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.
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.
Cabe, Nadine & Pubudu -- sorry for the late comment; had a busy week – but had to "chime-in", again after reading this threads. Pubudu seems certain of the benefit of social printers, but I think his opinion would change if he had the experience described by Cabe.
3D printers are just like anything else from Cars to Weed-whackers. They can be designed for heavy repetitive commercial use, or less expensive for occasional use. If you are running a design business and own one, it might seem lucrative to rent-out time on the machine; but you are the owner, manager, maintenance technician, and funding source for the device, and that takes hours away from your billable hours. Unless you specifically design your business model to allow for normal and expected maintenance, it's a losing proposition for you. But great for the borrowing neighbors, of course.
I once made a part for a company on my CNC mill. During the fabrication, I broke my mill. I went outside the cut area and damaged the servo drivers and fused a motor coil. Did they fix it? No... it was my fault.
I am sure 3D printer owners will not want to deal with mistakes and repair for 25 cents per CC. I wouldn't.
It would probably work as a service company -- much like a copy shop. Customers would have to pay quite a premium, but for users who only need the tool occasionally, it would be a big savings compared with owning a 3D printer.
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.
Cabe thanks for the awareness article, its seems to be that they are reducing prices more, due to demand and increase the number of available printers now there are printers which will have the lover prices of 0.5$/cm3
I saw a few 25 cent printers on there too. That is way cheap... I will have to see what kind of quality you get. I am sure the printer owners are not as professional, fast, or patient as a company that specializes in the process.
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).
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.
I can see that it would work very welll for a hobby type of application and also for producing replacement parts, but I wonder how secure it would be if I were to submit a design for a prototype of part for some not-yet-patented invention. There are bound to be a few places that would be very pleased to capitalize on somebody else's invention for their own profit. So probably some sort of nondisclosure agreement would be in order. But it would also be wise to not use any source located in a country with a poor IP security reputation.
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