Categories: Editorial

Recent advancements in low cost, entry level 3D plastic filament printers now enable a broad number of industries to leverage this technology to improve their competitiveness.

News about 3D printers seems to be everywhere. This week at the Consumer Electronics Expo in Las Vegas, more than two dozen vendors will be promoting their 3D printing products to electronics retailers. It appears that this new technology is poised for broad consumer adoption. But does it have any value for business? The answer may be “yes”, and not just for prototyping.

There are 4 reasons why most businesses should consider adopting 3D printing in the coming year:

1. Economics: the cost of a 3D printer capable of producing acceptable quality prototype and some “short run” production plastic parts for commercial use is now under $2,500. As acquisition costs have dropped nearly ten fold in the past few years, fused deposition modeling of plastic parts is no longer limited to aerospace and medical applications. The time and cost savings, along with the flexibility of fast modifications at low cost make 3D printing a “must evaluate” technology for 2014.

2. Risk Mitigation: in these hyper-competitive times, keeping control of your prototyping and design modifications in-house is safer and more secure than hiring outside service providers. Relying on off-shore tooling vendors to save money can be un-predictable and you risk losing your new product trade secrets to third parties who may knock you off before you get to market.

3. Quality: depending the printer, design and materials used, 3D printers can now be used for both prototyping product & part designs and for pre-tooling testing. In some cases, printed parts can even be appropriate for short run production. The broader range of plastics available for use in entry level printers provides options for improved color, finish and mechanical properties. Special Nylon filaments, for example, can now be used to produce strong and durable components. Some of the newer printers can also handle certain grades of polycarbonate, a popular engineering plastic used in appliances.

4. Competitive Advantage: using 3D Printers in house can shorten the product development cycles and get first samples to key customers weeks or even months faster than traditional methods. Faster time to market, and the flexibility to make quick changes to product design can provide American marketers and manufacturers a competitive advantage in today’s global markets. The ability to quickly make custom parts in small quantities at favorable costs opens up the possibility of creating customer specific custom products at a price your customers can afford. This is a potential game changer for small business.

The most recent breed of entry level 3D printers are not just for hobbyists. Here’s who should consider adopting entry level 3D printers this year:

a. manufacturers of products using plastic parts
b. architects, industrial designers, fashion designers & ad agencies
c. market researchers
d. tool makers

Recently announced entry level FDM printers now provide sufficient “fit and finish” with the option for mechanically strong ports to enable use of 3D printing for a vast array of products and components, and expand the potential for use in three important ways. Whether it’s evaluating a new part design, sending a pre-production prototype to an important customer, or making the first short run of parts before permanent tooling is available, the new breed of entry level 3D printers can help you get better products to market faster and easier than conventional methods of new part fabrication.

In future posts we will examine each of these reasons in more detail and provide useful information to enable business professionals to make informed decisions on using 3D printing for specific applications in their business.

We look forward to helping you, our readers understand how to evaluate, adopt and leverage 3D printing to improve your business in the coming weeks and months. And we hope to provide useful case studies from those readers willing to share their own experiences with this exciting new technology as well. We look forward to a mutually rewarding dialog with you throughout 2014 and beyond.


Robert Zollo
A “serial entrepreneur”, Bob has founded two companies that have contributed to the advancement of desktop FDM 3D printing, one in the software arena and one in the FDM plastic materials category.
Recognizing that desktop 3D printing has the potential to become as valuable and ubiquitous as personal computers in industry, Robert’s vision for is to educate, promote and assist the vast number of design, engineering and manufacturing professionals seeking to incorporate desktop 3D printing as part of their work process.
Posted on Jan 7, 2014