The thought of producing a three-dimensional object from a printer is hard to comprehend. A printer has always been known to produce a two-dimensional document with ink from a computer. Recent technological developments have changed this printing concept. A printer is no longer simply in relation to paper. To define this, 3D printing is a process where a solid object of any shape from a digital model is made three dimensional. 3D printers can act as small production factories in homes or public spaces. This can enable a brand or company to virtually target a consumer anywhere they may be to access the product or tangible feature.

3D printing is being used to create models and differently shaped objects. The process works by adding layers upon layers of material in different shapes. This additive process is different from typical machining techniques which get rid of materials using a subtractive process to create a product. These “printers” are more like machines in that they produce an object using different types of materials. This printing technology is expanding into the advertising and marketing worlds and will slowly but surely begin to afford new opportunities. These printers, which agencies are beginning to use, can bring clients prototypes and not just promises. The world of relying on abstract ideas and traditional presentation decks will all change with the ability to show a client an example of what you’re pitching to them. Marriott’s advertising agency, Grey, recently partnered with Makerbot Industries to challenge the team to prototype a new hotel room accessory for the client.

Companies like Volvo and Coca-Cola have taken advantage of this technology as well in their marketing tools by twisting this with creativity. Coca-Cola wanted to introduce their Mini Bottles in Israel and created a fun competition to do so. They invited consumers to create a digital version of themselves. A select few were then chosen to win a trip to the Coca-Cola factory and were able to turn their mini-me's into the real thing via 3D printing. Volvo has also recently taken advantage of 3D printing. “The Polo Principle” campaign allows consumers to take control and design their own versions of The Polo model. Forty of the most creative versions were selected and printed in 3D to be showcased. The winner was actually turned into a real car!

All of this may seem outrageous and far from a perfect execution, but we are not a long way off from our own home 3D printers. By turning the consumer into a designer, creator and engineer, 3D printing will allow for easier access to reaching the consumer and putting tangible objects in their hands. The ease and accessibility at which this is becoming possible is helping to allow the advertiser and client reach the right consumer in new ways.