland. One of the steps is 3DSTEP conference that takes place in Tampere city in October 4-5, 2016.
We welcome you to experience, see and feel the winds of change. WELCOME!

– Pekka Ketola, ideascout Ltd / 3DSTEP –


This article was originally published in 3DSTEP Event blog in May 2016.