Will Things3D Unlock the Huge Potential of Consumer 3D Printing? Very Possibly!

While at the Nottingham Conference last week, one of the most engaging presentations given was by Joe Wee. And it was not just because the delivery was so good. The content of Joe’s presentation was fascinating and pointed to a new business within the 3D printing industry — Things3D. This is the name of his new venture. Previously, as I mentioned in my review of the event, Joe has had a highly successful career, which included, among other things, being a co-founder (along with his partner Chris Byatte) of Chillingo, the app developer behind some of the most successful mobile apps of all time — Angry Birds, anyone!?

Since leaving EA earlier this year, the company that acquired Chillingo in 2010, Joe has turned his attention to 3D things and is launching Things3D. The premise is to engage more consumers with 3D printing, and lets face it, his experience to date will have furnished him with a better understanding than most of what consumers want — and buy into.

The drive behind Things3D is to produce “the de facto destination for ‘Smart’ 3D printed products,” Joe says. And this all revolves around mining valuable consumer brand IP (and not trying to over protect it, which probably won’t work in the future anyway) and offering it to consumers, enabled by 3D printing and 3D scanning. The key is licensing — within a new business model that global brands will need to consider. Some of the forward thinkers are already doing it. Things3D is looking to facilitate this new business model through a cloud platform that will provide “a digital and physical engagement bridge between brands and consumers, that simultaneously makes 3D printing more accessible — and powerful.” All built on a foundation “of deep respect for artists, IP owners and fans.”

According to Joe, licensed products are currently worth £250 billion in retail sales worldwide and thus, he says, there is a HUGE opportunity here for 3D printing if approached correctly. There is an obvious current barrier — brand owners are so desperate to protect their IP that many are completely closed off to licensing opportunities but, Joe warns, this needs to change before their control is wrenched away from them with the evolution of 3D printing. Remaining closed, he believes, will only stifle innovation rather than letting it flourish. Indeed, he cited Gartner, not with the curve (phew!!), but rather the organisation’s prediction that by 2018, $100 billion will be lost if the existing trajectory with IP is followed and things don’t change.

Thus, Things3D is proposed as a solution to brand owners that allows them to exploit — ie monetize — their IP and embrace the 3D printing / home maker revolution. And the consumers will buy into it, he believes. The tech that the guys have developed centres around three (pending) international patents which include the unique, scannable OwnerChip® Technology and the T3DSECURE® Platform. Due to the pending nature of the tech patents, not too many specifics were given away at this point.

Things3D 3D PrintingHowever, Joe was also focused on the experience of the consumer — and he did indeed address “the elephant in the room,” specifically that not everything can be printed effectively and cost efficiently today. However, to engage consumers en masse, it is vital to make them “enjoy the process of ordering and receiving.” It was a simple statement — but it is an issue often overlooked.

The consumer interface, Joe believes, will be mobile devices, which will increasingly enable more 3D printing consumer interaction, particularly as scanning apps become more powerful.

So much of this presentation made sense to me, and I am looking forward to seeing it go live soon. Turns out Joe is based not too far from me, when we chatted after his presentation, so we’re going to meet up later in the summer to talk more in-depth about it all.