business Is it Time for Your Business to Invest in a 3D Printer? November 27, 2017 More businesses are finding improvement in their production processes with 3D printers....as the technology becomes more accessible and more affordable, your business might think of investing in one too. 3D printers are quickly changing the way manufacturers think about running their businesses and creating products. “Additive manufacturing,” as it is sometimes called, offers innovation, customization, as well as time and cost savings. Is it time for your business to invest? More about Additive Manufacturing (3D printers) Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is the process by which digital 3D design data deposits material in thin layers, one by one, until a product is created. Layers of material (which could include ABS plastic, nylon, glass-filled polyamide, silver, wax etc.) are formed under computer control to create an object. 5 Benefits of 3D Printers Cost savings- The cost of 3D printers has significantly decreased over the past few years, making them an affordable asset for your company. Experts say you can save as much as 70% on your operational costs by owning one. Time savings- Conventional production methods, unlike 3D printers, do not have the ability to create many prototypes in a short time span. Owning your own 3D printer saves you the hassle of outsourcing your 3D printing needs which can be a lengthy process. The speed allowed by these printers allows small businesses to have an on-demand production model. Customizing products- Customers often request specific customizations on their products to meet their specifications. Third party manufacturers can charge a lot for this. With the plethora of apps and software available today, customizing products with a 3D printer is becoming more commonplace and easy for businesses to do onsite. Business promotion- You can greatly expand the marketing for your small business by owning a 3D printer. With the customization capabilities, a 3D printer can create items to promote your products and services. Plus, using the printer for marketing items will greatly cut your advertising costs. Prototyping & product development- 3D printers give you the ability to test several different variations of your prototype to see the weak spots, saving you a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. Disadvantages? Questionable accuracy- Since 3D printing is primarily a prototyping technology, this means that parts created with the technology are mainly test parts, leaving room for error. Copyright issues- There is a fear that as this printing technology becomes more commonplace, counterfeiting will too. This will pose a risk to intellectual property rights. Size limitations- Parts created through 3D printing are also limited in size. The most common, affordable 3D printing machines typically are small enough to fit on your desktop, meaning they have “chamber” (where the product comes out) sizes of similar proportions. There are 3D printers that are able to create larger parts, but they're much more expensive. Also, the larger the part that needs to be created, the longer it takes 3D printing is a viable technology for validating parts and making sure that design and engineering tweaks are not necessary before a product is sanctioned for production. With cost no longer being an issue, this technology can prove to be a money saving asset for many companies. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for your company? Learn more about manufacturing trends in our 2017 Manufacturing Industry Outlook Report.