Now that 3D Printing has become a hot topic in everything from newspaper articles to movies, one of the most common discussions I have with individuals involves two questions:
  •  How is 3D Printing going to impact my business/industry?
  •  How do I decide if it’s right for me?
These are important questions, as investing in this technology can be expensive.  And, failing to identify emerging trends in your industry and adapt to them can also have harsh consequences.  So, if you’re asking yourself the questions about in some form or another,  here’s my five-step process to help guide you through some of the key decisions that you will need to make as you explore the technology and ensure you make smart, strategic decisions.

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(Originally published here by Which? magazine)

3D printers present users with lots of possibilities, making them a technology darling in the past few years. Are they answer to fixing your broken appliances? 

Fridge with plug socket

As an expert in the field of 3D printing, I have seen the users of the technology evolve from just skilled engineers to include the average Joe and Jane tinkering with a Makerbot in their garage.

Why so much hype and excitement about 3D printing? There are several reasons, but the main attraction is that the technology enables users to create highly complex shapes, something that wasn’t possible before and offers exciting opportunities for design and innovation.

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Earlier this month I published my first e-book called ‘How to Make 3D Printing Work for You and Your Business

I created the book for designers, engineers, business and product leaders. The aim in creating this guide is to give readers the tools necessary to build, sustain and grow a flourishing 3D Printing operation for their company. By following the steps outlined in each of the following chapters readers can approach this technology in a thoughtful and strategic way. Most of all, I wanted to give readers the tools to not only get their money back from their investment but to make 3D Printing a profit center for the organization.

bookcover1Here’s an excerpt:

The first question you should ask is “Do I need a 3D Printer?”

Whenever I go into a client’s office for the first time I do not automatically assume that they need 3D Printing in their business. I have seen more than my fair share of organizations that have spent $50,000 on a printer that’s now collecting dust in the corner of their R&D lab. One consumer product company in particular had several different product lines that could have greatly benefited from rapid prototyping. However, the company bought the machine and then left it to the engineers to figure it out without any help. The engineers felt like they weren’t involved in the decision and since they weren’t bought in, they were unwilling to spend the extra time learning and tweaking the machines to get them to the point where they would save them time.

And that’s often a challenge I see – you need to ensure the people in your organization who will need to drive the technology are ready for it, understand how to use it and are committed to the benefits. This can be especially difficult in companies where technology like injection molding or machining are the norms, because moving to a 3D Printing platform requires an investment at the onset to realize the long-term benefits.

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Laser sintering is a 3D Printing technology that I am consistently doing a lot of work with so I thought I would write a post going into more detail on the technology. Laser sintering is among the oldest and most advanced forms of 3D Printing.  The process uses lasers to fuse plastic, metal, or ceramic powder to form near fully dense objects.  For the purposes of not boiling the ocean I will only talk about polymer laser sintering in this post. [click to continue…]

Fellow Chicagoan and MIT alum Bill Fienup and I recently gave a talk on the future of digital manufacturing at the International Home and Housewares Show. The presentation (which you can listen to below) focusses on the changing landscape of inventing, product development and manufacturing.  You can check out the printed article here and if you’re interested in finding out more about one of Chicago’s coolest new entrepreneurship initiatives contact Bill at Catalyze Chicago.