3D Printing: From Small Business Production to the iPhone Shoe


By Abbey Peschel


English: RepRap v.2 'Mendel' open-source FDM 3...
English: RepRap v.2 ‘Mendel’ open-source FDM 3D printer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3D printers may be changing the world of production forever. According to “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,” these devices offer on demand production to people in a huge variety of fields. From doctors and professional designers to students and small business owners, users across the economic spectrum may soon see their work becoming easier and more customized.


While many have posited that cheaper, easier to build 3D printers would result in heavy home use, “Fabricated” suggests a different hypothesis. Instead of a printer in every kitchen, authors suggest that the world will see greater individualization in marketing and promotion fields, medical fields, and even every day consumer products. Most people won’t create their own specialized objects: instead they’ll have them printed by a specialist, then purchase them through an ordinary store or online retailer.


Many industries have already seen some of these effects already. For instance, custom-printed prosthetics have been targeted as a way to make these devices more comfortable to wear and more effective for their individual owners. Marketing companies are experimenting with printing three-dimensional logo images and other promotional products in substances ranging from chocolate to resin.


One designer in Amsterdam has even printed a shoe designed to hold an iPhone. According to Alan Nguyen , the shoe was created as a legal test. While the design is wholly original in itself, its purpose is to hold a device that has been fiercely defended by intellectual property lawyers. The iPhone shoe also includes elements of other case designs for the Apple product, as a mash-up and tribute to their original designers.


This type of printing also poses other potential quandaries. With designers creating and uploading the plans and instructions for all kinds of devices, anyone with a printer could potentially create one of those objects. When this is applied to scans of copyrighted or patented items, home and small business fabrication suddenly poses a much greater intellectual property risk. The possibility of 3D printed weapons and other black market items adds to many experts’ concern.


No matter what issues arise in relation to three-dimensional printing, however, it’s certain to expand horizons and change many people’s idea of how manufacturing works. The days of identical mass-produced objects may be giving way to a world of exciting new custom-created products.


Abbey Peschel is a Boston-area printing and marketing specialist. You can find her on Twitter @Abbey_Peschel





Modern Family Catches iPad Fever

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=ipad&iid=7695463″ src=”c/3/7/b/Apple_Announces_Launch_b6a1.jpg?adImageId=12020618&imageId=7695463″ width=”234″ height=”331″ /] Last night, I watched this week’s episode of Modern Family on ABC. I love this show – it’s got great writing, loaded with wit and truly one of the best sitcoms I’ve seen in a while.

While I enjoyed this week’s episode, laughing out loud in spots, it also struck me as a 30-minute commercial for Apple.  You see, one of the dad’s in the show, Phil, was celebrating his birthday – and all he wanted was the new iPad. He planned to get up early Saturday to wait in line and make sure he was one of the first to get one since it’s so important for him to be an “early adopter.” (Love that line!)

Of course, his wife offered to wait in line for him – but she has a history of screwing up his birthday and this one was no different. Even though she woke up early, she fell asleep on the couch and didn’t make it to the store in time.

The rest of the episode focused on her efforts to chase around all over town to get one, until her son came to the rescue by emailing his dad’s cyber-buddies, lying that the dad was sick, (or dying, I forget which!), and then successfully obtaining an extra iPad from one of the people who felt sorry for Phil’s supposed illness.

Needless to say, Phil was ecstatic (after stoically suffering all day). If you haven’t seen the episode, you should go to ABC.com to watch it.

Anyway – as enjoyable as the episode was, it got me thinking about the close synergy that’s developed between advertisers and programmers. I hope the writers came up with this idea on their own since the storyline fit the character well. But maybe Apple approached them, I don’t know.  Apple was acknowledged in the show’s credits.

I’m not sure why the Apple reference bothered me. There’s nothing new here after all. Advertising in a television program (as opposed to commercial breaks) has been around since the beginning of TV in the 1950s. But with the advent of DVR’s and the Internet, advertisers have been working with the networks to get their products integrated in the show’s content.

