The massive manufacturing revolution predicted by experts since the popularization of 3D printing has caused some serious havoc for this technology’s reputation. There are many reasons why printers and manufacturers seem to have been frightened away from it: its alleged scope, unclear costs and uses, and – above all – its apparent lack of relation to traditional printing. However, there are reasons to believe that 3D is not the substitute of traditional printing, but its extension and, therefore, printing industry investors and businessmen are in a privileged position to expand to this fascinating technology:
Those more resistant printable materials, such as cardboard or vinyl, have been used for constructing 3-dimensional pieces for a very long time. Not only pieces that were conceived to be disposable – such as scale models, prototypes, or merchandising stands -, but also items with longer service lives such as cardboard furniture and packaging; plastic finishes for instruments, electronic devices, toys, or decoration. Getting over 2-dimensionality and introducing reliefs on flat surfaces has been appreciated in plastic arts since ancient times, and nowadays it is still rewarded in areas as down-to-earth as business cards.
Going for 3D printing in all those areas offers a huge advantage: no extra time, effort or money is needed for cutting and assembly. Also, target markets for 3D printing professionals are countless: With the right strategy, traditionally 2-dimensional products (as above) are covered as well as new-to-the-printing-industry, cost-effective, and growing areas such as medicine, automotive, computer, and aerospace engineering can be built in your company’s portfolio.
3D printing is called printing and not simply manufacturing for a simple reason: One of its most widely used techniques is jetting, both binder and material. Just like traditional inkjet printers, the machine carefully drops the build materials. Other processes are stereolithography, DLP, Laser Melting, extrusion, Selective Deposition Lamination, and EBM. Although you can 3D print almost anything in almost any material (including porcelain, chocolate, human tissues, paper and precious metals), plastics are still the most commonly used, and the fact is that plastic filaments are made of same materials your pressroom consumables are. Therefore, it is easy to find a supplier who will be able to provide you products for both traditional and 3D printing with no major complications in your purchase management.
If your printing company has been around for a while now, chances are that some of your employees already are familiar with design basics. Learning curves for traditional and 3D printing are similar: Although you must not underestimate the difficulty of designing programs and 3D modelling, the printing itself – what might concern you the most, as design abilities are for corrective purposes only – is a highly automated process.
On the other hand, if your company is struggling with overcoming a genuinely traditional printing business model, consider recruiting a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or hiring a specialized consulting firm. This option is also useful if you want to take advantage of your company’s IoT data. With just one more disbursement, you will be able not only to immerse in a fast-growing, profitable industry but also to gain invaluable information for further decision-making and reaching financial, commercial, and marketing goals.