In a related post we saw how the heart of the innovation possibility with 3D printing lies not in the printer (although the devices are incredible feats of engineering themselves) but with the software. In that story, sophisticated software was used to insert 'moving joints' into a CAD model of a figure, which could then be printed out as a poseable toy.
Another story similar to this caught our attention. It is striking because the inventor fred27 is not part of some advanced computer science group, but just a talented engineer with some software development skills. What fred27 has done is remarkable and beautiful.
Remember those plastic disks that played tunes on Fisher Price toy record players? Fred has written a software application that lets anyone directly enter a tune and then generate a CAD model of the disk required to play it! A 3D printer then simply materializes the object. What's striking about this is that:
1. Instead of focusing on a single object fred27 identified an entire object class: toy records
2. He then developed software to mass customize the object class to create object instances, in this case by adding the bumps required to play a specific tune
3. Released his software and process on the Web for others to use and adapt
4. Is selling 3D printed records on Shapeways for those who just prefer to buy
The result is that Fisher Price may lose the ability to sell records, even if they retain the sales of players. And this is surely an effective demonstration of the power of 3D printing as a disruptive technology. Would Fisher Price, for example, have made a record of Stairway to Heaven? fred27 did! And what kid would not like to make their own records. Star Wars anyone?
Here's an idea for Fisher Price: how about bundling fred27's software with an easy link to Shapeways with every player sold? I'm sure fred27 has thought about the commercial possibilities as well.