It has been several years since 3D printing became a cautious hype in the Netherlands. For the entrepreneur, the 3D printer has turned out to be a great way to quickly make, test and improve prototypes, at relatively low costs.
The promises of the 3D printer seemed almost endless at first: in the future you could simply make (almost) all products at home, as long as you had downloaded a blueprint. Experts soon also pointed to risks: people could make weapons or other unwanted objects at home, for example. 3D printing has faded into the background, but that is far from justified: the development of 3D printing has not stood still.
According to Essentium research, 47% from the investigated manufacturers uses 3D printing in addition to traditional production. Now during the corona crisis, 3D printing proves its potential. When a link in the supply chain fails, you can use 3D printing the missing puzzle piece place.
What is 3D printing? Watch the video:
Rapidly prototype your concepts
Every company that produces articles works with prototypes. They are necessary to be able to test or check the correct functioning of a product, to be able to compare them with each other and other products or to be able to show them to potential customers. A good prototype makes or breaks the development process of a new product.
3D printing allows you as an entrepreneur to make a prototype yourself, based on a concept or blueprint. Many entrepreneurs think this is a time-consuming, difficult job. The truth is, once you know how a 3D printer works, you usually start producing within five minutes. That is of course much faster than if you have a prototype manufactured by a manufacturer or if you have to do this with a lot of manual work. After all, an automated production line often does not yet exist for products or models to be introduced. So with 3D printing you can quickly start testing your concept with customers, so-called rapid prototyping.
Long-term cost savings
A 3D printer also allows you to save costs in the long term. This is particularly interesting for entrepreneurs who regularly design new products. The one-off costs of purchasing a professional 3D printer are of course unavoidable, but the maintenance and use of the printer is relatively cheap and simple. In time, a 3D printer will pay for itself twice as much, because you will save yourself a lot of costs associated with a traditional prototype production process.
In addition to various forms of plastic (such as polycarbonate, polypropylene and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), you can also metal 3D printing, as in silver, gold, wood and biodegradable starch-based plastic. An interesting new material is Laybrick, a mixture of chalk and harmless co-polyesters. Laybrick looks and feels like sandstone and is therefore widely used for 3D printing of scale models landscapes.
Test, improve and test again quickly
Using a 3D printer not only gives you a fast production process of prototypes at (eventually) low costs; in many cases it also leads to a better end product. Because you save costs and time when manufacturing a prototype, you can also carry out the necessary tests and comparisons more quickly. Making changes to your product - sometimes drastic changes, but sometimes also minor tweaks at the detail level - can then be incredibly simple and accessible. You can of course also roll this improved prototype out of your printer again.
All in all, as an entrepreneur you will be less likely to settle for a product that perhaps meets your ideal image for 98%. A 3D printer allows you to go for that 100% affordably, without taking an unreasonable amount of time. Every producer knows that the last step to the full 100% is often the most difficult to take; 3D printing makes that step a bit easier to take.