Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The "Anti" technology trigger: DRM and 3D printing

Here's a scenario from, perhaps, 2015.

I just bought a $25 case for my phone with a clever new mounting bracket to use in the car. Cool, this is really useful.  To surprise a friend who has the same phone, I take pictures of the case from three different angles and upload them to replicators-r-us.com, who convert the photos to a digital file for a 3D printer, send it to the printing station at my local Kinko's, and store a copy in my Google Drive inbox.  An hour later, I pick up an excellent copy of the case for $5 and present it to my buddy.  By 2018 or so, costs will have come down so far, I'll do the printing at home instead.

The CNET video shows a similar scenario already in production, just not commercialized yet.

When you or I can do that, what has happened to the business model of the original manufacturer, and the designer of the case?  Disintermediated.  Those in the CD industry knew your pain years ago.  Just as we created the ability to digitize music, we will soon have the ability to digitize things.  That means we can store and move them online, we can share them, and replicate them at will.

Yes, 3D printing is not very sophisticated yet, but who can doubt that it is a temporary thing?  Like music, video, books, and applications, some objects are about to become stateless--not permanently bound to one means of storage, delivery, or consumption.  Patent trolls have already figured this out.  Click through to this article from extremetech.com last fall:

How DRM will infest the 3D printing revolution

That is why the title of this post refers to the idea of an "anti technology trigger."  Some developments trigger new uses of existing abilities; some--like imperfectly resolved rights management--hold those new uses back.

This behavior is typical, and expected, whenever a new technology threatens existing business models and profit streams.  Just be warned.  3D printing has profound implications for manufacturers, both as an enabler for your supply chain (parts created just in time, or the ability to recreate archive parts at will) and as a threat to now-secure ownership of creative and manufacturing processes.  We saw firsthand what it did to the music industry, an upheaval that is by no means settled even yet.

Remember, in times of change and controversy lie business opportunity.  One such opportunity, a multi-billion dollar business that doesn't exist yet, is Digital Content Identity and Access Management.

What are you thinking about 3D printing?  Still more hype than delivery? Or are we going to see it in widespread use so quickly we'll have to catch our breath and put it to work?

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