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State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry

  • January 2014
  • -
  • DigitalPrintingReports.com
  • -
  • 42 pages

3D printing has been a mainstream technology for industrial and manufacturing applications for years. For small to mid-sized business, however, it is relatively unknown. For commercial printers, print distributors, and print manufacturers eyeing the technology, its application to the industry is unclear.


This report looks at real-world applications for the commercial printing industry both now and in the future. Sections include discussions including:

Current markets for 3D printing
Current providers of 3D printing
Benefits to commercial printers of investing in 3D printing
Drawbacks to commercial printers of investing in 3D printing
7 potential business models for commercial printers

The report concludes with currently unexplored but realistic opportunities for applying the technology to the types of promotional products and marketing campaigns this industry is already producing, as well as using the technology as a springboard for new types of campaigns (particularly vertical market campaigns).

3D printing provides a tremendous opportunity for print providers to develop new markets both for new services and for their existing printing and multi-channel marketing services.

This report encourages commercial printers, print distributors, and print manufacturers to look beyond how 3D printing is being used today and to creative ways to use the technology to their advantage, whether it's for self-promotion, vertical market promotion, unique incentives for personalized URL campaigns, attendance boosters for trade shows, or creating powerful dimensional mailing packages.

If you think 3D printing isn't for you, you need to read this report.

Table Of Contents

State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry
Table of Contents
Introduction 6
Just at the Beginning 7
Section 1: State of the 3D Printer Market 8
Where We Are and Where We Are Going 9
Benefits for Printers 11
1. Reframing customer perception 11
2. Broadened product line 12
3. Providing a natural upgrade path for certain customers 12
4. Ability to reach deep into new areas of a customer's business. 12
5. Ability to win print business from 3D-printing-first customers. 13
6. Creating the need for marketing support that the printer can then provide. 13
7. Ability to use the technology in-house for in-house uses, such as self-promotion and parts development. 14
8. Low cost of entry. 14
Drawbacks for Printers 14
1. Speed of production 14
2. Need for in-house design. 15
3. The traditional market is already being served. 19
4. Client education and handholding can drain resources. 19
5. Need for market development. 19
Section 2: Who's Buying? Who's Providing? 20
Who's Buying? 20
Professional parts designers and engineers 20
Hobbyists / enthusiasts 21
Small business 22
Entrepreneurs 23
General public 23
Who's Providing? 24
Commercial printers 24
Commodity output providers 25
3D specialists serving the professional marketplace 25
Specialty creation and gift producers 25
In-house 3D shops 25
Hobbyists producing 3D printing in-house 26
BOX: How Unisource Is Using 3D Printing 26
Section 3: Business Models for 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry 28
1. Research and development 28
2. Changing the perception of your company. 29
3. Targeting the consumer and hobbyist market. 30
4. Targeting the traditional 3D market. 30
5. Being an output-only provider. 31
6. Internal cost efficiencies. 32
6. Business nobody has come up with yet 33
7. White labeling. 34
Section 5: Conclusions and Recommendations 36
Additional Resources 40
3D Systems Case Study Link 40
Cubex Case Study Link 40
Cubify Case Study Link 40
EOS Manufacturing Solutions Case Study Link 40
Mcor Case Study Link 40
Sculpteo FAQ (great resources for design issues) 40
Stratysys Case Study Link 41
Other Reports in the Marketers Primer Series 41
“State of Digital Print Marketing: 2013” 41
“State of 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: 2013” 41
“State of Personalized URLs, Response URLs, and Other-URLs: 2013” 41
“State of Web-to-Print: 2013” 41
“State of QR Codes: 2013” 42
“QR Codes: The Data Speaks” 42
“Greening Print Marketing: A Practical Guide” 42
Brandable White Papers 42
About Heidi Tolliver-Walker 43

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