Democratization of 3D printing and disruptive innovation are among some of the slightly vague, but recognizable, terms that those who follow the 3D printing / additive manufacturing (AM) industry have probably encountered. So, what is the practical translation of these concepts to individuals and companies incorporating 3D printing in their business planning?
Democratization of technology generally refers to the process by which access to technology rapidly and readily becomes accessible to more people (e.g., the internet). At the height of 3D printing hype in 2014, opportunities for selling low-cost FFF 3D printers to individual consumers was presented under this banner. The key learning that shortly followed was that a product/technology “push” without an appropriate market “pull” (benefit to the targeted market) is a challenging (and costly) proposition.