The term “disruptive technology” is frequently (over) used when describing any new gadget or invention and the popular press’s description of additive manufacturing is no different. With a number of printer manufacturers targeting the consumer market, 3D printing has been hyped as a game changing technology, however, very little rigorous analysis has been undertaken in order to determine whether or not additive manufacturing can be accurately described as a disruptive technology. Rather than deferring to popular media hype, it is useful to refer to Clayton Christensen’s (who coined “disruptive technologies”) definition from “The Innovator’s Dilemma”:
One impetus for this site is a feeling that has been growing in me for some time: many of us just have too much stuff (while a great deal of the Earth’s population simply do not have enough). This is not to say that I am a minimalist, but rather that decades of mass production have forced us to compromise quality for quantity. While this is true in our personal lives, it also extends to industry, as well as beyond the physical domain and into the digital world. Our closets, storage rooms and applications folders show that we spend far too much money, time and effort on things that rarely generate any utility. In times of increasing strain on resources, eventually this trend has to stop.