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Janne Kyttanen: 3D content isn’t king, free 3D content is

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3D content isn’t king. What is king? Free 3D content! That is because the the word FREE is magical.

Dan Ariely revealed this startling fact in his book Predictably Irrational, where he examined a very unusual “battle” between Lindt chocolate truffles and Hershey Kisses.

To test the power of the word “free” in relation to concrete value, the study first asked people to choose between a 1 cent Hershey Kiss or a 15 cent Lindt truffle (about half its actual value, generally considered a richer, superior chocolate).

Tastes were found to be very much in favor for the truffle (73% Lindt, 27% Hershey’s). I mean, who’s going to pass up a deal, right?

Later though, another random group of subjects seemingly flipped on their opinion of these two treats. Ariely revealed that when the price was reduced by one cent for both brands (meaning the Kiss was now FREE), people altered their choices drastically. (31% Lindt, 69% Hershey’s).

Although in the first test it appears we simply can’t pass up a deal, as it turns out, we really can’t pass up a steal. Although the relation in prices remained the same (a 14 cent difference between the two), people chose the Kiss far more often when it was free.

The same applies to practically all product categories on the planet. Google, Facebook and other platforms have mastered the FREE business model without even saying it out loud and putting it in your face.

3D Content

When I started in 3D printing some 2 decades ago, it was the same time as the start of Napster. My thought was “if music goes digital, it’s free and easily shared, there should not be any difference in sharing 3D printable files in the future.”

Of course, at that time it was utopian, but the rest is history. Platforms like Thingiverse, Cults3D, Pinshape and others have flourished ever since. Few people are willing to pay a premium even for the greatest 3D files, since the sentiment is inherently that since it is digital and doesn’t have material value, why would somebody pay anything for it.

I also love the maker movement where people openly share their creations and we can all jointly enhance the world around us by building upon what others have created. It builds communities, friendships, boost accidental discoveries, fosters open innovation and most importantly it generates smiles on people’s faces. The future is wide open for new business models in this space.

One of my experiments regarding free content that I did last year was with GlassesUSA, one of the largest online resellers of eyewear. The idea was to give away free files and only sell the lenses which fit in the free files.

This was only the start of our journey with these kinds of applications, but all the evidence shows that these new businesses might just revolve around the word “free” and we need to figure out how to make money on free 3D content, which is king.

3D Content

We started this journey by creating the frames using the Lisa, the laser sintering machine created by Sinterit. Since then, countless people and companies have downloaded the files and 3D printed them on FDM, SLS or polyjet. HP even added color to them by using their new Jet Fusion technology, which is not even out on the market yet. It serves as a perfect test case for an item which people can customize and 3D print their own designs at a low cost.

What free content are you looking for next? I have 20 years worth of content that I am sure could create new business revenue for you no matter what industry. Contact me!



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Janne Kyttanen

Janne Kyttanen is a visionary and pioneer in the 3D printing industry. As founder of Freedom of Creation, he became one of the first designers to commercialize 3D printed products, including light fixtures, footwear, furniture, and much more. When Freedom of Creation was acquired by 3D Systems in 2011, Kyttanen took up the mantle as the company’s Creative Director, an influential position which he thrived in for 4 years. Now, Kyttanen puts his 3D expertise to another use, as co-founder and CEO of What the Future Venture Capital, a VC firm dedicated to designing tech startups specializing in cutting-edge technologies.

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