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In general, the largest issue most desktop 3D manufacturers are facing is creating a good product that is also capable of integrating with the rest of what I'm currently calling the Personal Manufacturing Ecosystem. The ecosystem is centered around the three areas of desktop, retail and industrial level production. Each area is using 3D scanners, modeling software, 3D printers and often secondary processing (such as assembly, cleaning, painting of parts etc) to produce tailor-made customer solutions. Here are some issues that I see. Hardware. In desktop 3D printing, most of the innovation is focused on making printers easier to use, more reliable, print better and print faster. Although FFF is the bread and butter technology of desktop 3D printing, SLA, SLS and a bunch of other alternatives are starting to surface. The issue is figuring out what works best for what parts of the ecosystem and what markets/use cases. At Type A Machines, we have created a modularized 3D printing platform that enables us to quickly upgrade and adapt our machine for different needs and to meet emerging market use cases. Software. Ease of use is the name of the game, with click-to-print integration with other services and products being something most if not all are working on. We are leading the way with wifi enabled 3D printing - the key being our accessible API. For software companies oriented solely around 3D printing, turning enough of a profit in an emerging market can be a challenge even though t are a necessary part of the ecosystem, so tying in with hardware makes a lot of sense to start. In addition, reliability is key here. click-to-print only works if the printer is actually yielding good prints! With a mean time between failure of over 1000 hours at expert level, we are best in class here too. Multi materials. There are an increasing number of desktop 3D printing materials available - particularly on the FFF side of things. As the technology matures a wide range of plastic composites, and in fact anything you can extrude through a nozzle, will start to come into play. Issue here is developing the right hardware and software systems to support new materials, and making them work (reliably) with your printer. As it happens, our modular print head and our winchester extrusion system does that rather well. Services. As desktop 3D printing becomes more reliable and easy to use, a number of niche market services and solutions are starting to appear. Around 8% of our current user base are startups! Most of these are serving the long tail in some form or other, but as t mature t are increasingly producing professional and scaleable services. An issue in my mind is how we can support and encourage more of these startups - which btw is a great way of creating jobs in America (or wherever the company is based). We are working actively with our startup community to do just that. Business. Although desktop 3D printing is still very much a blue ocean market, folks are already starting to position themselves strategically for the prosumer or enterprise level lower end market battle. Others are going straight mass-consumer market (which I think is premature). There are around 108 different desktop 3D printer manufacturers out there at the moment - not all of them will be around by the end of 2014. Some of this may be due to IP lawsuits from the big two (DDD & SSYS), but most I think will be down to poor pricing strategies and cash-flow issues, or being outpaced by the tech development curve. We made some smart choices early on back in January 2012, and have managed to stay cash-positive while bootstrapping our growth from 4 people when we started to 18 people now. On the tech side it is interesting to see the rest of the desktop 3D printing manufacturers slowly coming to the same conclusions as we did regarding optimal build volume, feeding mechanisms, PLA as primary print material, etc. Our CTO Andrew Rutter is great at choosing the right tech, and continues to push the envelope. Standards. As the market starts maturing, legal/safety standards, as well as file formats, material grading and print quality grading systems will emerge. Larger institutions such as schools or F500 companies have needs for e.g. authenticate protocols or in the latter case encryption when printing wirelessly, to control whom has access and what is being printed. 3D printed guns may capture the public imagination, but a more persistent issue I think will be the inevitable legal ramifications of being able to easily scan and print a clone of a companies product at a level far more accessible than ever before. At Type A Machines, we take these incoming issues very seriously, and are working hard to develop the right balance of supporting and encouraging accessible and open source, while at the same time safeguarding larger companies or investors that could help speed up the personal manufacturing revolution. Our goal is to enable folks of all ages and creeds to build great and wonderful things.I hope that helps! If you or anyone reading have more questions, or would like to invest in our company for our seed round, please don't hesitate to contact me. Espen@typeamachines.com Best wishes, Espen
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