Will 3-D printing ever make it at retail?
According to Ovum, the technology research and advisory firm, 3-D printing will have only a limited impact in the retail space, at least over the next 10 years or so.
“3D printing will grow but only if it can provide genuine benefits, quality outputs and speed at a reasonable cost,” wrote Ovum in its new report, The Future of Ecommerce: The Road to 2026. “However, even if 3D printing does manage to deliver on all these parameters, it will still have a limited role in mainstream retailing.”
One area where 3-D printing may have an impact is in highly personalized products such as gifts.
Still, the report noted that another option for making tailored, personalized products, mass customization, takes advantage of scale to bring down costs. Ovum wrote of mass customization, “This is clearly a lot easier in principle than in practice, but it has been implemented in several industries, notably in the apparel and automotive sectors.”
At the same time, not all consumers will want highly personalized products “due to questions of agency and concerns over data privacy.”
3-D printing might also become useful in producing spare parts for more complex products, such as cars and motorbikes. Ovum added, however, “For more simple items, such as DIY goods, like screws and hammers, the cost is already so low that the benefit of production via 3-D printing would be minimal.”
The report does see a stronger role for community-run 3-D fabrication shops, which it sees tying into the “collaborative consumption” trend of sharing or renting, such as Airbnb.
Do you see opportunities for 3-D printing at retail over the next 10 years? When, if at all, do you see 3-D printing overcoming cost and speed issues to make an abundance of everyday products?