How Apple’s move could potentially shape the future of 3D printing, transitioning skepticism into opportunity.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent rumors surrounding Apple and their potential venture into 3D printing. Initially, I was incredibly excited, thinking that Apple would finally release a consumer 3D printer that actually works. However, I soon discovered that this wasn’t the case at all. Instead, Apple is reportedly experimenting with using industrial 3D printing to create the metal cases for their new Apple Watch series (9).

Ironically, it seems that just as the 3D printing industry has shifted from consumer products to manufacturing, so too is Apple. While this news initially disappointed me, I quickly realized that it could be a monumental moment in the history of 3D printing. Up until now, 3D printing has only been viable in a few manufacturing sectors. These are typically areas where there is a significant functional advantage, such as lightweight parts for aerospace, or a need for customization, like dental aligners. Additionally, cost has been a major factor, with 3D printing often being more expensive than traditional mass manufacturing, except in cases of low volume production. Because of this, many industries have been financially blocked from utilizing the technology, choosing to wait and see what happens or simply ignoring it altogether.

The majority of smaller manufacturing operations are resistant to change, as they see no reason to invest in a technology that provides the same parts at a higher unit cost. Implementing new technology also requires training, project implementation, and other work that many managers would rather avoid. Smaller manufacturers often lack a significant research department, making change even more challenging. In many companies, change is difficult and typically requires a strong push from the top to initiate any sort of progress. Sometimes, this push only happens when companies see their competitors or related industries succeeding with a new technology, prompting them to observe and potentially mimic their success.

Typically, when a new technology emerges, not much happens until suddenly, everything happens all at once. This is the sequence of thinking that occurs in most industries. However, I can’t help but wonder if Apple’s foray into metal 3D printing could be the catalyst to inspire change within the manufacturing industry. Perhaps this move will push some managers from stage 1 (waiting and observing) to stage 2 (adopting the technology). This shift could be monumental for the industry, as there are countless small manufacturers who have yet to embrace 3D printing technology. The players in our industry have tried various marketing approaches to break through this barrier, with limited success. However, with the power and influence of Apple behind it, there is a real possibility that this move could change the game entirely.

Apple is a household name, known by nearly everyone. When they enter a new industry, it catches the attention and sparks the curiosity of the masses. If Apple begins 3D printing, it will undoubtedly gain significant attention, and this could be the breakthrough the manufacturing industry needs to finally adopt 3D printing technology on a larger scale.

So, let’s keep a close eye on Apple and their journey into metal 3D printing. Who knows? This could be the push that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for our industry. Stay tuned.

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