3D Printers and The Disappearance of Economies of Scale

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One of the biggest hurdles an entrepreneur faces when considering entering the marketplace is whether production of the product can be scaled to be accessible to the largest amount of consumers. There are lots of factors when considering scalability, many of those being production costs. For example, time of manufacture, materials, and labor all contribute to the inherent costs of entering the market. All those costs considered, it’s easy to see why many would-be entrepreneurs are hesitant to move forward with their ideas. But with costs for both equipment and materials decreasing, 3D printers are becoming more accessible than ever before, and hold the key to removing the barriers that stop entrepreneurs from bringing their ideas to market. Also known as “additive” manufacturing, 3D printing deposits layers of 3D ‘ink’ in thin layers until an object appears. This process allows for faster prototyping and versioning while using less raw material. By reducing material waste and the need for a sizable labor force, costs can be lowered to a point where entrepreneurs no longer have to produce vast quantities to recoup their costs. What this means is that entrepreneurs can bring products that have gone through more versioning and refinement to market at lower cost faster. And that is the promise of 3D printing. Much in the same way that the advent of computers changed modes and scales of production, 3D printing will bring about change in the what, how, and who of the marketplace. As technology improves and costs of entry decrease, an environment develops where more individuals have access to becoming producers. In turn, it is inevitable that through competition better products will be available at lower costs to consumers, which widens the circle of those who are able to take part in the marketplace. As this cycle can only continue, it brings the market in to range for more people across the globe, making 3D printing a truly democratic technology.

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