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3D Printing: The Future is Now

November 14, 2016

3D printing is driving innovation and enhancing design freedom in a number of industries. The technology is growing at an astounding rate, inspiring successful programs in our own back yard—like HV3D, Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation’s initiative to promote the development and use of 3D printing in New York State. How businesses prepare for the inevitable advance of this technology will dictate how well they'll compete in this emerging 3D world.  

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to produce a 3D object from a digital model. The opposite of traditional manufacturing, which takes bulk material and subtracts from it to create goods, additive manufacturing is the microscopic layering, or adding, of material to create the object. While accessibility is still somewhat limited, forecasters anticipate that the emergence of several mid-range printers will spark widespread adoption over the next five years. 

Applications and Implications 

It wasn’t long ago that 3D printing was relegated to novelty status at technology expos, with attendees craning their necks to see plastic trinkets materialize before their very eyes. Today, 3D printing is beginning to take its place among the likes of digital technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) as a major disruptor to more traditional business models. Programs like HV3D recognize the impact of 3D printing on New York businesses, providing a forum to learn from and experiment with this exciting technology. 

Currently, there are four distinct areas of application for 3D printing in business, each with its own implications for your company’s bottom line:

Rapid Prototyping 

The ability to quickly create a prototype and easily adjust the design for future iterations significantly decreases business costs, time, and resources across industries. What used to take months of development at a high cost is now simply a matter of uploading a design or going to a local print shop. Changes can be made to the model with relatively easy software tweaks in a fraction of the time for traditional prototyping. 

MASS Manufacturing

Historically, assembly line manufacturing has been geographically aligned, with massive factories churning

Case Studies: Substantial Advantages for the Midsize Business

3D printing is leveling the playing field for midsize companies that want to reduce time to market, differentiate from the competition, and bolster their bottom lines. No longer out-resourced by massive corporations, smaller companies are finding big opportunities in additive manufacturing. 

>Innovation. Design innovation for the midsize business can be hindered by fear of costly mistakes or frustrations from delayed delivery of prototypes. Whether it’s an experiment with new materials or a whole new product line, 3D printing has become an integral part of the development process due to its low-cost flexibility in the prototyping phase. 

>Product Development. The emergence of mid-range 3D printers can streamline production and cut down the time to market for a variety of industries. While midsize companies traditionally rely on mass manufacturers to produce goods, decentralization made possible with 3D printing means faster delivery, little or no inventory, and decreased shipping costs.

>Low-run production. Highly customized products are a valuable vehicle for brand loyalty and increased revenue, but small-scale production of personalized items can be a costly undertaking. 3D printing allows midsize companies to run one-offs at heavily reduced costs.