Why businesses need to start investing in 3D printing now
Imagine a world where you can make anything you want just by pressing ‘print’. The simple fact is, you don’t need to imagine it, as the technology is already here and readily available.
I recently met with Murray Clark, the marketing manager at Ricoh New Zealand and he stressed that people need to realise that 3D printing is now a very real opportunity for businesses and end-users, as Makerbot has pioneered a new generation of brilliant and affordable 3D printers.
“Makerbot recognised that the entire 3D printing market was all based on their technology, so they realised if they wanted to move forward, they needed to change it,” says Clark. “Among other things, their 5th generation of printers feature wireless connectivity, cloud accessibility, on-board reporting and an on-board webcam so you can remotely monitor your prints from wherever you may be.”
To illustrate the capabilities of the Makerbot printers, Clark scrolled through the menu on the 3.5” LCD colour display on the Replicator printer to select one of the designs he had already created (using software on his PC and available via the cloud) and pressed print. That was it. Ten minutes later I was the very impressed owner of a wee Kiwi, which now takes pride of place on my office desk.
Makerbot also offers a Replicator Mini, which is slightly smaller but still effectively able to cater to the needs of SMBs, educational institutions and end-users.
“A lot of people don’t realise how they can be used for everyday use, but the benefits of 3D printing are immense,” Clark says. “Our mission is to explain to people how easily they can start 3D printing, and how much they can use it for.”
Clark uses the example of a simple design he created for the Ricoh office to hold Internet cables together without tangling them. He now has people all over the world who are downloading his design free-of-charge to print for their own offices – if only he had charged a dollar for each one that was downloaded! They take 10 minutes to print, can be resized to suit and printed on-demand.
This is in addition to the printing of various parts and gears for paper printers within the office (how ironic) and various bits and pieces to make people’s lives easier. Clark uses the example of a customer who went through 100s of small plastic covers a year, each time costing up to $130. After investing in a 3D printer and printing their own parts, they fully recovered the cost of the machine within three months through cost-savings.
“A lot of people say they can’t justify buying a machine as there is only one or two things they’d like to print,” Clark says. “The thing is, once you’ve got a machine, you see all the things that you can do. You simply turn your head and there’s another thing you can make or print over there.”
It seems that businesses who don’t get onboard with 3D printing will quickly fall by the wayside. The hardware and software from Makerbot has completely levelled the playing field in the same way the Internet has done, allowing even everyday consumers to undercut businesses by selling designs that they sell online.
While there is immense value in simply printing designs that people have already made available online (Clark's cable clip is a prime example), the real power of 3D printing comes into play when you can produce new and innovative ideas and make them to suit your own unique circumstances. There are a number of design applications that range from being free to thousands of dollars, and Clark assures that people are often surprised at how fast they can pick it up.
This is why modern businesses need to start investing in Makerbot 3D printing now.
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