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April 2013

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Advertising in the Third Dimension

Six Things Your Ad Agency Can Do With a 3D Printer

by Glen Emerson Morris
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2013 will likely be remembered as the year 3D printing went mainstream. The best open source 3D printers are finally beginning to make items smooth and detailed enough to use as finished products. The previous generations of 3D printers were OK for the DIY crowd, but crude by modern manufacturing standards. The latest open source 3D printers are in another ballpark. Makerbot's fourth generation 3D printer, the Replicator 2X with 100 micron of resolution has over twice the resolution as its previous printers, and affordable 3D printers with even higher resolutions are slated for release later this year.

To keep up with these developments, we're launching this new column, “Advertising in the Third Dimension.” This column is really overdue. We're now well into the third and final phase, or dimension, of the digital revolution. The first phase was the digitalization of media - converting things to computer code, including desktop publishing and digital video. The second phase has been the Internet - the distribution of digital files to anywhere on the planet. The third phase of the digital revolution is about converting information into physical objects and sensing and controlling things in the real world, like 3D printing and robotics. It's the reverse of phase one. At maturity, this technology will provide all the functionality of the Star Trek matter replicator. It's the ultimate destabilizing technology, and it will make boneyards of many current industries, but it's effect on advertising will likely be very positive.

No industry is in a better position to benefit from the third phase of the digital revolution than the advertising industry, and the changes that are about to happen will be phenomenal. While the first two phases essentially happened within the digital confines of the computer and its displays, the third phase will take place in the physical world. This new landscape will include talking android sales personnel, elaborate robotic & animatronics window and store displays, store interior lighting systems that automatically learn how to light the store to achieve maximum sales, window displays & sales kiosks that automatically adjust their sales presentations based on the age, sex and non-verbal responses from the people watching it, and the list goes on. It's a whole new dimension of possibilities in the most literal sense.

We're about to see the biggest revolution in advertising since the development of the Internet. Since the primary forces driving it will be open source 3D printers, it's time every ad agency started thinking about getting one of these wonders and understanding how it can be used. Many of the possibilities of 3D printing are yet to be imagined, but even now it's clear 3D printing will have a number of important uses for advertising agencies.

6 things an ad agency can do with a 3D printer:

1. To design and print prototypes of 3D promotional giveaway items. This is going to be a huge industry, very soon, and it tops our list because it is possible now. The concept is to design 3D objects that promote your business and to make the files available for them to download and print, at their expense. There are several Websites that are set up to support this, offering both a place to post the files and make them searchable, and the ability to print the objects out and ship them to the consumer. As a proof of concept we have published a promotional 3D keychain for the Colorado BMA, which can be ordered from in a variety of materials including polished sterling silver. Our total cost was zero, and the whole process took less than half an hour. I've written up the process in an additional article. What we have here is a completely new advertising channel with a huge potential and only marginal cost.

2. To print promotional items like iPhone cases with the agency's name - custom sell phone cases are some of the hottest items with the DIY crowd. With a little tweaking you can make cell phones for all you account execs that clearly carry your company's logo. The 3D printing service i.materialize has an app that will allow you to customized iPhone and iPad cases. Adding your company's logo to every salespersons cell phone could cost little, if any more, than using regular cases.

3. To design and print promotional & thank you objects for clients. These days it's possible to print some amazing small works of art with 3D printers, objects that could not be made with any other manufacturing process. Giving one of these small masterpieces to a client might increase the chances of the customer keeping it, and in a prominent position. Both and have an extensive offering of art and jewelry available. Much of it is completely unique and some of it very good.

4. To print parts used in automated animatronics window displays. The combination of new microcontrollers like the Arduino are making it possible to design animated displays like Disneyworld's It's a Small World but on a shoestring budget. Now that Philips has released a software developers kit for its Hue automated LED lighting system it's only going to be a matter of months before we see programs developed to use the Hue system to drive automated window displays and store interior lighting. (We'll be releasing specs for a test harness we've specifically designed to test Hue automated lighting systems with in May.)

5. To print android robots (for live automated sales pitches). There are several robot kits that can be printed with 3D printers, and in the future, kiosks manned by 3D printed robots from kits will line shopping malls coast to coast. It sounds like science fiction, but the technology is finally becoming viable.

6. To print items needed for the office. Even today, though hardly common, the fastest way to get certain plastic replacement parts is to download the right CAD file from the products manufacturer. In the future, many product's replacement parts will be available as downloadable CAD files for printing out on 3D printers. There are also several steadycam camera mounts available on some of the online marketplaces.

Coming in at a non-announced seventh reason to own a 3D printer is: to make another 3D printer. It turns out that some of the open source 3D printers are approaching 90% self-replicable. It's the goal of many in the DIY movement is to make the printers completely self replicable.

Any one of these reasons could more than justify the under $3000 price of one of today's new generation of 3D printers. I'm sure in a few months, there will even more reasons to consider buying a 3D printer. We hope you'll be reading this column to keep up with events. And remember, the 2013 Maker Faire in San Mateo will be held May 18 and 19. I'll be providing coverage of the event but I strongly suggest you send someone from your agency to cover it, too.

Stay tuned. We have an interesting year ahead.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law.
He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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