Adding another dimension to business print
According to a report by Gartner, worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to reach more than 217,000 in 2015, and then double every year thereafter. That suggests these exciting new print devices have moved from industrial labs and hobbyists’ basements to mainstream use, but what exactly are organisations using 3D printers for?
According to Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, “the primary enterprise 3D printer market drivers are the viability of 3D printing technologies for prototyping and manufacturing”.
New York’s ClearVision Optical is a great example of how 3D print can transform a business. The eyewear manufacturer cut its production cycle by three months after purchasing an entry-level 3D printer to generate spectacle frame prototypes in house. Utilising CAD software, supported by most 3D printers, the company says 3D print has allowed it to become much more experimental and creative with designs as they’re not waiting three months for designs to be manufactured abroad.
The rise and rise of 3D printing isn’t limited to just prototyping – the technology is now an integral part of the manufacturing of everyday items. OK, there aren’t too many firms out there knocking together aircraft but Boeing, for example, is using 20,000 3D printed parts on its planes. Instead of storing parts at their various hubs, or requiring parts to be shipped to them, possibly causing extensive delays, the company could just pull up a specific file for a part that’s needed, and have it fabricated within minutes or hours wherever they have a printer available.
Parts of running shoes, toys, jewellery and even food – specific shapes of icing and sugar structures to be precise – are also being made on 3D printers.
An extra dimension to marketing
3D printing is rapidly being taken up by organisations who love being able to print personalised, short-run marketing collateral. Phone cases, key rings, place mats and even models of company headquarters are being printed, breaking the reliance on buying in products from third-party manufacturers. Flexibility of production is crucial here – if an organisation is running low on materials right before or even during a show, there’s no need to worry about the logistics of shipping or doing without. Just print some more. A change in design or logo is a quick update away, and if you print items on demand, you won’t be left with an inventory of outdated corporate goodies.
A communication tool
There are endless ways where 3D print can be used as an effective communication tool. Architects, for example, are used to looking at 2D drawings yet their clients prefer to touch and feel 3D models. Having a model made externally is time-consuming and costly, so why not invest in an affordable 3D printer and do it in-house, within 24 hours?
The business revolution being created by 3D printing really has no limits. It enables users to produce all kinds of quick, inexpensive prototypes, product samples and spare parts, with education, architecture, construction, automotive, engineering, utilities, medical, retail and fashion just some of the markets that can use 3D printing to make one off or sample designs.
As the cost of 3D print hardware and consumables continues to be driven down and ‘plug and play’ capabilities increase, 3D printing is only set to become more and more commonplace in workplaces everywhere.