In some shows, the advertising is just downright blatant – such as The Biggest Loser. I love watching that show – it’s very inspiring. But every time they start saying how great Ziploc or Xtra gum is, I just fast-forward past that segment. (I rarely watch TV live – everything gets DVR’d at my house.)

At least on Modern Family, Apple’s iPad was an integral part of the story, so upon reflection, I didn’t mind the message as much. After all, if more advertisers followed Apple’s lead, they could reach more people by integrating their products in a program’s storyline in a clever way – not as a blatant sales message. Then, it wouldn’t matter if people sped past the commercials – their message would get through anyway.



Apple Preparing to Bite into Geolocation Social Networking

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I just read an article in Information Week that Apple has filed a patent for technology that would let it create a geolocation social network similar to Foursquare.

This is a pretty interesting development, since I just wrote about Foursquare yesterday, and what its service could mean for marketers.

According to the article, the patent application describes a service called iGroups that would enable people to share geographic location data in order to connect using an iPhone or other mobile device. People who agree to join the network would be able to broadcast information in real-time through text and instant messaging and also share files, such as pictures or video.

People who don’t have iPhones could still use the service too. It’s not mentioned in the patent application, but it’s possible Apple’s MobileMe service could be used to add mobile phones without GPS to a group.

The application says, “Concert attendees in a group can be sent coupons to purchase music or other items related to the concert or invited to join a fan club of the performer, etc.”

Just because Apple filed the patent, doesn’t mean it will launch iGroups, and the company has a strict policy about not commenting on future products. But, there are signs Apple means business with this product. Last year it bought a mapping company called Placebase. And it has thwarted rival Google’s attempts to leverage the iPhone for location-based services – refusing to let Google offer Latitude, a Google Maps location-sharing service, thru the iTunes App Store. As a result, users can only access Latitude thru iPhone’s Safari Web browser.



Mobile Ads Stand to Benefit from Apple’s iPad

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Whether you think the iPad is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or just another over-hyped product, Apple’s new device is sure to please the mobile advertising industry.  They’ve been laboring to optimize their ads and websites for the tiny screen sizes of smart phones. But the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen should make it much easier to see traditional display ads, such as those seen on magazines or TV episodes.  Plus, the iPad offers the personalization and geo-locational features of a smart-phone.

However, one downside of the iPad is its inability to support Adobe Flash, the software many online ads rely on. As a result, mobile marketers who use Flash won’t be able to adapt their existing ads. They will have to develop new kinds of ads to reach iPad users.

On the other hand, users will be able to download applications for the iPad, creating similar advertising opportunities to those found with the iPhone.  Apple had recently announced plans to buy Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising platform. Analysts say that deal makes much more sense for Apple now due to the increased market for mobile ads for the iPad.



Apple iPod and iPhone Users May be Forced to Listen to Advertising

[picapp src=”0600/a0f3aea6-389e-48fb-943d-9a7ef5a5c14d.jpg?adImageId=7606739&imageId=608009″ width=”234″ height=”160″ /] Marketers may soon have a new captive audience for their advertisements: iPod & iPhone users.

A British newspaper reported Tuesday that Apple has filed a patent for an “enforcement routine” software.  It’s believed that the technology for this application would force users to watch or listen to commercials, which they would be unable to skip past.

The report said that users could be required to answer questions about the advertisements to make sure they listened and fully understood them. In addition, iPod users could be asked to press certain button combinations to allow them to continue listening to music.

This software would be a boon for Apple, since it could help cut the costs of some of its best selling products. And it would certainly be a golden opportunity for advertisers, since the iPod and iPhone are such popular items.

My knee-jerk reaction to this news as a consumer was, “Oh, no. Not more advertising.”  But then I remembered that I’m in the business of helping companies make money online so, “Way to go, Apple! Whoo-hoo!”