3D printing might just hold the key to revolutionising your small business. Many startups have already adopted this fantastic technology and are using it every day. For the uninitiated, 3D printing is a simple concept. You feed the printer a design and it will mould the entire object in 3D. It uses layers of melted plastic to do so. It’s a phenomenal technology, and the practical applications are endless. Doctors are already printing body organs and engineers are printing plane parts.
It’s a fascinating world but is it useful on a small, startup scale? The answer is unequivocally ‘yes’. We spoke to a number of small businesses who have embraced the 3D printer and we asked how they used it. What we found was a wide array of practical applications. Businesses had improved their productivity, their creativity, and they’d cut costs! 3D printing technology is convenient and precise too. Today we’ll share the clever ways small businesses are embracing this tech.
We mentioned briefly how engineers are printing airplane parts. This is happening on a large scale at the likes of Boeing. Car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors have also been printing parts since the 1980s. However, the smaller engineering companies are now embracing the 3D printer too. Everything from ball bearings, to washers to bespoke components can be instantly created. It is cutting down costs and the time spent hunting down rare parts.
We recently spoke to a company that makes a detachable iPhone camera lens. They said the ability to create hundreds of prototypes quickly was the key to their success. A 3D printer can drastically speed up the production cycle. Rather than outsource the development of your product, simply print every new iteration. If you think this would help power your business, check out this Lulzbot Taz review. It’s a mid-level 3D printer used by many small businesses. A printer like this will allow you to make small changes every day, rather than wait weeks for prototype delivery. It also allows you to keep your intellectual property in-house and avoid the risk of plagiarism.
The rise of the personal, home-made jewellery industry has been unstoppable. Websites like Etsy, Pinterest and Instagram have helped creative jewellery makers find an audience. However, as the business grows, many struggle with one thing: production speed. Small jewellery empires are now printing all the small parts they need and saving lots of time and money.
One of the most promising startups of 2014 is Mink. Mink is a company that is pursuing the exciting prospect of 3D printed makeup. It allows users to choose the style and colour of their makeup before printing it straight out. It’s a bit of a game changer if you ask us and will help bring 3D printers into the home. Imagine if your business could offer a similar service.
3D printing might not be ubiquitous in our homes just yet, but we’re not far off. Small businesses can still hop on the bandwagon early and take advantage. How could you use one?