This is a terrific solution Cabe. While small companies would have a hard time paying for a 3D printer, they also would only need the function occasionally. Paying only for what you need may make 3D printing affordable for even the garage inventor.
It's great to see entrepreneurs stepping in to create a viable 3D printing business. Like I always say, if you can't get it to the masses, directly or indirectly, the process can't survive.
I was just talking to my motorcycle mechanic about 3D printing. Vintage Japanese bikes are up-trending in Northern California and parts are very hard to find. I waited three weeks for a rubber piece to come from a dealer in Holland. Being able to print it out would have been awesome.
Very interesting and innovative trend. This will further raise awareness of 3D printing technology for the masses.
I also think material selection will start to differentiate these budding entrepreneurs since each type of 3D printing technology has distinct material characteristics (and certain users may only be able to use certain types of 3D printer models for their particular application).
While this prospect will definitely raise awareness and usage of 3D printers, it would be key to consider the material selection as that will largely influence the print costs. Vendors and retailers should standardize material costs and try to minimize their profits initially.
I see an issue in that these printers take 3D CAD files which come from programs that not everyone has. I imagine there will be companion businesses cropping up that will convert your 2D drawings to 3D, then coordinate with the printer owners for time. The opportunities are virtually endless.
Hmm. Interesting potential application, Nadine. Yet I wonder what selection of materials would be available in outsourced 3D printing. As for getting it to the masses, there is one industry that doesn't require masses in order to succeed: the military.
On-Line outsourcing for SLAs and other 3D printing services have been available for quite a few years now. Most have an automated website that provides instant quotes, derived from the volume of the part requested, the specific material you select from a list, and the date of delivery you are seeking, considering queue-time and expediting fees. Simply upload the part data file (in .STL format), make the selections, and a real-time quote is available for you to present to your Program Management team (or whichever money guys hold the purse)
A partial list of companies I use regularly ,,,, (free advertising for them !)
6. Quantumleap.cc (note the .CC)
On the subject of Cost – for a single piece-part approximately the size of a thimble, typical cost runs only about $25. For a bigger part, roughly the size of a computer-mouse or digital camera, parts can be made for about $125.
Regarding less-technical users wanting to submit designs in data formats not everyone has access to --- well, I would think the designs would not be very suitable to print or build if they originated in a software that doesn't output an .STL , IGES or .STEP file, (all industry standard file types)
Costs are reasonable, and choices are wide and varied. Personally, I could never afford to own a printer when I have so many competing sources offering various exotic materials and competitive pricing, all professionally sourced.
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