Key point made was this is of interest to small businesses, hobbyists and the like. This really open doors for many people & businesses who otherwise wouldn't be able to bring his/her idea to reality. I could see this being used to create 3D prototypes or models for demos to potential investors, fixing bugs or trying improvement before mass-producing.
I guess the question is what value does this add to users of software or 3D printing other than a closed loop? Will 3D Systems make it easier to 3D print from Alibre to a 3D Systems owned printer but harder to send to ZCorp or EOS?
As far as the '3D printing service bureau model' I can tell you we have seen massive growth in the number of models being uploaded and fabricated by Shapeways. In recent months we have printed over 20,000 items per month for DIY, makers, artists, professional designers, engineers and regular people buying 3D printed products, not just prototypes..
The prototyping that happens behind the scenes on Shapeways for engineering firms is still very interesting, but it is the vibrant community of individuals creating really unique items that makes the marketplace of 3D printed products so exciting.
There has been a large service bureau industry for several years featuring companies such as RedEye and QuickParts. As companies make greater use of 3D printing technology they often move at least part of their requirements in house to save time and money. This has accelerated as prices have dropped and capabilities have grown.
I think there will be a variety of models. I think that 3D Systems sees the content-to-print model (i.e., the bundled hardware/software approach) most appealing to the hobbyist, engineer/entreprenue, SMB company and the do-it-yourself "maker" community, which seems to be growing in size. Larger companies are going to invest in the professional and production 3D printers and have their own software libraries of professional CAD and design tools--they're not going to care about the simplicity of a one-stop bundle.
The 3D printing service bureau model has also gained traction these last few years, and 3D Systems has a stake in that area as well, including 3D proparts and Quickparts, and there are a variety of other 3D prototyping services aimed at professional engineers. Other servcies rising in popularity for enthusiasts include Shapeways, i.materialise.com, and countless others I know I'm not naming (my apologies in advance!).
Any one have any thoughts on how this whole landscape will shake out?
How do you see the content-to-print prototype model evolving in practice at most firms designing products. Will they buy the equipment and software and do it in-house, or will a service-bureau industry evolve to serve smaller companies which need, say, somewhat complex prototypes and don't want to be spending every year to keep up with the lasted 3D-tools revs (i.e., they'd rather put their money into end-product design).
3D Systems certainly has been on an acquisition binge in the past two years. This looks like a natural and a god fit with another recent acquisitiion, Bits From Bytes, as the company takes the leadership in moving 3D printing to a larger market than design engineering.
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