Identifying the Problem: How Do We Encourage Adoption of Desktop 3D Printing?
One of the ongoing design challenges at MakerBot was the challenge of encouraging mass adoption of desktop 3D printing. This challenge is broad in scope, and it's no easy feat. It is both a business problem and a user-centered problem. As with any new technology, there are those who openly embrace it, and there are those who remain skeptical, or who simply don't see a need for it. Perceptions are shaped and influenced by many factors. Unfortunately, much of what we see and hear in the media perpetuates the idea that 3D printing is far too limited for any useful applications. While there are still a number of technical hurdles to be overcome for the technology to reach 'plug-n-play' status, the potential is already there. One of my goals as product designer at MakerBot was to shed light on this issue, and to design compelling content as a means of demonstrating the capabilities of desktop 3D printing.
The Prevailing Perception of Desktop 3D Printing
Thinking Deeper About the Problem.
In order to understand how to make 3D printing relevant and desirable to consumers, we first have to understand who they are, what their needs are, and what their expectations are. For these reasons, it made sense to establish different product verticals : engineering, consumer, education, and architecture. The images below depict an example of an engineering project that was unveiled at the 2015 "Inside 3D Printing " show at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.
Product Vertical #1: Engineering
Leading by Example.
Sometimes the best way to inspire is to lead by example. Seeing is believing, especially when you're talking about 3D-printed objects. The goal here was to demonstrate potential. I wanted to shed light on what can be achieved with current desktop 3D printing, and in doing so, hopefully make a case for why it's important, and why it's relevant. Too often, people associate desktop 3D printing with trinkets and objects of no practical use.
The goal here was to design an object that would demonstrate the way a real product may be prototyped in the real world. This model contains moving pistons, camshafts, gears, and propeller. The complexity and size makes for a compelling story.
Above: Progress shots showing the development of the outboard boat engine, designed and optimized for 3D printing. Final model is over 4 ft. tall, and contains moving pistons, crankshaft, camshaft, bevel gears, and propeller. The goal was to demonstrate the potential of desktop 3D printing.