3D Printing is Transforming Business As We Know It
As the technology for 3D printing objects advances, we will see it become a more practical, efficient and cost-effective solution for developing our everyday products. With this advancement, we will begin to see a wider array of materials — including plastics, ceramics and metals — that will completely transform the time spent making products and the manner in which businesses sell those products.
That’s the future Tracy Hazzard, co-owner of 3D-printing company Hazz Design, foresees. Directed by Tracy and her husband, Tom, Hazz Design has developed over 250 products and generated nearly $1 billion in revenue for their retail clients. Business is soaring for the entrepreneurial couple, and on the cusp of this great manufacturing revolution, the Hazzards believe that 3D printing is going to change the way we do business.
From biomaterials for advanced medical research to 3D-printed food products, the new form of manufacturing is beginning to seep into every industry. Below are just a few examples of how 3D printing is changing the invention, production and dispersion of industrial and consumer products.
Imagine that you own a bakery that specializes in creating elaborate, decorative wedding cakes. This is obviously a highly skilled and labor-intensive job, and the conceptualization, production and presentation of the finished product is the only thing on your mind. You don’t have the time to personally make the little garnishes and decorations for the wedding cakes.
In this case, you could invest in a 3D sugar printer. With this technology, you are able to download various sugar decoration templates or even create designs all your own. Not only is this efficient and cost-effective, you now have something that is unique to your business and helps you break out of the competition. Now, instead of buying your sugar designs from someone else, you are able to make your own in-house.
“It’s all about customization,” Tracy said. “More and more, 3D printing is giving business owners a chance to create something localized and unique to their business.”
Wearables And Personalized Products
Even the products that you wear are slowly breaking into the 3D-printing industry. One San Diego shoe company, Feetz, prints shoes to fit the exact measurements of a customer’s feet. Every part of the shoe is 3D printed, and customers are able to download an app to enter the dimensions of their feet to be sent off to the shoe company. This type of on-demand shoe design will begin to cut down on the number of shoes that need to be manufactured, reducing our carbon footprint. That’s great news for the environment — some plastics in shoes take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.
“3D printing is giving companies the ability to be more expressive than they once were,” Tom said. “It’s a low-cost way to develop the exact products you want, entirely how you want them.”
A myriad of other wearable and personalized products are finding their way to 3D-printing production. One company, OwnPhones, has a Kickstarter campaign running to fund their 3D-printed, custom-fit earbuds. Various dental companies are even beginning to 3D print custom invisible braces. Expect to see even more companies offer similar services as customers become accustomed to and demand the higher level of customization afforded by 3D printing.
Invention And Product
It’s no secret that the creation of a new product is difficult: It’s time-consuming, expensive, and can often burn through a lot of materials on the path to the right model. The hassle doesn’t end there, either. Once you have the desired product, you have to make more — a lot more. This can be a huge waste of resources when you don’t know exactly how much you’re going to sell, especially if your product is perishable.
“Before 3D printing, it was kind of a shot in the dark when it came to the amount of investment into a new product,” Tracy said. “But now, 3D printing offers a good way to test the waters without betting the whole farm.”
3D printing can enable you to cut down on all of these time- and energy-wasting processes. First off, production from a 3D printer is an overall faster process. From prototyping to full-scale production, 3D-printed products come off the line much faster than traditional manufacturing methods. Additionally, it will save you countless dollars in materials. 3D printing is inherently lean in nature, reducing the amount of material needed and even repurposing materials already used. In the coming years, this type of on-demand manufacturing is sure to catalyze a new generation of inventors and production values within large-scale companies.
3D printing has come a long way from being seen as an invention for cool toys. Thanks to leaders like Tom and Tracy, businesses and individuals alike are coming to recognize the technology for what it is: an industrial revolution. With forays into new materials and applications, 3D printing can change everything from food to shoes and the entire production process itself.