5 Ways 3D Engineering is Changing Small Businesses

5 Ways 3D Engineering is Changing Small Businesses

3D printing is changing the way companies do business. For some, it creates an opportunity to differentiate from the competition. For others, it’s a chance to improve internal processes, including product development/design and streamline production. Here are five examples of companies that are using 3D technology to change the way they do business.

1) Small-scale production

Small-scale production with 3D printing isn’t an option for many businesses, however, in some industries, such production methods are essential. For example, orthotics and prosthetics industry require technicians to create custom braces, helmets and other devices to treat abnormalities or facilitate the use of prosthetic limbs.

Infinite Technologies is an orthotic and prosthetic facility based company which provides its patients custom medical devices using 3D technology.

Joe Terpenning, the company's director of orthotics, said that health care facilities looking to accelerate patient turnover are also excited about 3D.

“[3D printers] allow us to take a device from concept to delivery in less than a day," Terpenning said. "Before the digital age, devices would take a minimum of three to four days. In the rising tide of faster and cheaper health care — and hospitals wanting to reduce bed stay — you can imagine the benefits to the medical field.

Orthotist, Amy Braunschweiger works primarily with infants suffering from phagiocephaly who require the use of a special helmet to correct the shape of their skulls. The use of 3D technology in treating such a condition represents a major improvement over past methods, which often resulted in a big mess and a very unhappy young patient.

"The 3D scanning system is much less invasive and not harmful or traumatizing to the patient at all," Braunschweiger said. Happier patients mean more business for ITOP, a company that relies on patient referrals.

2) Adding Price Points

If you’ve ever welcomed a new baby into the world, you’re probably familiar with ultrasound pictures. 3D printing is taking them to a whole new level, allowing parents to buy high-end 3D sculptures of their unborn babies. This capability is now readily available to the public.

Bryan Beattie, lead director of Innermost Secrets, a private health and fertility clinic in Cardiff, Wales, has found a way to use 3D printing to offer his clients a 3D representation of their unborn child at an affordable price.

"Previously, the only 3D products in the baby bonding industry were laser-etched 3D images in crystal glass," Beattie said.

His team uses a 3D printer to create 3D cameo images, which are made of paper; which is a major change as previously, the only 3D products in the baby bonding industry were laser-etched 3D images in crystal glass.

3) Product Development

Spuni, an ergonomic baby spoon designed to help babies transition from liquid to solid foods with less mess, has a background heavily assited by 3D engineering. CEO, Marcel Botha, said that the idea for Spuni started out as a sketch on a dinner napkin and, within a few short months, had a working prototype created by a 3D printer.

The company was able to print the first versions of Spuni using a medical grade, BPA-free plastic that could be tested safely by parents on their babies. These prototypes helped the team churn out a final version of the product much faster than if they had used traditional manufacturing methods for prototyping.

Botha understands better than most just how instrumental 3D printing has become to the product development process. Some of his other firms have helped other U.S.-based start-ups turn ideas into reality using 3D engineering.

4) Prototyping

Pad and Quill, a company that manufacturers wood-frame, leather cases for smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices also uses 3D printing. Although their products are handmade using traditional bookbindery techniques, its production methods are anything but antiquated.

"3D printing is an essential part of how we design, develop and go to full manufacturing of our products," said Brian Holmes, president and co-founder of Pad and Quill. The company adopted 3D printing as a method of creating prototype parts for its finished goods. The hardware for Pad and Quill`s canvas and leather bags as well as rubber bumpers that hold a customer`s iPad inside its case, start out as 3D printed prototypes.

"For us, 3D printing is really a great tool to see if what we dreamed up in a [drawing] looks and feels the way we want," Holmes said. "It helps us not to make expensive mistakes." Mistakes with other prototyping methods really can get pricey; which for example injection mold prototyping could cost the company up to $6,000 per part and there is no guarantee that the parts would work correctly.

5) Experimentation

Time is also of essence to Sara Pocius, a Chicago-based jewelry designer and owner of Sea Pony Studio, who is in process of transitioning away from the world of beaded trinkets and into the realm of sterling silver jewelry.

The plastic and stainless steel prototypes that Pocius relies on to perfect her computer-aided designs are brought to life with a 3D printer. More traditional methods of turning graphic designs into working models, like creating wax prototypes with a milling machine, would cost $60 to $100 per design compared to just $3 for a 3D-printed prototype.

"If I wasn't able to utilize 3D printing in my production process, I would be limited to producing just one design at a time due to budget constraints," Pocius said.

Source: Fox Business




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