3D Printing for SMBs and the everyday Consumer

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a practice of printing 3D objects using digital models. It can be used almost in every industry by various users in cases like engineering, education, health care, metal casting, architecture and much more.

Two years ago, a 3D printer would have set you back tens of thousands of dollars, but thanks to the rapid development in technology, these printers can now be purchased for an affordable price of around one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars.

3d printing

This affordability factor has put the cutting edge technology within the reach of smaller companies and the everyday consumer. 3D printers are now rapidly becoming main-stream for manufacturers, designers and innovators. Let us take a brief look at these amazing machines and see what they are capable of!

3D Printing for SMBs:

This affordable advancement will help the smaller companies to bring the initial prototyping in-house rather than outsourcing the jobs to fulfill their printing needs. For companies that rely on physical products, the process of refining their product designs can be compacted to three to four days instead of three to four weeks with the help in-house productions and modifications. Validating a design through 3D printed prototypes will also save these manufacturers thousands of dollars in tooling modifications.

3d printing painting

The possibilities of 3D printing for SMBs are only limited to the imagination of the business owners. Let us take a look at a few examples to illustrate what we mean!

  • Jewelry designs (the ladies would love it!)
  • 3D maps that clearly identify every terrain.
  • Small scale, workable architectural models.
  • Action figures, dolls and their accessories, even legos!
  • Artificial limbs for the disabled.
  • 3D Logos (maybe?!)

These are just a few examples of how powerful these printers can be. Like mentioned earlier, the possibilities are only limited to the depth of one’s imagination!

3D Printing for the Everyday Consumer:

3D printers are now within the reach of the everyday consumer who can bring their imaginations to reality at affordable prices. These machines are even finding their way into primary schools and kids as young as the age of nine and ten are starting to explore the possibilities of developing their own products.

3d printing

There was a time when graphic designers would sell their design templates for people to use and modify. Now thanks to 3D printing, a new trend is taking shape in the form of 3D design template sites, where people can sell their products via 3D print plan, which can be downloaded and reproduced by a 3D printer.

Cubify 3D SYSTEMS is one of the pioneer companies which is making its mark in the industry with its affordable 3D printers, 3D design templates, printer cartridges and loads of other material that is used when printing 3D designs/models. The 3D printing cartridges are available in a variety of colors including the new glow in the dark cartridges. They have an online store where people can buy and sell their templates and monetize their imagination. It is important to mention that unlike the conventional inkjet cartridges and laser jet cartridges, 3D cartridges use plastic to print life-like three dimensional designs.

Uses and Benefits of 3D Printing:

Let us take a look at the reasons why this practice of printing has gained so much popularity and how this technology is changing the world:

  • Models with hollow parts that were not previously possible to be made by hand in one piece are now easily manufactured by 3D printing.
  • Thanks to cheaper raw materials, decreased workforce, 3D printing has exponentially reduced manufacturing cost, allowing many companies to save up to 60%.
  • There is little limitation on the variety of designs a 3D printer can print. These models are more durable and have better structural integrity.
  • Manufacturing metal and plastic models is often a wasteful process. Creating a similar model using additive manufacturing takes less energy and reduces waste products.
  • Various waxes and resins can also be applied to the finished product which increases the strength, temperature resistance and allows paint & finishes to be applied realistically.
  • The models created by 3D printing can also attain some new properties when different materials are combined just like when two part urethane is added to an object, it starts possessing the properties of rubber.
  • 3D printing is not only valuable to companies but also students can gain a lot from this blessing. It can allow them to build functional models and see the ideas they had, first hand in just a few hours.

So with so many possibilities, it is safe to conclude that the future of printing is about to take a major turn for the good, especially now that these printers are well within the reach of small and medium sized companies and the everyday consumer.

What would you print with your first 3D printer? Leave your ideas in the comments section below!

About Farhan Niazi

Farhan Niazi is an experienced web developer with a passion for blogging. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand and is currently working for McCarrison Hayes as their Chief Information Officer. He is the founder of SMB Tech Guide and writes for several blogs and magazines including SmallBizTechnology.com, Two's Company, Stirring Media and TMR Direct. Follow him on Twitter.

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