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3D Printing; Futuristic, Cost Effective, Business Solution?
by Startacus Admin
In recent months, you’ve probably heard of the phenomenon of 3D printing that’s taken the internet and innovators by storm. Well, we at Startacus think it’s high time to look at startups and products that are making use of the fact that 3D printing is becoming more and more cost effective, week by week.
What is 3D Printing? For those of you who don’t know, 3D Printing is a new means of manufacturing things, which primarily consists of taking a 3D Model, for example; a video game character, then using a specialised machine and software, breaking the model down into layers, and using a chemical compound to form a solid replica of each layer on top of each other. Think along the lines of one of those old 3d sculpture puzzles, except the machine is making it for you, and it can be anything you want.
Why would anyone want to print a copy of a video game character? People will buy nearly anything, but 3D modelling is a really broad term. You can print almost anything you want or need. Picture a kitchen utensil, say an oven hob, and one day, the dial breaks? Instead of buying a new dial, at manufacturing prices, one could theoretically, model a brand new part, print it and replace it for a fraction of the cost. The crutch is however, that not everyone can 3D model and even less people have access to quality 3D Printers.
How is this even remotely a business solution? It sounds like a home fix, for wealthy and experienced users, no less! Well, companies like Zeus tech stars in Spain, are actively seeking to improve 3D printing technology and speed, to ensure that consumers will in the near future be able to afford and use complete 3D printing packages and services. But that’s just for the home users, what about today? What about the layman? Well many companies are now offering 3D modelling and printing as a consumer service, like Silva 3D Printing, that offer a service where you can request items to be printed, and then they will model, measure, print and provide it to you. Now how is this a business solution? Simples. It’s an alternative to costly manufacturers. Furthermore, people can learn to do it on their own – eliminating the need for a specialist whilst allowing the startup employees to enhance their portfolio and prototype their products at a fraction of the cost.
Ok so that’s one venture into the foray that is Business for 3D printing, what else can it do for a startup? It’s not just what can it do for a startup, 3D printing is taking over the title of ‘startup’! Every week we see new companies utilising 3D printing in any number of ways imaginable, from toys and collectibles to literally making the lives of children and the ill substantially better. Sure, any startup can use it, but the question is how is it affecting the startup scene? And does this mean we’re looking at the future of prototype and possibly even mass production for companies? The answers are simple, it’s starting to form the basis that companies use to even make their products, and not only that but even well established companies are looking to get in on the 3D printing money train. Furthermore, the fact that the technology is advancing so quickly, and becoming so cost effective and quick, It’s easily arguable that yes, we could very well be looking at the newest medium of production; especially for smaller businesses and startups.
Who can get involved? (How would you get access to this wonderful advancement in technology? Due to the current cost of a quality 3D Printer, (a small one can sting around £2000) it’s a rare sight to see a company providing its own 3D printing service, many just providing the means to obtain it i.e. ordering their product from a manufacturer, but, considering the relative newness of this technology, and the abhorrent £5000 it would have cost only 14 months ago for a lesser quality machine, alongside the drive to improve this technology even further in the near future, we could see top quality printing machines become remarkably available in only a matter of months. Another means that a startup could employ would be that of a local Fabrications Laboratory. The fabLab project is an engineering goal to provide a lab with all the tech it needs to reproduce all the tech contained within, and as such, provides labs with 3D printers of a high standard. In fact, many fabLabs are open to the public, under provisions that patrons partake in training and supervision of use: A small price to pay for access to such a versatile means of production.
So folks, there you have it, the ins and outs of 3D printing in startups today; a cheap new manufacturing process either for prototypes or materials that need to be mass produced at speed, that’s customisable, versatile and frankly can be done by anyone with a bit of training. Not a bad thing to look into if you’re stuck on a production issue on your newest venture, or even see a venture in the art of 3D printing.
If you liked this why not check out these articles on 3D printing?
If this has inspired you or you’re already working on a startup that involves 3D printing; why not share your project on our ‘Collaborate’ page, where you can receive support from other startups, mentors and even investors!