3-D Printing: To Believe or Not Believe the Hype

So, CES 2014 happened last week. Although I wasn’t one of the 150,000 attendees in Las Vegas checking out the goods, I’ve enjoyed sifting through all the tweets and write-ups.

Wearable devices such as smartwatches and head-mounted displays have generated buzz on the show floor for years. But, as The Boston Globe pointed out, an air of renewed excitement permeated the aisles of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Why? Manufacturers believe the field is finally gaining traction with consumers, according to the article. Something to think about, especially if you’re sitting on an idea similar to French company Netatmo’s UV-sensing wristband (the wristband includes a “gemstone” that measures exposure to ultraviolet light, a cause of skin cancer).

Another sector made some headlines—I’m talking about 3-D printing, of course (did you think I was going to draw more attention to Michael Bay and Samsung?). Responsible for a diverse group of items ranging from titanium bone implants and full-length gowns to soft tissue and transplantable kidneys, 3-D printing has built quite the reputation. However, when I read the Los Angeles Times’ headline, “CES 2014: Could 3D printing change the world?,” it gave me pause. Reporter Salvador Rodriguez wrote: “Even though 3D printing is all the rage at the Consumer Electronics Show, many people outside the industry are still puzzled by all the fuss.” Some of the experts interviewed (note, there were 28 3-D printing exhibitors at the show, up from just eight in 2013, according to Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association) commented on the power this technique gives to … well, anyone.

Gary Shu, XYZprinting’s market development division senior manager, explained how quickly 3-D printers create common household items including plastic cups and plastic spoons. “With 3-D printing, you just get a design from the Internet, press the button and print at home,” he stated in the article. XYZprinting is said to be releasing a new 3-D printer called the Da Vinci later this year for $499—one of the most affordable printers on the market.

Elise Hacking Carr is executive editor/content director for Print+Promo magazine.

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