Although the concept of 3D printing has been around for a while now (some estimate at least three decades), it never really caught fire—until now, that is. Now, there’s widespread and intensifying interest, not only in how it works but what its implications are. Barely a day goes by without a barrage of Omg! claims about 3D printing in the popular press, from the ability to print guns to create all kinds of food to eventually churning out organs and other body parts!
Like everything else tech, 3D printing is here, rapidly evolving and ready to impact our lives in ways we can only imagine. Small business is no exception. According to contributor Alex Hillsberg on financesonline.com, 3D printing could be the future of small business. Inroads are quickly being made in virtually all sectors. Would you believe that NASA has commissioned an engineer to work on 3D pizza?
3D business models are quickly emerging. For everyday items like toys, shoes or home accessories, all you need is a 3D design to upload to a printing provider (These startups already exist; look for an explosion!). Then you choose the materials that will be used—materials are layered to create the item, much as ink is layered on paper in 2D as we know it today. When you approve the finished 3D product, the provider prints and ships. That’s it. With this model, you don’t have to invest in a printer or mess with distribution. Not to mention, there’s no storage or inventory to manage.
If you decide to go big, it would eventually make sense to invest in your own 3D printing equipment. It can still be a little expensive today but have already come down substantially in price. And this should continue as more printers are available and refinements are made.
Business News Daily contributor Elizabeth Palermo writes at Fox Small Business that 3D printing creates a variety of opportunities for small businesses, from differentiating themselves to improving design and development processes to streamlining production. She identifies five ways 3D printing is changing small business and describes how specific businesses are benefitting today.
- Small-scale production can be done with improved speed and cost, critical for small businesses that make custom products.
- 3D (and even “4D”) product extensions can be made, at affordable prices.
- It’s revolutionizing product development, from concept to finished products.
- 3D printing is revolutionizing prototyping, helping inventors try out ideas in design, materials and production (and avoid mistakes!) in ways they never could before.
- Individual creators can experiment with a variety of new items, design and testing.
Finally, entrepreneur.com is another one of many business experts that will continue to weigh in on what 3D printing could mean for small businesses. At this point, we can only image what 3D printing will bring in the future. But even now, by improving speed, cost and efficiency, 3D printing is making many different kinds of businesses—those with under 100 employees and especially, one- or two-person operations—more competitive in their respective marketplaces.
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