9 out of 10 ways of Rizq can be found in business - Prophet Muhammad

3D Printing: An Entrepreneurial Revolution?

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From Personal Computing to Internet and now Prosumers. Perhaps, the world of entrepreneurship seems to reinvent itself through 3D printing, where the boundaries of producing and consuming either overlap, merge or become blur.

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3D printing, sometimes also known as additive manufacturing is a process of creating three-dimensional objects. It is additive in nature because the 3D object is created layer by layer in an automated fashion. The industrial usage of this technology has existed for a few decades; however, the past few years have introduced a paradigm shift with respect to this technology’s ecosystem.

The cost and size of such printers have gone down dramatically, taking them from industrial level to a household item. So, what? Well, as a start it implies that you can print any three-dimensional product sitting at home. This means that the way a product is designed to the way it is produced and finally purchased is all being redefined. Aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas can quickly move to manufacturing (speedy prototyping), eventually, resulting in quick adoption rates.

Let’s try to analyze some of the pros and cons in such a scenario. To begin with, mass customization stands out as the biggest plus whereby personalized products can be created and sold by almost everybody. In addition, potential entrepreneurs can develop fine grained complex products, which can be lighter and stronger than their industrial counterparts. This highlights how this kind of responsible innovation (accessible 3D printers) can help create a breed of sustainable entrepreneurs.

Issue 4 - 3d printingOn the flip side, it is important to acknowledge that the mainstream usage of 3D printers would require certain specialized competencies in terms of the design software. More importantly, intellectual property issues require deliberation on patents, design rights, trademarks, etc., For example; a person may prohibit the usage of their design file, or the sale and resale of printed objects from that file.

There are some very interesting business models revolving in this embryonic phase of 3D printing entrepreneurial activity. “FormLabs” is a startup that works on manufacturing desktop size 3D printers and also sells a software that can be used to modify the designs. Switching gears, we see “Shapeways” which operates as a 3D marketplace where any user can buy, design or sell their own 3D printed products. “3DLT”, is a venture that provides 3D printing as a service where customers can purchase design files from designers and get them implemented via producers. The diversity of value propositions on offer clearly show that business model innovations would play a crucial role in terms of competing and sustaining within this dynamically evolving industry.

While the above discussion clearly builds a case for 3D printing as a game-changing phenomenon in the world of how we might view entrepreneurship, it is essential to see its implications for a country like Pakistan.

Issue 4 - 3d printing 3Firstly, I feel it can open doors for new forms of micro enterprises in far-flung areas where production could suffice the local economy. Groups of local entrepreneurs could perhaps be trained and initially financed through state funds to encourage printing of houses and other basic amenities in remote locations. The opportunities to valorize this technology by young and budding Pakistani entrepreneurs is enormous in developing solutions towards almost every facet of life (energy, medicine, science education, etc.).

Issue 4 - 3d printing 5Summing up, I would argue that 3D printing as a startup’s unit of focus seems extremely promising. Like any new era of technological development, there are several players and experiments at the start, trying out different ways of doing business, eventually leading to the emergence of some sort of dominant logic. As this exciting time unfolds, it calls for divergence of thoughts on the use of 3D printing as a source of competitive and social advantage for aspiring as well as existing Pakistani entrepreneurs. I would conclude by inviting the entire Pakistani community to be a part of this innovative and thrilling juncture in our lives and entrepreneurially incorporate 3D printing to benefit the society.


From Personal Computing to Internet and now Prosumers. Perhaps, the world of entrepreneurship seems to reinvent itself through 3D printing, where the boundaries of producing and consuming either overlap, merge or become blur.