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Does 3D Printing Belong in the In-plant?

As in-plants seek new services to add, they may find 3D printing to be a good fit.

December 2013 By Jim Corliss
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One challenge every in-plant faces is maintaining relevance to the parent organization. In-plants have to prove their value continually.

As 3D printing technology becomes more accessible, many in-plants are wondering whether adding this service might help them meet this challenge and increase the value they bring to their organizations.

Here are some points to consider.

  1. 3D printing is a relatively easy service to add. You already have skilled people, a network, servers, an FTP site and are comfortable receiving files. A 3D printer is just that: a printer­—not completely unlike other printers and imaging devices that you are already sending files to.
  2. The cost of a 3D printer is not prohibitive. The Stratasys Dimension 1200 that my company put on our floor about six months ago cost less than $35,000. Some of the smaller units targeted to the hobbyist and school market are well under $4,000. And the price of 3D equipment will only drop going forward.
  3. For certain organizations, 3D services are a natural fit, and in many cases 3D equipment may have already been purchased by your parent organization. 3D is definitely a natural for public school systems, universities and manufacturing operations. Obviously, not every type of organization may have a compelling need for 3D. But for others, 3D is a truly great fit. And who better to provide the 3D service than the in-plant?

The demand for 3D services will continue to grow, and will probably grow explosively. Because of all the media attention given to 3D technology recently, many people are looking at ways 3D technology can fit what they are doing.

Microsoft has added native 3D support to its Windows 8.1 operating system. So in the future, when you purchase a computer running Windows 8.1, the drivers for the most common 3D printers will be included in the system, with the hopes of making 3D printing plug and play.

3D printing can be the perfect fit for an in-plant because of centralization. The 3D needs of an engineering or manufacturing company with multiple divisions or operations would be much better served by centralizing the 3D printing operation. If each segment of your parent organization has its own equipment, there will inevitably be utilization issues. There would be either bottlenecks or under-utilization.

About the Author

Jim Corliss is the owner of Braintree Printing, located in the Boston area. Braintree Printing is a trade printer servicing printers, brokers and the overflow needs of in-plants. Braintree Printing was one of the first printers in the country to offer 3D printing. Corliss can be reached at (781) 848-5300 or a jim@braintreeprinting.com

 

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