Today’s business owner has many technological advances at their fingertips. What was once limited to the most cutting-edge factories and labs is now available to anyone in the form of industrial 3D printer products.
The benefits of using these accessible and powerful machines are growing, and the perks of incorporating a commercial 3D printer in your business include:
- Time to market
- Risk mitigation
- Accessibility to all markets and budgets
- Quality control potential
- Responsiveness to customers
- Freedom of design
If you can maximize even one of these benefits, the return on your investment in a 3D industrial printer
will be notable. Realize more of these perks, and it may be one of the best moves you’ve made in a long time.
For anyone looking for a way to tighten up their processes, consider these additional facts regarding the popularity of industrial 3D printers and how they may be the future for your company, too.
What is 3D printing?
You can’t pick up a business or manufacturing magazine without reading about the wonders of this game-changer. It’s the new face of industry, but what does 3D printing
The simplest definition of the 3D-printing process is when specific printing material type
(including plastic, metal, or wood) is formed into a solid shape by computer control. This results in a three-dimensional product that can be used as a prototype, a part for another product, or as the product itself.
3D printing is unique in that it uses strands, grains, or liquid molecules as the raw material for the finished product. These smaller components are then either solidified or joined to become one, solid mass.
Similar to pixels in computer or digital design, 3D printing utilizing building blocks called “voxels.” According to HP®, this voxel represents a value on a regular grid in a three-dimensional space. It’s like a pixel with volume. Each voxel contains volumetric information that will essentially bring a product to life with the desired properties. 
The process of 3D printing has been popular among hobbyists for some time, resulting in “maker labs” and other groups who come together to create and share their designs. The 3D-printing machines, or 3D printers, have become part of educational programs in schools, libraries, and community centers with an emphasis on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) benefits to those who use them.
What is industrial printing?
Moving past hobbyists and those in education, there is another use for 3D printing that has a major effect on the products we use and enjoy every day.
From a steel bracket used to hold together a million-dollar machine to a small plastic part for a toy, the potential for industrial printers to make the things we buy and use is practically unlimited. It has opened doors for exploration, research, and designs, and it keeps companies competitive in a variety of fields.
An industrial-grade 3D printer is a world-changing invention with possibilities that we are only just beginning to harness.
Top 10 benefits of an industrial-grade 3D printer
Incorporating a high-end printer into your design and manufacturing operations makes sense for many reasons, but here are the ten most recognized reasons to embrace what these machines have to offer.
1. Time to market
Do you have a great idea? The traditional prototyping route can take months, which is something the innovative entrepreneur doesn’t have these days. Skip the back and forth and needless opportunities for miscommunication by planning and prototyping your product in-house with 3D printing.
You’ll save so much time and you won’t be at the mercy of the vendors you’d normally have to seek out to help you develop your product. Being first to market matters now more than ever.
Your brand is unique, but can you say the same about your product? In a world where white-labeling is the norm, industrial printers give you an unprecedented opportunity to give the marketplace something truly unique by picking your color, size, shape, and more. When you are creating your own products in-house, it’s safe to try to customize a product again and again.
3. Risk mitigation
Going hand-in-hand with customization is the security of knowing it’s okay to make mistakes. Whether you’re on your first prototype or your fifteenth, you have the assurance that it’s affordable to try, try again. Taking risks is far less costly when you can print your own designs, but that’s not the only thing that’s secure about using your own industrial printer.
With intellectual property theft on the rise, many innovative companies are reluctant to share designs with prototyping companies or outsource their manufacturing. Having your manufacturing in-house can keep your precious designs under wraps where they will be less likely to suffer from the work of bad actors.
One of the wonders of 3D printing
is how easy it is to make changes on the fly. If you’re not pleased with the product you’re making, perform a few tweaks and start production again. Manufacturers and small business owners will love that many of today’s industrial printers come with advanced software solutions that make the tiny tweaks an almost seamless part of the process. Add a new feature for a separate SKU, or even play around with materials that you think may work better.
An additional perk of the modern industrial printer is that you can often interrupt production for a last-minute, emergency project. Stick another project into the queue and go back to what you’re doing when the crisis has been resolved. It’s incredibly easy to change gears and switch up your workflow. Unlike large factory operations, you have the advantage of a nimble business model with the creative potential of a manufacturing powerhouse.
