3D printing for your startup business
3D printing, aka Additive Manufacturing, existed since the 1980s, but recent technological advancements in printers and materials have created a boom in the number of businesses adopting this technology. The 3D printing industry is expected to be worth $21bn by 2020i.
"While 3D printing has taken off for customised products in the aerospace and biomedical industries, many local companies still find the barrier of entry quite high due to the costly printers and a lack of expertise in additive manufacturing," says Dr. Ho Chaw Sing, managing director of National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster's (NAMIC)ii.
Since NAMIC’s setup in 2016, the entity has connected with 400 local and international firms to help them innovate using 3D printing technologies. These opportunities are not just limited to large enterprises, as widely believed. Through relevant application, small businesses could also benefit immensely from adopting 3D printing. Here are four ways you can use 3D printing to boost your business operations:
With the continually decreasing cost of 3D printing, it can be a cost-effective way to produce prototypes of almost any type of products. Creating prototypes allows you to assess the features tangibly and carry out user testing. It also can shine a light on production challenges or vulnerable areas that require reassessment.
Astro Lighting, a producer and designer of contemporary lighting, uses 3D printers to create prototypes of lighting designs to test their products’ function and lookiv. This allows them to make quick decisions on designs, resulting in a much faster speed to market.
A key component in printing 3D objects are the filaments and metal parts. These parts have been a barrier in keeping costs low as the quality is usually compromised if so. However, businesses like Desktop Metal have found a solution to reduce design production, whilst staying competitive and equally efficient with traditional manufacturing processes. 3D-printable metal products are now evolving to become more inexpensive, without compromising on quality.
With no stock or inventory costs in your product development process, you can put more resources into product testing and improvements. You also have more control and freedom to create any 3D printed prototypes of your product as part of a trial run, before making the decision to scale up and mass manufacture, significantly reducing costs of re-production due to product defects, poor user experience or any other potential issues.
In addition to creating product prototypes, 3D printing is also ideal for printing final products. The technology significantly decreases cycle times and enables businesses to go directly from design to manufacturing. This production method skips the traditional outsourced manufacturing process altogether, reaping further cost-savings and bolstering the profit margin.
3D printing enables you to produce tailored products at scale. Now you can enhance your offerings by providing product customisation in function, connection, or form based on their specifications, with a low cost and quick turnaround.
Exclusivity is a powerful weapon in customer experience and retention. This can be achieved through customising items that are tangible, personal, and unexpected. Corporate end-buyers are always seeking gifts that are useful, attractive, and intelligently branded.
In the fashion and accessories industries, 3D printers are enabling consumers to make jewellery in real-time and cutting down on huge labour costs. There is no need for “off-the-shelf” parts or welding anymorevi. Jewellery can now be produced in-house, through a virtual inventory. The true beauty of 3D printing technology in jewellery-making lies in the empowerment of designers to be a lot more creative in crafting jewellery that cannot be manufactured by hand.
“Used correctly, computer modelling should be equivalent to sculpting an object out of clay. It requires immense skill; it’s just that the tools are digital rather than physical. It takes years of experimentation and practice. But some software lets you just combine things that already exist. It takes all the goldsmithing knowledge out of the process and restricts creativity to what can be achieved within the boundaries of the program. If used properly, the only restriction is your imagination,” says Max Shepherd, creative director of Mayfair-based boutique fine jeweller Guy & Maxvii.
You may also create customised prizes with names or engravings for your loyal customers. This is an effective and inexpensive way to not only maintain a good relationship with your customers and show your appreciation for them, but to also attract new customers. Some customisable gift ideas could be phone accessories, desktop displays, team appreciation awards, long service medals, and plaques. There are a multitude of value-added business opportunities that come with the help of 3D printing. It is revolutionising the whole act of corporate gift-giving in society today.
How much are you currently spending on marketing your business? And how many of these promotional materials end up being very similar to what other businesses are using as well?
In order to stand out, you need to have something different, like 3D printed promotional items. These items can range from coasters, to key chains, to business cards. 3D printed business cards not only make your brand more memorable but is also a conversation starter. It not only shows your creativity but also your commitment to new technologies.
No matter the size of your company, 3D printing has proven to be useful and beneficial across industries. Integrating 3D technology into your game could just give you that edge to stay ahead in today’s competitive times.
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