3D Printing at the Peak of Hype
Todd Grimm posted on August 30, 2012 |
Hype cycle

Source: Gartner, Inc.
For a larger image, click the image below.

Gartner, Inc. has just published its latest “hype cycle,” a model that describes technologies’ rise to a peak of inflated expectations and crash into the trough of disillusionment. In this edition, it has 3D printing poised at the peak of hype.

I am a big believer in Gartner’s hype cycle. I’ve been using it as a predictive model for 3D printing and 3D scanning for five years. I agree, in part, with its assessment of 3D printing’s placement. The aspect of the industry that the media touts, home-based printers and consumer-made goods, is definitely at the peak of inflated expectations. In this context, I believe that within one year, the media will become disinterested (old news), the buzz will die down to a subtle hum and people will be asking, “what has become of 3D printing.”

However, we must note that Garter specifically states “3D print it at home.” It is not commenting on the entire industry —all technologies, all applications and all markets — as one. For the hype cycle, we must segment the 3D printing industry.

For professional/industrial use, the cycle has already played out. I argue that for model making and prototyping, 3D printing crested the peak in the early- to mid- 1990s. For production applications, we reached the summit three years ago.

I say this with one caveat. In the minds of the professionals in the design, engineering and manufacturing realms, we have peaked. But Gartner’s assessment applies if we include all those that are not practitioners.

The attention-grabbing headlines and fantastic stories have the non-practitioners, the “average Joes,” hyped up in a belief that manufacturing will soon change in radical ways. They have yet to fall into the trough of disillusionment.

The hype cycle is a powerful model, one that I suggest you investigate. But as you do, remember to consider 3D printing not as a whole but rather as an amalgamation of many, many unique segments.

For a description of the hype cycle, visit http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp

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