The use of a 3D printer is sometimes mistakenly associated with “throw away” parts and pieces. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there is a big opportunity for industrial printers to make manufacturing more efficient. By adjusting your production line early and often, mistakes can be small and you won’t end up with thousands of mistakes in a landfill somewhere.
Even better, a lot of the materials used in today’s industrial printers are sustainable. Many of the plastic and glass parts can be put back into the manufacturing cycle down the line. Even mistakes can sometimes be repurposed for new prototypes or samples.
Don’t forget that the process of 3D printing is extremely efficient. Unlike subtractive manufacturing methods, which rely on taking a block of material and carving away the excess, 3D printing uses just what’s needed to build a part. Anything not used the first time around stays in the printer for next time.
6. Accessibility to all markets and budgets
You don’t have to know someone in manufacturing or tech to get started with a 3D printer. Anyone with the funds to buy their first printer in addition to some entrepreneurial ambition can start creating their first prototype.
Where prototyping services used to be limited to those with the money and the means, it’s now open to the public. Expect this to result in a surge of great ideas and a more robust marketplace in industries such as tech, electronics, health, and toys.
7. Quality control potential
One of the most impressive perks of an industrial-grade 3D printer is how closely business owners can monitor its output. While outsourcing production to another factory or an importer requires a bit of faith that they will get everything to your exact specifications, printing yourself guarantees the quality you require.
Many businesses may worry that this is a compromise to price since outsourced mass-production is sometimes much more affordable per piece. By keeping some production in-house, or at least until control measures have been implemented and tested, you can ensure the quality you’ve promised your customers even while actively searching for a manufacturer to take over in the future.
8. Responsiveness to customers
Do you hear the same complaints from your customer over and over again? Is it time to launch a 2.0 for your most popular product line? When you’re ready to make changes at the request of your customer, your 3D printer will be waiting to help.
From fixing design flaws to creating a next-gen of something already awesome, industrial printers are helping businesses respond faster than ever before to the global marketplace. If the thought of using feedback to drive product improvement sounds amazing to you, 3D printing is where you should be.
When considering industrial 3D printer cost, it can seem to be a bit overwhelming, especially with many units running into the tens of thousands of dollars. The potential to earn back your investment, however, is real. While you may not see significant savings on piecework production, the prototyping phase of creating a new product alone can be very expensive when outsourced.
A custom injection mold will run between $10,000 and $100,000, which many business owners just don’t have. Tasking a 3D printer to handle all of the prototyping in-house can lead to a far more affordable outcome.
In addition to the prototype savings, there is a very good chance your manufactured item can be made for a lower price in-house. Many of today’s 3D printers have cost-saving measures and outputs that rival a traditional manufacturing facility. For the highly specialized product or one that’s made to order, there’s no substitute for the flexibility and affordability the 3D industrial printer may offer.
10. Freedom of design
Have you changed your mind about the placement of a hole, pin, or notch? Do you wonder if this product will look as good in a different pattern? Have you considered enlarging your prototype by 15 percent?
These tiny tweaks come up often when dreaming big about a future product, and having an industrial 3D printer in-house gives you flexibility to follow your most creative pursuits. When you are both the designer and the doer, it’s also more likely that your team will feel confident bringing design change requests to you. “Going back to the drawing board” has never been so simple.
Choosing a printer
Not all printers
are designed to do the same thing. While many products on the market may pose as a high-end 3D printer, not every model is designed to handle the various applications and numerous projects that are given to them.
Do some research before investing in any device, and know that there are many considerations to make when choosing, including:
- Raw materials accepted (filament vs. powder, for example)
- Customization options (dye)
- Software requirements
- Price per part
- Queuing technology to allow for additional, urgent jobs to be added
- Memory and disc capacity
- Networking options
Any legitimate dealer should be able to give you a demonstration of the printer, some finished printed products, and a complete walkthrough of a job from design to delivery. Don’t invest in this massive piece of tech sight unseen.
HP Jet Fusion 3D printer
One option to consider is the HP industrial 3D printer, which is embraced by companies in almost every industry. These HP Jet Fusion 3D printers
handle complex design inputs and a variety of materials, including thermoplastics and glass. They have created a way to make high-quality, reusable parts much cheaper than ever before.
With an output of between 100 and 1,000 parts per week, plus unique customization options with dye additives, these machines are capable of handling your business needs from prototype to finished product.
Are you sold on the benefits of industrial 3D printing? Can you envision a better, more sustainable future for your business? This technology is here to stay, and it’s making small businesses more competitive than ever.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.