Leaders of the New School: The rights and wrongs of a 3D printing evangelist

It’s said you should never make predictions, especially about the future.

But it can be difficult to suppress a belief when there is so much passion immersed within it.

Avi Reichental would typically wax lyrical about the potential 3D printing had in your home, moreover, every room in your home. He did so in this magazine, in fact, in 2013. In this moment, he was the CEO of 3D Systems, the oldest, and still one of the largest, vendors in the space, while the industry had reached the peak of its hype cycle. His was one of the loudest voices in its climb there, and one of the last remaining when doubt superseded.

“Our position is that consumers are asking for access to 3D printing and it is our job to provide the tools and the content,” he said in 2013 when questioned on the increasing scepticism in consumer demand. “We intend to reserve judgement and let the consumer decide about 3D printing.”

A mathematical equation had formed in Reichental’s mind, in which the sum was consumer demand, and the addends democratisation and education. Democratisation was ‘key’, education was ‘the most fundamental change that needed to happen’. His calculation was supplemented by some workings out: pricing would come down, machines become easier to use, they would be integrated into the curriculum at primary, secondary and higher education, and ultimately, people wouldn’t know how to live without them. Every broken part replaced by a 3D printed one, every child’s desire addressed with a desktop machine.

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