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  • 23 September 2014
  • Eric Michaels

What's next: 3D printers in the workplace

Printing is not just for paper any longer; entire objects now emerge from 3D printers. As an entrepreneur, this technology offers you another tool worth implementing in your business innovation process. Though it might seem that 3D printing is best suited for manufacturing companies, this technology has numerous potential applications for any small business. Prototypes of concepts are instantly within reach when you have a printer capable of producing fully formed objects in your own office. Here are some of the implications for your small business now that 3D printing is entering the workplace.

The transformation of product development
In the past, entrepreneurs would have to hire an outside company to manufacture a model of any new product concept. Unfortunately, this system was forced to run on the contractor's schedule, which meant that your team would be stuck in neutral with an idea while you waited for a separate firm to produce the model. This situation is less than ideal, especially when you lead a creative team where ideas come fast. While you wait, more concepts could be tested rather than placed on hold.

Entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to make their business stand out by using the services of 3D printers.

More importantly, the company producing your concept prototype is not the originator of the idea. Along the way, elements you deem important could be easily lost in translation. There is no guarantee a company will deliver what you hope will appear in the prototype. From every standpoint, a small business is at a disadvantage when outsourcing prototype production. Having the ability to move preliminary development in-house will improve accuracy and save time for your design team.

The future of manufacturing
Automakers and candy producers have been using 3D printing technology to deliver models of what company designers create, but the implication for small businesses is even more remarkable. Soon, technology experts believe small companies will be able to assemble their own metal-, plastic-, or fabric-based products in-house (small-business craft makers and sculptors would be among the most obvious to benefit from this). The near constant advancement of 3D printing capabilities backs up this prediction.

Entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to make their business stand out by using the services of 3D printers. Brand launches and other events that require personalization are perfect for the services 3D printing offers. Small businesses may be as interested in the marketing capabilities of these printers as they are their in-house production value. Legal services provider Disclosure Dragon recently provided a test case showing how to use 3D printing to highlight a company product with help from a local UPS Store.

To get an idea of what is possible with 3D printing, contact a local UPS Store for your next marketing campaign. This tool could change the modern workplace in the coming years — and is certainly already worth implementing as you grow your business.

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