Tag Archive | Shapeways

How 3D Printing Could Save an Industry

Yesterday I read a piece from Marc Lefton in AG Beat, entitled “How to Take Advantage of Print Media While They Still Exist.” I was struck by a number of thoughts. First, I thought how inflamatory the title would have been even a couple of years ago. Second, as I read into it, found myself questioning Mr. Lefton’s assertion that businesses can get a better rate of return by advertising in local newspapers than online – been there tried that, and didn’t like the result.

The biggest chord struck for me in the article though, was his explanation of the “Newspaper Business Plan.” It imagines someone pitching the concept and current process of publishing and distributing a newspaper to venture capital.

“Our plan is to take yesterday’s news, quickly create a beautiful “layout” with computer software and designers working day and night, then print millions of copies overnight in a huge printing plant using millions of dollars in equipment. We’ll then send these “newspapers” to distribution points all around the city. From there, we will utilize an army thirteen-year-old boys on bicycles who will distribute the newspapers door to door in their neighborhood after school in exchange for gratuities from our customers so they can go buy Topps baseball cards, Silly String, and Now-N-Laters. And we’ll support the whole thing with advertising. We think printing last week’s help wanted ads and apartment listings will be a surefire revenue driver!”

Don’t to forget yesterday’s sports box scores and winning lottery numbers, right?

Then I started thinking, how would this script look in another scenario? Maybe statement billing?

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Powering the Next Industrial Revolution

Funny story. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat via LinkedIn with a man in the UK who was entertaining the idea of opening a 3D print shop. Last week I posted his story and shared it on Twitter. He was going to the 3D Printing Show and I mentioned it in my post. A little later I received a tweet that said, “We’ll be there too, but we have an actual print shop you can visit.”  Clearly people I had to meet.

This week I had an opportunity to meet on Skype with Christiane Fimpel and Philipp Binkert, the co-founders of 3D-Model.ch. 3D-Model.ch is located in Zurich, Switzerland and is something of a one-stop shop for all things 3D. While I didn’t get to visit in person, I did get to talk shop with two innovative entrepreneurs who are powering the next industrial revolution.

More than just a 3D print shop, 3D-Model.ch has four pillars in its business strategy. The company does provide 3D printing and other services including design, file management, laser cutting, and finishing, but also an authorized reseller for 3D Systems and Bits From Bytes, two formidable names in 3D printing equipment. Beyond products, the other two pillars in 3D-Model.ch’s strategy are services, including education for consumers, and consulting services for business clients.

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Big Plans For Shapeways New 3D Print Factory

Shapeways will be hiring engineers (AKA pre-press technicians), machine operators, and fulfillment staff to support a new 3D print shop in New York City that can produce up to 5 million objects yearly. At a low-ball estimate of $10 each that’s a $50 Million business. We’re guessing each object we’ll probably sell for closer to $20.

To learn more about the new factory, check out this article on Fast Company. It reminds us of 2D digital print facility. The equipment even looks like a production digital print device  (Indigo or Xeikon maybe?)

Seems like there is too much money on the table for traditional printing companies to ignore this market much longer.

Want to learn more about 3D printing and how to add the capability at your company? CONTACT US.

Starting a 3D Print Shop

We recently ran across a post on LinkedIn that piqued our interest. The author, a CAD designer in the UK stated that he “was hoping to open a 3D print shop” in the UK and asked if group members could fill out his survey and/or share their thoughts. Naturally this was a very interesting topic to us so we connected with him on LinkedIn and asked a few questions. To protect his business concept, we’ve left out his name and specific location, but following are some of the highlights of our initial conversation:

3D4Printers:  Are you aware of any other 3D printing shops in the UK or elsewhere?

Aspiring Shop Owner:  There are currently a variety of online 3D print shops that are based in the UK (although their services are only available online) – these cater mainly for commercial use and don’t market themselves to the everyday user. There are also small ‘workshops’ that can be hired out (similar to TechShop in the USA but smaller) that cater for students and small businesses looking to develop ideas. The few contacts I have in 2D print shops have also told me they have 3D printers but they seem very underused/under marketed and again limited for commercial printing.

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3D Printing Replacement Parts

3D Printed Replacement Parts

Back in the 1990’s when print on demand was just taking off, some of the first killer applications to develop were product support documents including instruction manuals, user guides, and registration cards. Short run quantities, lots of variation, frequent updates, and the synergies with “just in time” manufacturing made them a perfect fit for digital printing. Eventually, the Internet killed the opportunity. Now, very little print is included with products. Today, manufacturers simply refer customers to a website where they can watch an instructional video, read the manual, and register online. Just another example of print’s obsolescence in favor of digital technology.

If you’re looking for a way back into the manufacturing and product support departments, one way might be to offer 3D printing. Of course you’re probably thinking that there is no way 3D printing can be competitive with traditional methods of manufacturing products, right? While that may be true (for the near-term anyway) 3D printing can and is being used to produce replacement parts. Need an example? Check out this article from Wired Magazine about Teenage Engineering, a manufacturer of music synthesizers. The company is making the 3D files of its parts available on Shapeways, a web-to-print 3D printing service. Customers can download the files for free and print them on home devices, or order them, on demand through Shapeways.

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