Although 3D printing technology is still in an evolutionary stage, it holds immense potential for a variety of small-size businesses.
From rapid prototyping and production of customized goods to marketing & design, additive manufacturing offers a wide range of benefits in terms of efficiency. Many businesses in the education, healthcare, marketing, and manufacturing sectors have already begun leveraging 3D printing technology.
Yes, high-quality 3D printers don’t come cheap.
But, for many small-size businesses, the benefits can easily outweigh the cost incurred on the purchase of a 3D printer.
Even if you do not wish to invest in a 3D printer right away, you can always rely on third-party 3D printing service providers.
Wondering how small businesses can tap into 3D printing? Let’s look at the top nine ways small-size businesses can leverage the 3D printing technology:
- Create a Proof of Concept
For many small-sized businesses, especially companies that are just bootstrapping, creating a proof-of-concept or a functional model can be challenging.
Do you intend to approach an angel investor for a seed-fund?
Is your team preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign?
With additive manufacturing, you can create the working model of a proposed product, with all functional parts, in a time-bound manner.
Such a working model can help a great deal in your fundraising efforts. It will help you differentiate yourself from others pitching their product ideas with static presentations or videos.
Put simply, 3D printing lets startup companies stand out from the rest of the competition.
There is no dearth of inexpensive materials and affordable 3D printing services you can use to showcase the functionality of your product.
- Use Rapid Prototyping Methods to Shorten the Product Development Lifecycle
Do you want to accelerate product development? Speed is of paramount importance for a new business trying to position itself in markets dominated by large-scale businesses with deep pockets.
With 3D printing, it is possible to considerably accelerate your product development by improving the R&D process.
Rapid prototyping allows you to try out various options on a lesser budget and within a much shorter timeframe.
You get a clear vision of the final product before your operator hits the print button. In other ways, you can identify design flaws and fix them before you even print the first prototype.
This way, 3D printing is helping create a level-playing field in R&D in many sectors.
- Sell Customized Products to Your Target Audience
Businesses around the world are offering personalized products and services at an increasing rate.
You can also offer customized, on-demand products to differentiate yourself from the competition. Even, Amazon now lets you customize and buy 3D-printed products.
With 3D printing, you can let your customers choose exactly what they need. You will just need to alter the STL file in your 3D printing software to print different versions of an item.
Product customization is expensive with traditional manufacturing methods.
When you have a 3D printer in your facility, be sure to train your employees on how to safely use 3D printers.
With numerous heated components and moving parts, 3D printers ought to be used with caution.
- Low-Cost Short Runs with Additive Manufacturing
If you deal in goods manufacturing, marketing, and sales, you are probably aware of how the production cost is generally inversely proportional to the number of goods being produced.
In traditional manufacturing facilities, you bear the cost of developing new molds, regardless of how many pieces you need. If you are producing something unique, you may also need to buy the raw material in bulk.
But, with additive manufacturing, you can create as many parts as you need at the moment. Many online 3D printing services let you print 1, 10, or 1000 parts with just a few clicks.
Producing short runs with 3D printers is significantly cheaper than traditional manufacturing processes such as injection molding.
- Spend Less on Storage with On-Demand Manufacturing Processes
For small and medium scale businesses, storing large number of goods can be a costly affair.
You need to pay for the extra space and facilities required to store items that were produced yesterday but can only be transported to vendors a few weeks later.
3D printing allows you to produce different pieces just when you need them. This is the reason why 3D printing is often touted as a revolution in on-demand manufacturing.
- Produce Better Quality Products
Thanks to the capabilities of 3D printing, you can now embrace possibilities that weren’t financially feasible until a few years ago.
Your company can create product designs that you truly want and not settle for something you can afford.
Even if complex geometries are involved in the design process, a high-quality 3D printer won’t disappoint you.
- More Automation
Gone are the days when three or four people were required for operating a 3D printer.
Today, just one employee can effectively manage and operate a 3D printer in a facility.
Modern-day 3D printers can even be operated remotely. This way, you can ensure business continuity even on days when the operator is not physically present at the worksite.
With less labor-intensive manufacturing processes, it is possible to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage in the market.
- Collaborate With the Student Community
In case your place of business is located near a college or university, you can collaborate with students.
Such collaborations not only help you find new talent but also create goodwill in the community.
- Promote Your Business
You can use a 3D printer to create unique promotional materials. With some creativity and careful planning, 3D marketing materials can help you cut down on your advertising costs in the long term.
You can, for instance, create 3D mascots or business cards to give to your prospective clients.
If you are participating in a trade show, you can print a variety of themed objects that represent (and promote) your business.
Such a marketing strategy is not just helpful in creating strong brand recall. It also sends out the message that your company is creative and innovative.
George Mendelson is the PR Media Manager at Inkjetsclub, a nationwide leading ink and toner retailer. One of his passions is educating and helping people through all the issues related to Printers, Ink Cartridges and Toners.