Six benefits of 3D printing

Author: Joshua Dale
Close up of man looking at holding tooling machinery

Six benefits of 3D printing

What can it do, why should your company be using it, and who already is?

“The fortunate circumstances of our lives are generally found, at last, to be of our own producing.”

— Oliver Goldsmith

3D printing is certainly getting people talking, blogging, and tweeting.

Some people argue that this technology is “magical”, while others claim it is “a fad that will not catch on”. What we do know is that 3D printing has the potential to enhance our lives in many ways. A 3D printer can print in over 100 different materials. The possibilities with this emerging technology are mind-boggling, from printed prosthetic limbs to printer replication.

Some of the world’s largest brands such as Coca-Cola, Nokia, and eBay are all currently utilizing 3D printing technologies.The possibilities of 3D printing are captivating, but it does not come without its complications. This article offers six insights into how 3D printing is currently being operated in the world of business.

Increase innovation
Print prototypes in hours, obtain feedback, refine designs, and repeat the cycle until designs are perfect

Improve communication
Hold a full color, realistic 3D model in your hands to impart more information than a computer image. Create physical 3D models quickly, easily, and affordably for a wide variety of applications.

Speed time to market
Compress design cycles by 3D printing multiple prototypes on demand, right in your office.

Reduce development costs
Cut traditional prototyping and tooling costs. Identify design errors earlier, and reduce travel to production facilities.

Win business
Bring realistic 3D models to prospective accounts, sponsors, and focus groups.

Personalize products
Personalize merchandise such as pens and other items at conventions. This can increase mindshare with potential clients.

Who's doing it?
3D printing is a technology which is still to be mastered on a commercial scale. Falling costs and smaller kit are driving more demand for 3D printers.

Although developers have been struggling with innovating 3D printers, the concept of 3D printing is logical and easy to understand. A normal printer works by putting ink on a sheet of paper, which is arranged to form images and text. 3D printers are no different, but they use materials such as silicon or metal to print layers on top of each other to produce a 3D end product.

Here are some examples of how large organizations are currently using 3D technology to give you an idea of the things that 3D printers can do - even at this early stage:

Coca-Cola introduced its new smaller bottles in Israel and teamed up with Gefem Tel-Aviv on an enjoyable 3D printing promotion. Coca-Cola asked consumers to produce minuscule, digital versions of themselves in a mobile app, which they then had to look after, Tamagotchi-style. A selection of those people won a trip to their factory, they had an opportunity to turn their Tamagotchi versions into a scale toy model which was 3D printed.

Belgian insurance company, DVV, exhibited how 3D printers can be useful for its customers. The company introduced a service called "Key Save", which permits customers to save an image of their keys on a secure server. If a customer ever misplaces their keys, they can take their data to a 3D printer and generate a new one. It's a benefit to customers, but also to the insurance establishment, because organizations lose money by changing homeowners' locks.

NASA is going to introduce a 3D printer into space in 2014 to assist astronauts in producing parts and tools in a zero gravity environment.

"If you want to be adaptable, you have to be able to design and manufacture on the fly, and that's where 3D printing in space comes in,'' said Dave Korsmeyer, director of engineering at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Scientists are developing a 3D printer that will be able to withstand vibrations from launch and differing air pressures.

To learn more about 3D printing and other innovative developments from HHLab, our idea incubator, click here.