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We're All in This Together: Collaboration and Competition

3D printing is all about reshaping and part of what is being reshaped is, necessarily, businesses.

Building objects with wholly new geometries requires a new approach to design; DfAM (design for additive manufacturing) is a major focus as adoption continues to rise. Designing for subtractive manufacturing won't do anymore when each component part is built up uniquely, and DfAM is helping designers and engineers come at part conceptualization from new angles. Building upon strong foundations of previous industrial revolutions, the ecosystem of manufacturing continues to require interlinked businesses coming together to create a cohesive system of supply. Suppliers of hardware and materials must work with software developers, with supply chain and distribution experts, with end users, with industry analysts and media -- the full ecosystem is a complex beast. 3D printing is set, many say, to disrupt the global manufacturing industry. If it's going to do so successfully, ecosystem thinking is a necessity.

One of the aspects of the 3D printing industry that held my attention beyond the initial hype was the deep commitment to collaborative approaches to business. This nascent industry, flying beyond partnership-based approaches seen before, is recognizing the importance of working together to innovate, to adapt -- to succeed.

We're all in this together.

For 3D printing to succeed, we need to see this spirit remain at the forefront of efforts. Industry events often see buzzwords arise in programming, and "collaboration," "partnership," "cooperation," "co-creation," and "relationship" have each taken it in turn to shine in the spotlight. Beyond sounding buzzy, though, these concepts reflect a required reality of a young technology suite.

The spirit of collaboration in 3D printing extends into the larger conversation surrounding the industry, often led by the journalists and press covering it. This conversational leadership brings with it a responsibility to present relatable, accurate content -- much of it building as well on collaborative thinking.

During an international industry event last autumn, another journalist and I walked into a networking evening event together. Several attendees remarked that they were surprised to see us come in together, on friendly terms; our publications were rivals, and here we were ready to break bread. In what shouldn't be a surprise, journalists talk. That is, after all, a key word in our job description. We also see one another frequently, often attending the same press conferences, grand openings, conferences, summits, and on-site happenings; it never once occurred to me to regard other journalists, including those working for "the competition," negatively.

A sad reality of 2018 is that the press in general is getting, well, bad press. It's a tough time to be in the media. While tech journalism is well removed from some of the higher-profile beats involved directly in the more tempestuous happenings on the global stage, we still have "press" on our badges, and that builds a kind of camaraderie. Largely, the press rooms at events are filled with some of my favorite faces; there are some truly wonderful individuals working in 3D printing media, and I am honored to stand among them and call them my colleagues.