In the following video, 3D printing specialist Steve Heller interviews Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor Technologies, an Ireland-based 3D printing company that uses ordinary copy paper as the primary material in its printers, during EuroMold 2014, the world's largest 3D printing conference, held in Frankfurt, Germany, in November.
The pair talk about the rise of the 3D-printed selfie and what it'll take to reach critical mass. Ultimately, MacCormack believes Mcor's suite of full-color 3D printers that have significantly lower operating costs -- up to five times cheaper than the full-color competition -- are well suited to drive the price of the 3D-printed selfie down to an attractive price point.
A full transcript follows the video.
Steve Heller: We've seen a lot of these 3D-printed-selfie booths, if you will, around the EuroMold show. I know a lot of the technology uses a Z Corp technology, right, 3D Systems-based multi-material, full-color technology?
Conor MacCormack: Yes.
Heller: I was wondering if you could talk about the evolution of that. Is this the real deal? Right now, a 3D-printed selfie could be anywhere from $50 to $300, as you were saying earlier. Obviously, that price point needs to come down. You think that maybe Mcor could be a good fit for that.
MacCormack: Yes, I think people have underestimated -- I don't know how many people have said it to me here over the last two days. People have underestimated how big that [3D printed selfie] market is growing.
People thought it was a bit of a gimmicky idea. Who's going to get a scan of themselves or whatever, and what will be the function of it? But they're missing the point that if you can connect with somebody on an emotive level...
It's something very strange about looking at yourself or someone that you know in a 3D printed sense. It's a bit of fun, and that's fine. It doesn't all have to be part of a jet engine or something that goes into an aircraft. It's fine to have something that's a bit of fun.
When you look at these models here, something that's pure white or something that's full color, people are going to gravitate toward the full color, so the higher color quality is going to really only expand that market. I think that whole size of the industry is going to get really, really big.
If you look at, say, for example, photographs, the 2D photograph industry, I believe that's a $200-$300 billion industry, and that industry is in a bit of a decline as maybe people are printing their images in different ways. That's a real, real good opportunity for people in the 3D printing sense to actually tap into that.
I keep on calling these the "ultimate selfie." When you turn on your Instagram instantly, the first thing it does is it's pointing back at you -- it's not pointing out. We're in that nation. We're in that kind of era where people are taking scans of themselves and photographs of themselves, so I think people are underestimating the desire and the demand to print that.
When you want to get something that you'd have in your home or give to somebody as a gift, the two big things are price point and then the color quality.
If price point and color quality are the two big drivers in there, then we're [Mcor is] very, very well, perfectly suited for that because running cost, as I said earlier we can be in full color maybe five times cheaper. Something that's into that price range, something that's $25, we're $5. That's the kind of things that we're talking about. It's big, big changes.
That means that people can set up businesses, people can become [3D printing service] bureaus. They can buy [3D printer] machines and they can offer the service. You will see this all over.
The [3D] scanners are becoming really, really small. You don't need the big booths or a big investment, to get a big photo booth. You can get a scanner to fit over your iPad, you can use your mobile phone and scan people.
That's getting better and better, literally on a month-per-month basis, and it's all software-driven. It's new algorithms that make the color matching better, make the geometry better, and then you're going to be at the sweet spot where people will say, "Yes, that's good enough quality. That's the right price point for a gift. I'm not going to pay $300 for it, but I'll pay maybe $30 for it."
There is a number in there that actually will really accelerate it, and then it's a case of can we make them fast enough, and how many machines are needed to tap into that massive market?
Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of 3D Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.