I Almost Didn’t Believe It

This thing was actually printed!

Not all innovations involve new technology.   In fact, at SagePoint we tend to favor those that don’t–simple product news that catches our attention and captures our fancy.  But every now and then we find a technology that’s just too cool to ignore.  Like this one.

We all have printers, right?   We lay a piece of paper on the flatbed and out comes a beautiful copy, in color even.  Old hat, even for photographs.  (Although it’s notable that some older folks may still be impressed when we recall the old-time hand-crank mimeograph machines that were still used in the 60′s.  Or, I recall my mother making a poor-man’s version with carbon paper and a baking pan filled with Knox Gelatin!)

But what if you could print copies of three-dimensional objects, even those with moving parts?  I’m not talking about 2D renderings that look like 3D, but actual working three-dimensional objects, kind of like beaming up on Star Trek.  I saw this video on YouTube and was immediately skeptical.  But a little bit of research reveals that this is entirely true–the Z Corporation out of Burlington, Massachusetts has created a 3D printer that is way ahead other rapid prototyping technologies that we’ve seen before.

One can quickly come up with all sorts of applications for this, once it gets cost effective.  Say you built a prototype of a new widget by hand.  Looks great–let’s print up a few more.  Or is the part you need to repair your dishwasher out of stock?  No problem–we’ll print you one.  It’s a potential game changer in a lot of industries.  And it’s really, really cool.

Why we like this innovation:

1.  Wow! factor.  You see it, and right away you want to share it with someone.  And then you’d really like to try it.  Any innovation with a genuine Wow! factor has a running start on success.

2. Practical application.  Lots of new technologies are cool, but it’s not clear what to do with them.  When the cost comes down on these–which it eventually will–there are a plenty of businesses that would love to have one.  The SagePoint mantra: If you can’t take it to market, it’s an idea, not an innovation.

3. While the rapid prototyping technology is very complex, the idea is amazingly simple.  Stick object in.  Press the button.  Take the copy from the tray and blow the dust off.   It feels like something I could do without reading the instruction manual.  Simplicity in innovation is a beautiful thing.

I’m dreaming of the day: Hey, I love that bust of Mozart on your mantel.  Copy me on that, would you?

About Bill Aho

Bill Aho is a partner with The SagePoint Group, hands-on consultants that develop innovative products, services and marketing concepts. Bill has worked in marketing, strategic planning, general management and innovation in Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Darden Restaurants and ClearPlay. He has appeared and been quoted in multiple TV, magazines and newspapers, including Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, MSNBC, BBC, PBS and others.
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