On a high level, 3D printing is a layer-by-layer additive manufacturing process, meaning it builds objects one layer at a time -- the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, in which a solid block of material gets cut or milled down into its final shape. This fundamental difference gives 3D printing certain advantages over subtractive manufacturing.
Compared to subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing doesn't require tooling to create objects, which can limit a part's geometric complexity. In other words, 3D printing invites complexity in manufacturing that would otherwise be impossible to produce with manufacturing techniques that rely on tooling.
In the following video, 3D printing specialist Steve Heller interviews Conor MacCormack, CEO at Mcor Technology, who has been part of the industry for the last decade, about what has changed in recent years, and some of the greatest advantages that 3D printing has over traditional manufacturing.
A full transcript follows the video.
Steve Heller: Hey Fools, Steve Heller here. I'm joined today with Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor Technologies.
What Mcor does is they use ordinary copy paper as their feedstock, the primary material for 3D printing. Basically, it lowers the operating costs significantly, compared to other competing full color 3D printing technologies on the market there.
Conor, thank you so much for being here today.
Conor MacCormack: It's always a pleasure.
Heller: Great! Let's talk about the industry. You've been in the industry for about 10 years now. What has changed so much? What can you really pinpoint as an inflection point in the industry at this point?
MacCormack: It's interesting. There's been a lot of hype, obviously, about the 3D printing sector. I think there's been a real adjustment in what's gone on, as we know from some of the stock levels in some of the big companies.
But there is a real natural kind of a fork between enterprise and consumer. That happened a couple of years ago, and the fact that Gartner and these other analysts realized that it is broken up into two.
I think you're starting to see real use cases. People, rather than a more scattered, shotgun approach, trying to sell a piece of machinery to everybody, they're trying to be more focused on what markets they can be really strong at.
If anything, I'd say that the difference is that people are trying to go deeper and more penetrative in a deeper subsegment, rather than trying to be a printer for everybody.
I know some of the big players are still trying to do that. Maybe they can do that because they have eight or nine different platforms, but other companies like ourselves, like Mcor for example, we're going deeper in the verticals that we see ourselves being very strong.
For me, that's how I see the industry has changed a bit. People are getting more focused and getting real use cases of how they're going to be used and not such hype, of printing mobile phones and being the Jetsons! Things are actually becoming more realistic.
Heller: Just thinking about the industry in general and 3D printing technology as a whole, I wanted to go through a SWOT analysis with you. Let's start with the strengths of 3D printing at this time. Whenever you're ready.
MacCormack: The strengths are always the same. When you really boil it down, there's a couple of ways you could look at it.
People always talk about complexity, that complexity is free. If you look at a piece of machining using conventional machining [manufacturing] methods, if you want to make something like a cylinder head of an engine and you want to make that with conventional methods, it's all about the complexity of the object and how many molds you have to make if you're going to do CNC, or whatever.
Whereas, in 3D printing, it's all about the volume. It doesn't really matter how complex it is as long as the printer can print it, so you can kind of say the complexity is free. That's one very interesting avenue about the strength of 3D printing.
Another one that's very, very important when you think about it is that you don't need to have any engineering capability. A student that knows nothing about engineering or how to make anything, if they can generate the file or maybe get an image or scan something, they can just hit "print" and make an object.
That barrier has been broken down, of having to be able to make something with your hands, and letting the machine do it; that strength of 3D printing hasn't changed.
I'd say that's one of the biggest strengths -- complexity is free, and then you don't need any engineering ability to make an object -- they still remain the same.
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Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Gartner. 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.