It was just two weeks ago my dad informed me that he was selling his 3D scanners. And not too long ago I had read how big of a flop 3D printing had been; or at least how little it did compared to what people thought it would.

As one of the largest 3D and additive manufacturing shows in the country sets to start in Pittsburgh on May 8th, I think a lot of the consumers in the US, would say 3D printing has not done what they expected.

About four years ago, I knew 3D scanning was going to have a big impact on memorializing loved one. With these high-quality scanners, soon to be low quality, you can get an accurate portral of someone before they died. This means you can have a bust 3D printed and made of bronze that is an exact replica of someone. The light bulb went off in my head and I scheduled a 3D scanning of myself at Thingify, a company in Irvine, California. The result was amazing!

It spearheaded a new offering to families and funeral homes: Always Busts. This is a 3D printed or bronze sculpture of your loved one, from a highly accurate 3D scan. This product made headlines in the funeral profession and even got me in the door to the largest funeral services company in the U.S. and a meeting with the founder.

Although everyone seemed to be excited about the idea, they were just not selling. I was receiving calls every day and spoke to over 100 interested parties.

Yesterday I was talking to a fellow 3D urn maker and his take on the product was that the volume was just not there. And while some companies were making big headlines with their one urn done for a rock star, I was confident they products were not doing as well as they hoped.

So what happened? Why did 3D printing do so poorly for consumers and for the memorial business? The answer comes down to two big factors, complexity and price.

These programs are just super complex. And it’s unreasonable to expect a funeral director or a consumer to learn how to operate them. Artec Studio and ZBrush are like Photoshop on steroids.

The price is just too high! 3D Systems machine that was producing products for us and a lot of the cremation urn makers was over $90,000. That means for this machine to break even it would have to sell one print each day for a year, at $600 each, and a $300 profit.

3D scanning and printing go hand in hand. But for me the real power is in the scanning. The scanners shoot lasers at an object and get a super high quality data file, that can then be manipulated on the computer. This is really the future! It’s not long before you are 3D scanned with your license and this data is used to ID you. But scans are not reality until the piece exists.

There are so many ways to get the 3D file to the physical world. The cheapest way is to print with a 3D printer. And technology is moving so fast with 3D printing technology. But this scanning data can also be used in sculpting and CNC machines. It’s really fascinating how 3D printing will continue to get better and in the hands of the consumer.

3D scanning and printing has disrupted many industries, especially toys, manufacturing, and in-house fabrication. It has really changed the world. It has not yet changed the landscape of memorials for a funeral, as many people thought it would. This disruption will likely come from one of the other usual suspects like VR or AI. But there’s something so special about having an urn, that is an exact replica of Mom’s gardening box.