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How 3D Printing Will Generate Business for Production Manufacturers

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Over at Innovation Investment Journal, Peter Friedman has an excellent article identifying the large scale manufacturing shortcomings of additive 3D printing.  In short, he says that 3D printing can’t handle the speed or volume requirements needed in production scale manufacturing.

However, that conclusion misses the point for small and medium manufacturers.  The importance of 3D additive printers is not that they will replace large scale manufacturing (after all, they can’t take advantage of economies of scale).  Their role is to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to more deeply explore commercial viability.

Inexpensive 3d printing will enable hobbyists and amateurs to cheaply prototype their concepts at a scale that they can sell.  This scale (1-500+ units) isn’t well served by existing manufacturers, who have large minimum order requirements and/or high start up costs.

The next generation of innovative products will be created by designers who can prototype and build manufacturable goods in prototype and small quantities.

 

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

New products will emerge from a cottage industry of innovation.  Once economic viability is demonstrated, these projects will need to transition to professional manufacturing, to take advantage of economies of scale.  Manufacturers who specialize in transitioning a product from additive 3d printing (10-500 units) to large scale manufacturing (1k+ units) will have partners in large growth phases.

 

Takeaway points:

  1. Role of 3d printers is to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to more deeply explore the commercial viability of their market and product.
  2. Inexpensive 3d printing will enable hobbyists and amateurs to cheaply prototype their concepts at a scale that they can sell
  3. The next generation of innovative products will be created by designers who can prototype and build manufacturable goods in prototype and small quantities.
  4. Manufacturers who specialize in transitioning a product from additive 3d printing (10-500 units) to large scale manufacturing (1k+ units) will have partners in large growth phases.

 * (I defined “proof of concept” at 1 unit, non-manufactured, non-sellable.  Sellable prototype is one that could be build in quantities of 10-1000.  Production scale is over 1,000 units.  Costs are estimated, although the actual numbers are less important than the shape of the graph.)

Category: 3D Design, Engineering & Design

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2 Responses

  1. Great article. The implication for 3D printing technology is huge. Hopefully it will help improve the success rate for new innovation products and technologies (which is currently around 25%).

  2. Carsten Ludwig says:

    Very nice article! On Cebit 2013 I had the opportunity to take a look on different 3D printers. Most of them have great potential.

    Is it possible to publish a guest post about CNC technologies on this blog? If yes, please contact me under the mail adress given in this comment :)
    I would appreciate an answer.

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