Abstract: Since 3D printing technology has been available as early as in the early 19th century, the present article starts from the question why this radical and probably disruptive technology has been observed as only incremental innovation for so long a time. In answering this question, we assume that this incrementalisation of the supposed key to the next industrial revolution occurred due to circumstances that complicated and complexed the observation, with the most important of which being that 3D printers do not print on the medium, but rather print the medium, which emerges as form. In this article, this paradox is unfolded in the form of a form-theoretical theory statement on the inherently paradox nature of observation, subsequent to which 3D printing can be observed as both form and medium. In exploring this paradox, we will show that suppliers of 3D printing solutions currently try to sell 3D printing as form, whereas demanders observe 3D printing as medium. In focusing the latter side of the distinction, we finally suggest that the key to successful 3D printing business models will be in solutions that relate observations of the technological multifunctionality of 3D printing to a social multifunctionality lens.
Keywords: 3D printing; form theory; golden moment; technology marketing; George Spencer Brown; Niklas Luhmann.
Article available for download here.
Citation: Roth, S. (2018) The cash is in the medium, not in the machine: toward the golden moments of 3D printing, International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 5–15 [Scopus, CNRS**].