3D Printing: A Beginner's Guide and Its Impact on Your Business

October 11, 2021

Introduction: 3D Printing and How It Can be Applied to Your Business

There are a number of ways 3D printing can be applied to your business. The first is by creating prototypes with a 3d printer. Prototypes allow designers to test new products and iterate on the design before prototyping with a 3d printer. It also reduces the need for physical prototypes which can lead to higher costs of development and production of products.

In addition, some companies use 3D printing as a way to create on-demand custom items for their customers. This allows companies to cut down on inventory, make more profit from each sale, and potentially sell more products at once since they don’t have an inventory that needs to be stored or managed.

Eventually, additive manufacturing will be applied to more industries than you might think. There are industries, such as service & repair businesses that can improve their customer satisfaction significantly. Just imagine receiving a spare part within hours, instead of having to wait days or weeks for it to arrive. The possibilities are almost endless, as 3D printing breaks the burden that is holding back many traditional manufacturing technologies.

"Maker Space Post-Finishing an Additive Manufacturing Part Made with a Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D Printer V1" by Formlabs Inc.

The Basics of 3D Printing Technology

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is the process of making three-dimensional solid objects by adding material layer by layer. The printer’s nozzle moves along X, Y, and Z axes to create layers on demand. This is the most commonly used 3D printing technology, also called FDM. It is probably the easiest to grab a hold of and fully understand it.

They are great for prototyping because additive manufacturing allows designers and engineers to work iteratively, in the same way, that traditional drawing tools do. With 3D printing, you can make prototypes quickly and cheaply, which reduces the time it takes to go through product iterations to get to a final design. You can also make customized parts or custom products on demand.

3D printers are also great for making small batches of products because they're fast and cheap when used correctly. This means that you don't have to wait days or weeks for items to be manufactured before you can sell them. This technology is currently heavily used in industries like aerospace, automotive, architecture, and consumer product, especially when low quantities are demanded.

How Will 3D Printing Affect Your Business?

3D printing as a process is going to change the way consumers buy things. It has the potential to affect consumer behavior in three ways:

  • Product design
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution

For example, if 3D printing becomes an accepted method of manufacturing certain products, this could shift where products are manufactured or how they are distributed.

In general, there will be more freedom of design and customization in products. Expect that 10 years from now on, consumers will rarely buy “off-the-shelf”. There will be base templates and it will be intuitive to customize them according to your needs and size.

comparing 3d print to model
"C5ISR Center demonstrates additive manufacturing" by CCDC_C5ISR

Industry Disruption by Additive Manufacturing

As the 3D printing industry will continue to progress and expand, it will lead to more jobs and a much higher demand for qualified workers. Having knowledge in this domain pays off and will surely continue to pay off. As an employer that is involved with physical products, you should already start researching and investing in knowledge & experience.

On the other hand, there are manufacturing industries that rely on traditional technologies, that might be disrupted. If you are working in such an industry, it is important to always be willing to learn new technologies and keep having an open mind. Sometimes, disruption comes abruptly and does not leave you enough time for a plan b.

Marketing for a Competitive Industry in the Age of 3D Printing

The marketing industry has changed rapidly in recent years. With the invention of 3D printing, there are cheaper and more accessible ways to produce products. Successful marketing starts way before a viable product is ready for the consumers. Many businesses are turning to 3D printing for the creation of marketable products that can be shown off to the public.

As physical products’ life cycle has been shortened and time-to-market became the new bread and butter, businesses cannot ignore 3D printing. This is a very competitive industry, with a lot of new competition, and plenty of options for marketing strategies.

3d printing machines
"Start Up Fab Lab with Form 2 SLA 3D Printer with Maker Space Additive Manufacturing Tools" by Formlabs Inc.

Ideas to Use 3D Printing in Marketing

A successful marketing strategy will always be to give early insight into your product development phase. As soon as the beans are spilled, i.e. competitors are aware of your new product, push our pictures and demonstrations of prototypes. Let customers digitally engage with your 3D prints and maybe even physically.

Additive prototype manufacturing gives your business the chance to win customers before your product is done. Nowadays, customers love transparency in the process. It makes them feel like they are part of the journey. Let them have a saying in some minor design decisions.

Conclusion: Getting Started with 3D printing

Since the introduction of the first personal computer, we have seen an incredible rate of growth in digital technologies. Technology can be a very powerful tool for making life easier and more efficient. It can also, however, seem like a daunting task to take on as it progresses at such rapid speeds. The following considerations should help one feel more comfortable with getting started with new technology:

  • Be aware of what is happening in your field and the technological advancements that are happening around you
  • Know how to use new technology before making any major decisions on whether or not to change your work process
  • Take advantage of free trials when possible, because it may be worth exploring new tools before switching over completely

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