3D Printing and Personal Production

Coca-Cola_logo.svgDeven and I are nearly done with our draft on intellectual property and 3D printing, and hopefully it will be up on SSRN in a couple of weeks.  One question that I get a lot when I discuss this topic is “Why would people want to make simple things like toys or knick-knacks at home when they can buy them easily at a store?”

Here’s an answer in the form of a question:  Why do so many people like making soda at home?  You can buy a simple device that carbonates water (you just need to replace the gas can every so often) and then add flavoring.  It’s getting more popular.  Nevertheless, soda is probably the most plentiful product out there.  I’m sure that some venture capitalists thought homemade soda would not be able to compete.

What’s the answer?  One thought is that homemade products might be better for the environment.  In the case of soda, you cut back on the number of bottles and cans that you use.  Another possibility is that if you use the product a lot, making it at home does save you money.  (Consider a family that drinks lots of soda.)  The most important thought, though, is that you can customize the product.  Maybe you like your soda with more fizz.  Maybe you like it with less.  Maybe you want more flavoring, a mix of flavorings, and so on.  Standardized products cannot account for all of these differences in taste.  The same will be true for lots of other cheap and diverse consumer products.

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3 Responses

  1. Woody says:

    Gerard,
    Do you think it’s possible that the “IKEA effect” is at play here? We tend to value things we have created/labored with over pre-assembled products.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikea_Effect

    Do you think this might be the case with 3D printing as well?

  2. paean says:

    Depending on the state of the technology it might be the exact opposite of the Ikea effect: printing an object will require so little effort that people will print out far more objects than they ever use.

  3. Sykes Five says:

    My office is evidence of the latter.