Business Buzz: The ROI Behind 3D Printing
3D printing’s full potential has yet to be realized, but printing enthusiasts herald the technology as one of the biggest industrial disruptions of our lifetime. With the power to change how we work, 3D printing has already yielded fascinating breakthroughs in the medical and manufacturing industries. But what is the actual bottom line on 3D printing, and is it worth investing now or later? We’ve highlighted some of the business implications for big corporations and entrepreneurs – you be the judge.
WHAT 3D PRINTING MEANS FOR BIG BUSINESS:
According to Fortune, more than 73% of big corporations said they want to increase in-house production in the near future. And 3D printing can do that. For example, the manufacturing industry relies heavily on expensive onshore manual labor or unpredictable offshore partnerships. To bring production in-house, large companies need to invest in technology that will make manufacturing faster, easier, and less expensive. That said, 3D printing is only just starting to emerge as a solution to this business need.
Right now, 3D printing is primarily used to create models of mechanical parts before they hit the production line. This ensures manufacturing is more accurate and allows for iterative improvement. CEO of SDM Joe Allison explains, “Today 3D printing is still perceived as a technology solution, but the future of 3D printing is as a business solution.” Joe is implying what many manufacturers already suspect: 3D printing can be used for much more than prototyping and modeling. Eventually, hybrid manufacturing will be the norm, with cars, airplanes and other large machines being built with a combination of 3D printed parts and traditionally crafted parts. And after that? Whole machines.
Using 3D printing to leverage or replace manufacturing has the power to cut back on labor costs and streamline the production process, giving companies the flexibility to sustain themselves in a new way.
3D PRINTING SERVICES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES:
While the obvious potential is there, many companies still resist investing in 3D printing because the initial, front-loaded cost of overhauling manufacturing and supply chain processes is high. Large companies may have an easier time purchasing industrial 3D printers, but transforming their workforce is another story. That’s where small and medium sized businesses have an advantage.
Small businesses may not have capital to invest in 3D printers, but they often have the flexibility and workforce agility to try new and innovative work styles. Companies such as our very own Redbrick 3D offer 3D print services using cutting edge 3D printers such as the full-color MCOR IRIS 3D paper printer. These affordable printing services give business owners such as independent architects, small-batch manufacturers, and private medical practitioners the opportunity to augment their work using 3D printing without committing to a printer purchase. As 3D printing becomes more lucrative, the company may then choose to invest in their own MCOR IRIS.
Although it’s early, many industries show signs of the tremendous benefit latent in 3D printing. Even on the personal level, a Computer World study recently suggested that the average consumer using a small desktop 3D printer to print home and personal goods such as shower rings and food storage containers would pay for the cost of the printer in less than a year. According to the study, individual users showed ROIs greater than 200%.
Whether you’re part of the changing world of big business, or seeking new ways to get your Kickstarter campaign off the ground, 3D printing is one tool that should not be left out of your toolbox.
- Dustin Heigl