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  • 18 June 2015
  • Eric Michaels

3D printing: Seven things small business owners should know

Is 3D printing about to have its moment? In many ways, it already has — and every small business owner should be aware of what is happening.

Between the 3D printers now available in UPS Stores and reports of businesses using them for prototypes, this new technology has clearly arrived, and there is a good chance it will have a significant impact on business.

Everything from wings for Victoria's Secret models to candy and acoustic guitars have been printed on 3D machines.

Here are 10 things you should know about the 3D wave: 

1. 3D printers produce solid, three-dimensional products.
Though it may sound like the stuff of science fiction, three-dimensional printers do in fact create solid objects using a layer-by-layer production system. Anything from architectural models to professional prototypes to artistic renderings can emerge from these printers when they are operated correctly.

2. 3D Print is an affordable alternative to traditional manufacturing.
Prototypes have been expensive for companies to produce, but using a 3D printer to do the same job in house costs a fraction of that amount. By avoiding manufacturing costs, creating prototypes is much more affordable in a short time frame.

3. Technical expertise is an issue.
Because the technology is so new, companies are faced with the challenge of finding someone who can handle the equipment. Before investing working capital in a 3D printer, think beyond your impulses and consider the maintenance and technical expertise required. It may make sense for your business to utilize the 3D print experts and the professional grade printers available at The UPS Store.

4. Businesses focused on design benefit the most.
Eyeglass designers, architects, custom jewelers, and other craftspeople will benefit the most from 3D printing technology. Experimentation can be conducted and multiple iterations of designs printed quickly, which gives your team more freedom and more opportunities to make mistakes. The potential is limitless.

5. There are few limitations to what can be printed.

Everything from wings for Victoria's Secret models to candy and acoustic guitars have been printed on 3D machines. Consider what options you have for your industry and business before you write them off. Also, remember that a competitor is likely looking into the viability of these printers with your market in mind.

6. Printing times range from four to 24 hours.
While this type of printing is very fast compared to outsourced manufacturing, in many cases it will not happen overnight. The most complex designs can take as long as 24 hours to completely print. Simpler print jobs may only last four or five hours.

7. Anyone can experiment with 3D printing.
Now that you can find 3D printers available at a The UPS Store in your area, there is no reason to consider this technology something reserved for the future. Think about what you could print to move your small business forward and start planning the next phase of your company's growth. The future has already arrived with 3D printers. Ask your local UPS Store about your options as soon as you are ready to experiment.

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