For the last several months, I have been poking around, interviewing printers who have purchased 3D printers, reading 3D printing case studies, surveying 3D industry data, and trying to answer the question, “Is 3D printing relevant to the commercial printing industry?” The answer is yes, but not in the way I think many people believe.
One of the biggest opportunities for commercial printers, I believe, will come in using the production capabilities of these printers to drive the need for multi-channel marketing. Let me give one scenario.
Your client is a pediatric orthodontist who wants to increase his patient base, but there are several competing pediatric orthodontists in his geographic area. So you come up with an ingenious marketing plan that none of his competitors are using. You promote the dentist with a unique incentive for using his services — a 12″ action doll that looks just like the child. Then you purchase a list of households with a specific income level, with children under 18 years of age, within a specific geographic radius, and send out a postcard featuring a young girl with braces, with beaming smile, holding a 12″ action doll that looks just like her — braces and all.
Is this an expensive incentive? Yes, it is. But it’s only provided with the purchase of braces or other orthodonics. It can be printed in-house at the print shop or outsourced to a provider like ThatsMyFace.com. This model could be applied to nearly every market vertical. What incentive could be printed to encourage test drives of luxury vehicles? Or product demonstrations of high-dollar items. Say . . . a new digital printing press?
The value of 3D printing isn’t necessarily going to be in producing 3D-printed items for their own sake. It’s going to be for the larger marketing opportunities that these 3D-printed items create.