3D printing is certainly a manufacturing revolution in the making. Early success in technologies like stereolithography has paved the way for an additive manufacturing future, posed to completely turn conventional manufacturing on its head. Industrial application of 3D printing seems limitless, though there are many hurdles still regarding cost, speed, and available materials. Yet hopes for the consumer side of the equation, built on the momentum of early success like the Makerbot enthusiast community, paints a future where everyone and their dog will own a 3D printer to print all kinds of fantastic magical crap for the home. Provided, of course, your concept of fantastic magical crap is mostly rejects from the land of misfit toys. 3D printers are capable of so much more, yet the opportunity is largely wasted. While 3D printing certainly has garnered a dedicated enthusiast community, mainstream traction has been lacking. After all, consumers are already kicking conventional paper printers (and copiers) to the curb with extreme prejudice. Perhaps hanging a new market on the word “print” may not be the best idea right now. But, hey, that’s how this is going to roll.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) software has always been at the leading edge of computer hardware, and for good reason. CAD is a demanding application, and seemingly there’s never quite enough memory, processing power, screen real-estate or storage available. CAD: Punishing graphics hardware since 1964. As the compactness and mobility of high performing hardware improves, certain preconceptions about CAD accessibility and portability are being challenged. Laptop machines are now commonly used where previously only a desk-devouring workstation would suffice. But now, believe it or not, one company is attempting to bring full-fledged CAD into the tablet space. Will your next CAD workstation be a beefy tablet? A CADblet? The very concept just seems impractical, perhaps even ridiculous, or is it?
Let’s state the obvious: we need more Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) startups tackling the big problems in unique and unexpected ways. The enterprise software landscape desperately needs an infusion of innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in PLM. Most PLM thought leadership is unsurprisingly locked into a pattern of sustaining innovation, firmly entrenched in the technology choices of the last two decades. It’s a situation I have highlighted before in Why We Need more PLM Epic Fails. We need outright disruption. Oleg Shilovitsky has called attention to the same problem in two recent articles: A Potential Surge of CAD/PLM Startups and Traditional PLM Have Reached Their Limits. The good news is there has never been a better time for entrepreneurship, technology (especially the Amazon Cloud) has removed many traditional barriers to entry. We need more people in the pool. Jump on in, the water’s fine. It’s time to innovate or die.
In our rush to be crushed in the infinite singularity that is the Amazon cloud, where super-connectivity and collaboration reach densities previously unimaginable, there’s a bit of a problem on the event horizon. What was once often a design consideration is now becoming the exception, and among the elite who are always within the confines of a 4G warp bubble universe 705 meters in diameter, the mere thought of it might seem ridiculous. Yes, we’re talking about that place that is not continually basking in the warm embrace of the internet, where real-time collaboration and synchronization are crushed under their own weight: the offline hole. You might want to look behind you, and ping engineering for an update on Palomino’s engine status, because the hole is getting bigger. In order to avoid a Neil Degrasse Tyson-style bifurcated death, we need to start paying attention to the offline event horizon. It’s a monster, all right.