Is Off-Patent, Low-Cost 3D Printing Competition SLOWING Innovation?

There’s a post on 3ders today about how 3D printing impacts shoemakers Reebok and Puma. The general point of the post is that shoe manufacturers have been using 3D printing for a long time. But there’s a particularly interesting quote from Gary Rabinovitz, RP Lab Manager at Reebok for patent law geeks, which runs counter to most of what you’ll read about 3D printing these days:

According to Gary, the biggest key to change the footwear industry was when Z Corp came out with a full-color 3D printer. It is much easier for the company to communicate with customers, and customers tended to confirm the model much quicker than before. Reebok has now two Z Corp 3D printers and one Objet Connex in house running 18-20 hours a day, 5 days a week.

But the weakness is still there. “The weakness was to print flexible full-color. But at this point of time, nobody can do that.” In addition, “The R&D (of 3D printer manufacturers) has really slowed down.” The companies are focusing on pushing low-end 3D printers to home users. [emphasis added]

Obviously this is just one quote from one guy. But still, it suggests that the low-cost printing revolution has possibly caused the large, originator 3d printer companies to stop pursuing some high-end printer innovation research in order to focus on the low-cost competition. True or False? I’m not sure… but definitely an interesting thought!

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