When 3D printing was first invented, the opportunities and scope seemed small, maybe even niche. A mix of expensive equipment and a lack of expertise and education on the features and benefits meant that nobody wanted to be the first to move forward. Even early adopters were nervous to seek out ways to bring 3D printing to the mainstream. Slowly, though, things are changing as companies begin to think bigger.
3D printing is a type of tool that builds an object from the ground up via mechanical printing. It essentially allows you to create an object without traditional manufacturing means. Now, more and more companies are seeing the benefits and opportunities of being able to create an object digitally (take a car part, for example) and eliminate flaws and weaknesses digitally before it hits the production line (in this case, the 3D printer).
Whilst these larger companies are finding ways to make 3D printing work for them, the opportunity for other businesses to become early adopters of 3D printing brings a new set of benefits that can be taken advantage of.
Combining the new with the old
As a smaller company, it may be hard to justify the expense that fully converting from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing can incur, but that doesn’t mean you can’t blend the two together. Recently at The Base Business Event, 3D print organisation, Print City and their expert, Professor Craig Banks, stated that a benefit for smaller companies in 3D printing is the ability to use it to iron out any weaknesses and faults in a part or product, then using that prototype as a template to go to traditional mass manufacturing. This cuts out the possibility of needing multiple approval stages, therefore creating time and cost savings.
The future is customizable
One of the main opportunities in 3D printing is that you’re not confined by traditional manufacturing rules or drawbacks. 3D printing is as creative as the minds that sit behind the computer. Customizing your product to become lighter, have less weak points, take less time through production, or simply become more ‘on demand’ give you a great opportunity to expand exactly what you can offer your customer. Minimum production quantities are a thing of the past, too, meaning you’re more flexible to meet your customer needs.
The chance to be the first
The earlier businesses become adopters of innovative and forward-thinking technology, the more advantage can be taken in the short and long-term. The opportunity to perfect your own use of 3D printing whilst your competitors are yet to get on-board could give you the edge when 3D printing becomes the new norm. Nobody likes to play catch-up when stakes can be so high, so to become an early champion of the technology could be a priceless strategic move.