3D printers are often used to make single items. The flexibility of the system means that you can print two wildly different items for equal costs, as long as the amount of material used is the same. This makes 3D printers great for reducing the cost of objects that would normally have to be hand-crafted; but they can also reduce the cost of mass-produced items.
Printing on the Production Line
Normally, a factory run of an item requires a fairly heavy investment. Manufacturers need to provide specified equipment and item molds, designed for one and only one kind of object. This cost is incredibly prohibitive for newcomers and small businesses, who can’t afford the initial down payment.
3D printers, on the other hand, don’t need to be modified for each kind of item you product. If you want to make an phone case one day and a PEZ dispenser the next, you just have to send a new file to the printer. No swapping out equipment, no changing molds to fit a new design. Just load a new cartridge, hit “print,” and see your creation come to life.
Even if you want to use traditional production methods, 3D printers can still be useful. As Financial Post notes, you can use printers to efficiently create variations on a prototype model, which you can then use as the basis for the mold. Since the prototype doesn’t have to be created by hand, you can make many small changes before you settle on one specific design.
Starting Small and Building Upward
Regardless of how you want to use it, a 3D printer is a valuable tool for a new business. The ability to print prototype models with a click of your mouse means you can experiment with countless designs. And once you settle on one you like, you can easily make and sell more.
The rapidly shrinking cost of printers themselves is also great for anyone who wants to get into the manufacturing industry. Kickstarter projects for new printers are being launched on a regular basis, and each printer promises to be more accessible than the last. So whether you’re a hobbyist or a small business owner, if you can picture it, you can probably print it.