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
3D Applications by Industry
Let's look at how 3D printing could be offered by in-plants in some specific industries.
Insurance and Financial Services: Uh…you tell me. May not be a fit at all.
Colleges and Universities: If the university that your in-plant supports has an engineering department, it's a natural—and it's a sure bet that they already have 3D equipment. So why would 3D services be needed in the in-plant if the university's engineering department already has 3D equipment? Simple. The engineering department will not be the only department in the school that will want 3D services. What about a liberal arts college with no engineering department? Given the creativity of young people, even a college with no engineering or design course offerings will find plenty of need for 3D services.
Public School Districts: A school district with, say, one or two high schools, a couple of middle schools and a bunch of grammar schools will have a need for 3D but it will be a different need than a university might have. The end product is important at the university level while the whole process of 3D will be of interest to the teachers in a classroom setting. We would hope that in-plants in the public school setting now would not only offer printing and mailing services but also act as an educational resource for the school district. If the in-plant were to offer 3D printing services, your plant could be an educational lab for the students in your district.
Manufacturing or Fortune 1000 Companies. Any company that designs and manufactures a product is a natural for 3D. The key is to centralize the 3D services in the in-plant rather than having the equipment scattered throughout the organization. There is real value to centralizing 3D services because it will reduce bottlenecks and minimize under-utilization.
Also consider that there are many different types of 3D printers that print in different ways using different materials. The engineering department may want to print using ABS plastic, which can be used for dimensionally accurate usable prototype parts. The finance people or the package design people may want to print prototypes in full color.
Every in-plant supports an organization that has unique needs and requests different services, be it large-format posters, mailing services, full-color offset, publications, etc. It is up to each in-plant to evaluate which services it will offer to the parent organization. In-plants would be well served to explore the possibility of adding 3D printing to their service offerings.