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3D printed photo figurines: a winner-takes-all market ?

3d printing is hot. New applications pop up every day and we even saw last week a 3D printer that was 3D printed.

One thing is sure. With each day that passes, the appearance of 3D printed objects will come closer to the original model. You may remember the post we published in 2014 on this stunning startup we discovered in Berlin: Twinkind. This startup stunned us. Their technology allowed to get a 3D photo figure of yourself and the result was just amazing. We had seen many attempts to provide something comparable but nothing comparable to what we saw in Berlin.

Berlin-based startup Twinkind has got followers

Their technology was based on taking in a few milliseconds dozens (actually more than hundred) photo of yourself under different angles, and reassembling all those pictures to create a 3D model of a human being. When we interviewed Timo Schaedel, the founder of Twinkind, he explained that his technology was superior to what was existing at that time on the market : 3D scanners. The inconvenient of 3D scanners is that the model needs to be static during several seconds (minutes) while the scanner captures the shape. If remaining static is difficult for an adult, you can imagine what it means for a child or for a pet. This was a very sound reasoning and the advantages of the technology made perfect sense to me.

Through our other website BestPopUpStores.com we became aware of another firm in France which had adopted the same positioning: Moimee.

We visited their popup store in Paris last month and the least we can say is that the result is pretty much the same as the one proposed by Twinkind.

Development strategy

From a strategic viewpoint this is a very interesting case, a classic technology-driven innovation case as the ones discussed by Christensen in his book the innovator’s dilemma.

What we have is an innovator (Twinkind) that offers a very innovative process. The incumbent (Twinkind) has now a challenger (Moimee). Yet, the price aspects discussed in Christensen’s best-seller are somewhat absent here. The prices are indeed pretty much the same (230€ for a 1/12 model at Moimee, 219€ at Twinkind). We are therefore not yet in the classic situation described by Christiansen. There is one remaining problem to solve to win the market: to sunk costs is to leverage economies of scale. The technology is there, it’s digital for the most part, but there’s a non-digital part remaining : the scan itself. This is the biggest hurdle to deploy the technology profitably. What we think is that the company which will bring a cost-effective solution to realize the scan will win the market. We are convinced it’s a winner-takes-all market but currently no one is equipped to conquer it.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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