It’s something exciting and new, and loads of small- and large-scale businesses alike are scooping up dauntingly innovative contraptions that turn the conceptual into the tangible with the tap of a few keys. From prototyping to manufacturing 3D printing is instantaneously putting functional products in the hands of the people that design them, a practice that unusually enough was strangely disjointed until recently. What follows is just the beginnings of a crash course in this new bit of tech that is sweeping the business world, along with an encouragement to dive deeper and determine whether or not 3D printing could nudge your business into the future.
Right off the bat, let’s recalibrate what we consider “3D printing.” The manufacturing and business worlds, being the way that they are, have shirked the preceding term, deeming it too frivolous and dryly relabeling the process “additive manufacturing.” Additive manufacturing breaks down into seven different flavors: material extrusion, powder bed fusion, material jetting, binder jetting, directed energy deposition, vat photopolymerization and sheet lamination. Each method has its own unique attributes that can serve to best produce the object in question. For example, vat photopolymerization (quite the mouthful) involves rendering an object layer by layer via curing precise portions of a liquid resin bath with a ultraviolet beams, a design that produces relatively seamless models.
Depending on which method you deem worthy of gracing your company’s operation, there is a laundry list of applications that these technologies come ready to carry out. The most obvious is the production of custom goods. The advent of small-scale synthesis has allowed for a striking fluidity in the products companies are offering to the public, meaning a consumer can theoretically change any element of the good he or she is purchasing. This product flexibility can boost the appeal of otherwise rigid product sets. Along with fully customized manufacturing, uber-streamlined prototyping serves as possibly the most monumental perk to building additive manufacturing into your company’s service offerings. Printed prototypes are far more functional than the clay and wood molds of old – and far quicker to obtain. Time being money, a quicker prototyping process can mean nothing but good to companies young to old.
Additive manufacturing has countless business applications, and being as versatile as it is, new uses and methods are popping up every day. This tech is young but undeniably marks a turning point in the business world from marketing to manufacturing. Armed with the baseline knowledge presented above and comprehensive research of one’s own, startups and corporations alike ought to strike while the iron is hot and bring 3D printing to the office ASAP.