The Weekender: Experience isn’t everything

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HP’s 3D printing technology is based on decades old technology, however, a new breed of technologies are coming and they’re not held back by the constraints of ‘experience’

High on life’s list of annoying truths is that when leaving education, however smart you are, an employer will probably dismiss your application as they’re looking for someone with ‘more experience’.

We see it all the time, right now it’s in the promotion of doing apprenticeships. Workplace-based learning, at least in the eyes of employers, counts as experience and can often get you further along in your career than spending years at university, where the wider opinion is that you’ve spent three or more years skipping lectures, learning ‘the wrong thing’ and developing low-level alcoholism*.

Yet, what if it’s the much vaunted experience that’s the thing holding back real progression?
Last week DEVELOP3D spent its time wandering the halls of a giant German exhibition hall looking for what would be the trends in 3D printing over the next 12 months.

You can read the report in the December/January edition of the magazine, but what struck us while writing it is that there are changes afoot.

3D printing technology will become more industrialised with companies producing more end use components, but elsewhere it will become smarter, faster and just plain better.

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Cryptically, at the base of this list of trends for 2015, we note a few secret new technologies that we’ve been privy too.

We can’t yet tell you who from, or where or when they’ll come to fruition. And seeing as my legal advisor is off skiing in the Alps on the back of all the money I’ve had to pay him for slagging off Will.I.Am over the years, I won’t be saying anything else.

Except this: The technology is amazing, but even more incredible is that some of it has been developed without any previous working experience of the current crop of technologies.

A bunch of very clever people, thrown in a room together; some brainstorming, some testing, knock-up a machine, just happens to be better (in some ways) than what’s out there.

It’s a gamble working this way, which is why you’ll rarely see a big company risking this attitude. Shareholders need to be placated, money needs to flow through the commercial channels like blood through veins and arteries.

Seeing as we’re going for terrible biological analogies, picture the R&D department as the heart of an industry – innovation is what keeps a business moving forward each day – yet often the brain (in the business case: finance) takes control.

HP’s latest Multi-Jet Fusion 3D printing technology has taken ages to arrive at because it’s using a system designed originally for a different 2D purpose that they dreamt up decades ago.

Sure, it looks impressive. It had Terry Wohlers on the promo video blurting out catchphrases like “game changing!”, but it’s still years away from market. It’s a safe approach.

Compare this with the start-up FormLabs, which rapidly transformed the desktop printer category from being soley FDM ‘sausage machine’ units to the new breed of high definition SLA machines that we all covet.

FormLabs shot on to the scene by raising funds and awareness using the internet (the internet!) and joined existing dots to make a great product, and that was with existing technology and some ‘industry experienced’ staff.

Imagine what a room full of really clever people with a clean sheet are able of coming up with. It might not hit the target first time, but with the bigger gamble comes bigger rewards and that’s what we’re seeing on the horizon.

Experience is great and extremely valuable, but it can also be restrictive: The glass ceiling of the ‘experts’ rubbing their chins, sucking air through their teeth and saying “you can’t do that”.

So take comfort in not being overly tainted by experienced, it might take you further than you think.


*University students who can manage to scrape together the astronomical tuition fees, live on roughly 22p a week, knowing that they’ll have an albatross of heavy debt around their necks for the rest of their lives, and still pass a tough course deserve a lot of praise. If they managed time for rare binge-drinking exploits then they deserved it.