It seems like every year we hear about new types of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. And every month, or even more frequently, we hear about new processes and use cases for 3D printing.
Whether you own an existing business in the midst of a product development cycle or simply want to turn a productive hobby into a profitable enterprise, these six use cases for 3D printing can help turn your idea into reality. Which make the most sense for you?
1. Rapid Prototyping
Need to turn your design into a prototype, fast? All but certain you’re at the beginning of a multi-step iterative process that demands hands-on work?
3D printing is the ultimate rapid prototyping aid. Use it to identify potential design flaws and optimization opportunities early on, before you invest in a full production run. Once you settle on a final design, you can use your 3D-printed model as the basis for said run.
2. Display Modeling
Want to showcase an early version of your product, show off the physical representation of an original design, or tout a naturally occurring discovery, like a complex molecule? Use 3D printing to create a detailed model at the precise scale you desire, then display it prominently in your office or wherever you choose. This is also a great trick for clever marketers, as we’ll see in a moment.
3. Custom Manufacturing
The manufacturing landscape is changing fast. As 3D printing technology improves, it’s becoming a crucial link in the high-end manufacturing chain: a process that allows bespoke fabrication at remarkably high levels of quality and fidelity. If your business model turns on keeping discerning clients happy, you can’t ignore the benefits of 3D printing.
4. Low-Volume Production Runs
Not all quality manufacturing needs to be completely bespoke. If you’re planning a limited product release, use 3D printing to quickly and cost-effectively bring it to market. At low production volumes, 3D printing is far more agile and far less expensive than traditional fabrication. In the years to come, it’s likely to give traditional manufacturing a run for its money at higher volumes as well.
5. Physical Marketing Collateral
Great marketing is definitely not a paint-by-numbers endeavor. The most innovative marketing ideas are by definition off-the-wall. That’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
Used properly, 3D printing can be a fantastic marketing aid. 3D printed models make for arresting, eye-catching physical collateral, whether it’s a scale model of your new workshop or a blown-up representation of your latest, greatest product or device. Feature these models prominently at trade shows, conventions, demo days, and anywhere else your prospects congregate.
6. Technical Modeling
As 3D printing technology improves, it’s increasingly seen as an indispensable technical modeling tool. Among the rapidly proliferating menu of technical modeling applications: technical, bespoke models of human organs for use in pre-surgical planning, which could revolutionize custom medicine and improve outcomes for patients.
More to Come for 3D Printing
The 3D printing landscape is changing fast. If you don’t see your ideal use case yet on this list, you probably won’t have to wait too much longer. Here’s to a bright future ahead for this versatile technology.