I was born in the late fifties, by the time I was three years old, Xerox had introduced the first plain paper copier.
The Xerox 914 was capable of producing 400 copies per hour!
The speed per minute was under 7 pages per minute. Fifty some years later our current plain paper copiers can achieve speeds of up to 314 image per minute.
Hey, I was three, and the first copier I remembered was at my local library, copy quality was terrible, the paper was curled and it was so slow! I think that library had the same copier until I went to high school. Did I ever think that I would make my living in the copier industry while growing up? Hell NO! I had bigger dreams and aspirations.
The emergence of the Xerox 914 plain paper copier has evolved into a 24 Billion dollar industry with more than 1.5 million copy machines sold each year.
Here's what I can't believe about our industry, we've all been scared straight that the white sheet of paper that we've made a living on all these years is going to go away. In fact, many copier dealers have added alternative revenue streams such as Managed Network Services, Document Management, and Backup Disaster Recovery services.
From a sales persons point of view, chasing pc's, servers and backup recovery is challenging. The thought of having three plus meetings to chase a handful of pc's, servers or BDR is killing me!! The thrill of writing a lease or having an order signed for a copier or multiple copiers is still exciting and it still pays pretty well. Chasing a small recurring revenue stream is a real snooze, at least for me. If you're entering the industry now, there can be some tremendous revenue streams as long as you stay with the same company for a number of years. For me, it's too much work for too little pay-off.
Which leads me to my final question: Why are most copier dealers not entering or embracing the emergence of 3D printers? Some are, but most aren't, why is that?
In a recent article I read, the statement of "3D printers are too unreliable, slow, rough, and manufacturing large objects is cost-prohibitive", reminded me of the Xerox 914 plain paper copier. Slow, rough, expensive to own and expensive to operate. Yes, I know that 3D printers are not really printers, they are prototype manufacturing devices. Yet, they have consumables, they will need to be serviced by skilled technicians, and the market potential could be just as explosive as the copier industry or bigger.
The article went on to point out that the 3D printer that we see now could evolve to be the Star Trek replicator one day.
Who is buying these 3D printers today? Sales are being made to manufacturing companies. larger AEC firms, Colleges, Universities, High Schools, Vocational Schools. Medical Companies, the list goes on and on.
I can remember back in the eighties, the dealership that I owned signed on as a Brother Dealer. It wasn't a big deal at the time, however, the opportunities that came from being an Authorized Brother Dealer exploded. Having the that Brother Authorized shingle enabled much bigger companies to find us, because they wanted a Brother product. I guess you can say we back doored ourselves into these larger accounts and months later we were able to place copiers in those locations.
I believe the same is true with the 3D printer industry today. The time may be right now to get Authorized as a sales and service facility. You can kinda of compare this to the those first handful of office equipment dealers that were selling and servicing typewriters. They were able to see the futureof the plain paper copier. The future of 3D printers is the revenue streams that will come from the 3D printers consumables. Much like toner, developer and paper, companies and businesses will still need to print something, maybe just not on paper.