3D printing is no longer a secret to many people in the design field (especially product and packaging). While this technology is still new, it has gotten to the point where there are some legitimate consumer options that small businesses or individuals may consider purchasing. What we’re looking to find out is is it worth it and what should I be looking for? I’m taking a dip into these questions, hope it gives you a few answers.
So first, you might be asking yourself what the advantages of buying a 3D printer are. One big advantage is the ability to truly customize objects to the way you want them represented. In today’s individual focused society many people are looking to make themselves (and the things they have) truly stand out from their mass produced generic counterparts. Another more professional and practical reason is for rendering concepts or prototypes of products or designs for presentations much more quickly and efficiently. Turnaround times can be much more condensed when your company or you can cut out certain logistical issues like ordering molds to be cast and waiting for a manufacturer to produce and ship a prototype. Most likely these will be torn apart by a group of higher-ups or clients and need to be refined again and again anyway. Having the ability to produce models or prototypes “in-house” can prove much easier.
The downside could lie in the cost of materials to produce your designs and prototypes. Although it may take more time, when you send a prototype design off to a manufacturer they already have the materials necessary stockpiled and are able to buy in bulk so they can pass the savings onto their client (you). If you’re only producing one or two versions of your design – depending on what it is your producing – you may be forced to pay full price for materials bought on a small scale. Also, many of us have seen these incredible objects created by 3D printers and assume that if we buy a consumer level printer between $700-$2000 we will be able to produce these fantastic gems. The truth is, those examples you’ve probably seen have been produced by high-end manufacturer level 3D printers.