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Janne Kyttanen: why creativity is the bottleneck in 3D printing and how to stay relevant

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A lot has happened in the 3D printing field since I started about 20 years ago. For one, I remember when I would say “3D printing” and people’s eyes would glaze over as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Interestingly, the world finally caught up to this “foreign language” and started understanding the power of 3D printing, even if it was on the surface. In fact, when the 3D printing hype was in full swing (around 2012), companies, investors, wall street brokers and others wanted a piece of the “3D action” without really knowing much about what they were getting into. And boom – 3D printing was on the map as one of the hottest buzzwords to use in organizations and marketing everywhere.

But what goes up must come down, right?

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened to 3D printing right in the beginning of 2014: it plummeted and left shareholders wondering what went wrong.

Ironically, given the Gartner Hype Cycle, you would think that futurists would have seen this one coming. It is what happened with the Dutch tulip craze in 1637, the internet boom in 1997, and perhaps what we can expect for Bitcoin, which started in 2009.

What does this mean for 3D printing and what can you do about it?

3D printing has become mainstream which means it is no longer a future promise. That should excite you as much as it does me! Because, when a market becomes more mature it brings in competition, which forces companies to get better with their processes, tools, products and services.

To some organizations, which grew during the hype and have been resting on their laurels for a couple decades, this might not be great news. It means they have become cluttered and, because of that, they have failed to stay on the pulse.

It happens all the time. Being Finnish, I still remember when Apple came to the mobile phone market and initially I looked at it with curiosity and thought “I bet this will light some fire under Nokia.” When senior management at Nokia just brushed it off, my second reaction was “oh shit this is not good!” The rest is history. I refer to this during presentations I give in the 3D industry as the “Nokia effect.” When you think you are untouchable and stop “creating” and thinking about how to stay ahead of the competition, your business will suffer dramatically.  

The business in 3D printing is a lot more complex than it used to be just 5 years ago. It used to be enough to just sell materials and “me-too” machines and it didn’t even matter how your gray box looked like. There was too little competition for these companies to even care.

Fast forward to today and it is not enough to just sell machines, materials and software. If your company is not able to help your customers with the applications and business development or educate and inspire them on how to really use your equipment, your recently sold 3D printer may just become a dust collector. I am not talking about tech specs and how to run your machine, but about why to even buy one, why to use it and for what.

I consult companies on creativity for finding the best use for their 3D tech in various markets. I also consult companies on timing and making sure they remain on the pulse and connect the dots for the latest innovations. If you wish to know where the industry is headed and desire real solutions that can help you get there, contact me and let’s chat about creativity.

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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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