3D printing: Light-years away, or here to stay?

Cutting out third parties

The adoption of 3D printing in business could also have a bigger effect in the long-term; in making it easier to design and experiment with product prototypes, small businesses? requirements may change, generating less demand for external suppliers and outsourced manufacturing. In manufacturing for example, it offers a cost-effective alternative to off-site prototyping facilities for the creation of moulds, with businesses instead able to design pieces in-house and print the parts themselves, cutting the dependence on large supply chains.

In short, 3D printing enables better designs, faster ? with the ability to develop products up front. What?s truly compelling about 3D printing is the fact it makes it possible to design, deliver and manufacture products anywhere, arming designers, start-ups, engineers and architects with the technology to innovate more often, more affordably, and at a faster rate ? and ultimately to grow their businesses.

As with any technology for business, 3D printing must be flexible enough to meet businesses? changing needs as new market trends emerge. Suppliers must be equipped to understand the unique needs of designers and small business in order to offer a print set-up that?s tailored to each business? unique needs.

Businesses themselves must consider the different procurement routes available when investing in 3D desktop printing, taking an end-to-end approach to their needs, rather than purchasing a printer in isolation from an IT set-up. Those looking to invest in 3D printing must take into consideration everything from access and security, to the processing power and software required of workstations to supporting advanced 3D applications within the business.

Key to optimising technological innovation will be collaboration and industry partnerships to make the technology more adaptable ? as well as more accessible and affordable for small and growing businesses. After all, this technology?s success lies in users? abilities to push the frontiers of 3D printing.

Dave McNally is product marketing director of Dell Imaging, EMEA.

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