Anyone who has seen a 3D printer in action knows it's a pretty cool technology with immense potential across a broad number of vertical markets.
The problem thus far has been mating that potential with a clear value proposition for IT resellers, which have mostly stayed on the 3D printing sidelines waiting for the dust to clear and the money to reveal itself.
While it won't immediately elevate 3D printing above the leap-of-faith category in the IT arena, an effort from specialty technology distributor ScanSource is aiming to make the nascent technology more real for its partners.
ScanSouce has tapped dedicated 3D printing specialists for a new sales and support team and has locked in 3D Systems to serve as vendor partner for the programme.
ScanSource staff say 3D print adoption is progressing and the reseller channel is ready to push such solutions into verticals like manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace and automotive engineering.
"ScanSource has been evaluating the 3D market for quite some time," said ScanSource CEO Mike Baur. "As the technology and solutions become attractive to a broader end-user customer base and a reseller channel begins to develop, we found the timing to be right and the market to be ready for value-added distribution.
"As with all of our business offerings, the products and associated services must be a fit with our business model in that the solution needs the value-added services and support that resellers rely on from ScanSource."
ScanSource is not the first IT distributor to develop a targeted 3D print programme; earlier this year Ingram Micro began marketing, selling and supporting 3D printers from 3D Systems and rival vendor MakerBot.
Ingram Micro also aligns its 3D printer business vertically -- including consumer, education, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and design.
Both distributors are making an effort to target, educate and train the right mix of channel partners to realise this potentially lucrative opportunity.
Analyst firm Gartner has predicted total consumer and enterprise 3D printer shipments will grow from 38,000 units in 2012 to 1.1m in 2017, a compounded annual growth rate of 95 per cent.
End users will increase the spend on 3D printers from almost $288m (£171m) to more than $5.7bn in the same period, an 82 per cent CAGR, Gartner said.
"Document imaging solutions, and in particular 3D printers, represent a growing and widely untapped sales and service opportunity for our channel partners that sell into vertical markets such as education and retail, as well those targeting the needs of SMBs," said Ryan Grant, senior director for document imaging and managed print at Ingram Micro US.
"3D printers complement a variety of specialised software applications that are utilised in the design space, and offer channel partners a differentiated sales and ongoing service opportunity that many don't realise is available to them."
For more US-focused channel coverage, see www.channelnomics.com
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