3D printing is one of those technologies that years ago seemed unimaginable. However, now, thanks to technological advances, it is not a crazy idea to incorporate this incredible tool into your company. We tell you how to get the most out of it!
To know the birth of 3D printing we only have to go back about 40 years, where Charles Hull, in 1983, created the first device capable of reproducing small objects using an ultraviolet light that hardened a liquid polymer according to a series of digital data.
These printers never reached the general public since their price was quite high and their maintenance complicated for the domestic market. However, overthe years new models came to the market that democratized access to this new technology. The new 3D printers no longer used liquids so the maintenance of them was greatly simplified. The new printing system used coils with polymer threads as an "ink" that melted to create objects in three dimensions. This model that we mentioned earlier is the one that, if you have heard of 3D printing before, you may recognize.
Today, this technology has become so cheap that even many curious citizens have incorporated one for their homes.
The 3D printing industry was also affected by the Covid-19 health crisis, however, it managed to become strong during the lockdown and the closure of international trade. Many local producers who owned a 3D printer joined forces to meet the demand for sanitary components, such as respirators made entirely of 3D printed components.
This new technology has proven to be very useful in the production of all kinds of components, not only sanitary but also prototyping for industrial design, or even, with the latest advances, in the food industry. But what advantages does it have for my SME?
Advantages of 3D printing for SMEs
3D printing is a versatile technology that, depending on the scope of your SME, can help you in different aspects. We in this post wanted to highlight the following advantages:
Creation of complex designs. It allows you to create, without the help of third parties, components on demand based on your own or third-party designs.
Customization of objects. 3D printers offer the possibility to create unique objects, customizing each creation.
Cost reduction. Expenses on molds, complex tools and specific materials disappear. The only cost to create a 3D printed object is the coils of the filaments and the cost in electricity.
Reduction of production times. As we said before, the use of intermediaries is not necessary.
Democratization of technology. Thanks to the ease of use, reliability and price reduction of 3D printing, access to this technology is much easier.
On the other hand, just as we have seen some of the advantages of this new technology, it is also important to know what the disadvantages of this are:
Finishing the models requires work. 3D printed objects do not have a perfect finish, they usually need a little effort to remove impurities and imperfections.
Little catalog of materials. 3D printers typically accept a limited number of materials. Even so, it is important to note that, this technology is constantly evolving and the arrival of new more versatile models is imminent.
And what use can I give it?
You have already seen the number of advantages and disadvantages offered by 3D printing, but it is also important to know the different uses that are given to this new technology today:
Prototyping and product design. Manybusinesses where they need to introduce changes or updates to their products use these tools to reduce costs and waiting times. For example: dentists, jewelers or designers.
Tool design. Buying tools for certain jobs can mean an exorbitant outlay for many SMEs, so many have opted for the design and creation of their own tools.
Reverse engineering. 3D printing helps many SMEs learn from existing products or parts.
Complement to add value. Some companies are using this new technology to create added value to the products they sell, be it a piece, a detail or a embossed logo.
The 3D printing market has only just begun its journey, and although its future is currently uncertain, this technology is here to stay. We should not limit ourselves to thinking that a 3D printer is useful only for the arts and design, on the contrary, it opens a wide variety of market opportunities in which the limit will be put by our imagination when creating.