The Extruder (6 July 2016)

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The Extruder

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Building better businesses layer by layer

The Extruder seeks to encourage better business practices by drawing inspiration from 3D printing. Layer by layer material is laid down until something of creative worth has been made. Good business behaviors are very similar and involve building success layer by layer to produce enduring companies.

What Problem Are You Trying to Solve 

They are surely seven of the most powerful words in business – what problem are you trying to solve? How much disappointment would have been avoided and how much money saved if that simple question had been better considered by businessmen over the years. Indeed, let us make a suggestion that is applicable to the broad sphere of activities our readers are involved in and not just the relatively narrow confines of 3D printing. If you have a good or service to supply, or are contemplating doing so, keep constantly in mind that you must identify the problem you are trying to solve. Too often, certainly in our business experience, the supplier, the vendor, the facilitator are trying to solve their problem – the need to sell something – rather than trying to fix an issue for the customer.

Recently we saw a 3d printer for sale on the New Zealand website Trade Me at a dollar reserve (around one thousandth of its original purchase price). This seemed to speak volumes about someone who had perhaps purchased a machine without really knowing why. In the end we believe the printer sold for rather more that the derisory starting figure. Yet a substantial loss would have been incurred and how much printing would the original owner have actually done? Much of the hype over 3d printing has surely given way to disappointment. The idea that it would be possible to magically produce anything in your own home has been exposed for the nonsense that it always was.

Yet in the defeat of unrealistic ideas the green-shoots of a new and transformational industry are rising. Make no mistake, 3d printing is a technology that is going to solve a lot of problems. In our own area of particular interest (orthopaedics) the ability to give 3d form to ideas is proving invaluable. What would have been expensive and time consuming design work in the past gives way to a mini-factory that can produce a prototype very economically. Of course, it is necessary to be able to use the appropriate software. Nevertheless, 3d printing has solved a problem and it will solve a great deal more going forward.

In the end so much of life is about problem solving. 3d printing was, in our view, over-hyped in the early days to a point where disappointment was inevitable. Perhaps we were encouraged to believe that it would solve every problem? Wasn’t it was supposed to transform the world at the flick of a switch? Yet isn’t this always the tendency with new and exciting technology, people and especially the media get carried away? In our view 3d printing technology will transform the world but the revolution will be incremental. So this remains an area bursting with opportunity for patient enthusiasts. Yet before you buy a 3d printer, committing personal or company funds, take time to ask yourself the vital question – “what problem am I trying to solve?” If you just want a few things printed have you thought about using one of the many specialists now emerging? If you want a printer for the kids to get them used to the ‘revolution’ have you thought about what machine would be best, the most safe? If you are buying for business have you calculated whether there really will be a return on your investment?

At 3d printer plans we believe the true beneficiaries of 3d printing will be those who set out to offer genuinely customer focussed solutions. In a sense it is a cutting edge technology that actually takes us back – back to the “invisible hand’ of the great economist Adam Smith. Something done in a house or small workshop in New Zealand, or The United States, or Europe, or anywhere on the planet with 3D printing may set in chain events that benefit not just the inventor but a much broader body of people. A whole new series of interactions (that none the less repose on the historic and extraordinary capacity of human beings to innovate) is going to solve a great many problems. Make sure you are part of this exciting solutions revolution.

The Extruder is a weekly service to the readers of The objective is to share business ideas, experiences, and nuggets of wisdom that the Managing Director and his team have accumulated over many years. Whilst these articles are the copyright of ICENI Limited you are welcome to use the Extruder at your own website provided citation is given and a link back to provided.

Warning; 3D printers should never be left unattended. They can pose a firesafety hazard.