Looking at if it’s feasible for a company to get a solid 3D print business evaluation from in-house sources with Dr. Mike Vasquez of 3Degrees. Businesses large and small should all consider getting a 3D print business evaluation to see if additive manufacturing is a viable option for their products and processes, but the trick is knowing how to find a knowledgeable source from the technology and product side. It’s past time to start exploring the capabilities of 3D printing for your business, and a professionally done 3D print business evaluation can jump the learning curve for any size company.
Our interview today regarding the serious commercial or industrial sector of 3D printing and a special company called 3Degrees. We’re really going to talk today about the adoption of 3D print technologies at companies like that and what it takes to be successful and where it can happen. We’ve got for you today Dr. Mike Vasquez. He’s a 3D printing expert with a Chicago based consulting firm, 3Degrees, they help organizations maximize investment and technology. You want to decide whether or not it’s worth going into 3D printing. This is the kind of company you call and you think about it.
We hear that from a lot of you, that you’re all thinking about, “Is it worth it?” On the personal side, we deal with this all the time. On the home side like, should you do it? We don’t always deal with this on the commercial side or should you do this in your business and the application. I think it’s worth hearing from 3Degrees and Mike about this.
I think it really deals with issues about how to do it, the return on investment, when to do it or even just trying to shorten the learning curve, which is what we say we are trying to do with this podcast for desktop 3D printing. This is definitely beyond the desktop, although it includes it sometimes. Especially because Mike has a bachelors and masters from MIT in material science and engineering. He also has a PhD in additive manufacturing from Loughborough University in the UK. I didn’t even know you could get a PhD in additive manufacturing, that’s really interesting.
He’s talking about really advanced application levels and a whole different ball game in terms of 3D printing. We’re talking about industrial level. I think that there’s a lot to learn there that we have on a smaller scale, whether you’re a small consulting firm or a small business or some other application of those of 3D printing within your organization.
I really enjoyed this interview because it really points out I think some issues that large scale companies, I’m talking about huge companies like GE deal with all the time. I think that there’s a lesson here for a lot of applications at a smaller level of business that probably applies to more of our listeners. Let’s hear our interview with Dr. Mike Vasquez.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Print Business Evaluation with Mike Vasquez of 3Degrees
Hi, Mike. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you, guys. I’m excited to be here.
You talk a lot about how to successfully adopt 3D printing technologies, and doing 3D print business evaluation for different companies, that is a passionate topic for us here at WTFFF. I want to talk a little bit about setting that up, about who really can successfully adopt 3D printing tech?
That’s a great question. I would say it’s evolving and ever evolving. I think from my experience, where I tend to really work with and my experience and my company, is with large industrial manufacturing organizations. Companies in the aerospace and automotive sector. When we say, “How do you want to adopt 3D printing?” There’s a lot of different spectrums that you could look at. Starting with prototyping, which is something that is probably the most accessible to everyone at this point with lower cost systems. What I mean everyone, everyone from the home enthusiast, maker, someone that has a local library, that has a 3D printer, up to a company like Ford who puts MakerBots on their engineers’ desks.
I think that’s more for the prototyping space. I think that’s a pretty well established sector of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Really as it comes to production where I focus on, I think that pool is much smaller. Mainly because a lot of these more sophisticated engineering work flows or aspects that are involved with 3D printing hadn’t been fully fleshed out yet. They need to be really effectively managed to get something into the customer’s hands. That’s even more so the case if you’re looking at highly regulated industries.
That’s really interesting that you say that. Prototypes, you’re right, if you are a company that’s prototyping, it’s easy pickings because there’s a cost reduction factor to being able to do it or a speed to market factor. There’s a whole bunch of things that can easily show the return on investment from putting, as you put it, MakerBots on every Ford engineer’s desk. But when you get to the other types of applications, whether it’s manufacturing or other things, the return on investment calculation gets more complicated.
Absolutely. This has been the case for the last five years or so, even through the hype cycle of the desktop 3D printing space. For production, you’re still thinking about high value, low volume parts, which make the best business case. That’s why you see companies like GE looking at fuel nozzles, or consumer products companies or sports companies looking at serving their elite athletes with customized shoes, situations where they don’t need a lot of high throughput, because still the machines aren’t quite there yet in getting full production speed or what we would consider manufacturing speed in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of parts.
You need to constrain your thinking to limited use cases and many examples of people adapting the technology that way. One thing is cost certainly and probably maybe, if not, the biggest one of the biggest drivers, but you have to think of materials available, which is still pretty limited, what tolerances, repeatability, usability, even having a designer be able to manufacture or design something that make sense in using 3D printing. There’s all these different aspects that you’d have to look at and evaluate to really make a judgment call of whether it would be a benefit to use additive in many cases.
What are you finding that the kinds of companies you’re working with are thinking that a reasonable return on investment is for actually adopting the technology?
It’s hard to put a dollar value on it. I think what people with managed expectations … A lot of my job ends up being managing expectations. I think every company comes into the space with different approaches and different expectations on what the technology can do at the moment. I would say a reasonable amount of time that you should think about your investment really starting to pay back, and this is on the production side, when I say production, I’m talking investments, a few hundred thousand dollars up to a few million dollars. It’s going to take two to three years most likely to really get something through production and the work flow in place that can support that.
That’s not that unusual, two to three years on a return on investment and time and money to recoup the cost in investing in what is essentially new technology and new processing. That’s probably not that unusual for most industrial companies.
That’s fair. I think it just, for whatever reason, some of the expectations and where people have seen and been exposed to technology have thought it should happen much faster than that. To be honest, it’s a steep learning curve early on.
We say that all the time here. That’s really something that is an intangible in that investment calculation. The amount of time you need to expose your team, your staff to really change the design process, the development process, the manufacturing process, to be more optimized for 3D printing. It is quite long.
Absolutely. It may never happen for some organizations. You have to start small to transform the entire way, depending on the size of the company, the way a design is made or produced. It can take a long time. I think the difficulty with 3D printing that may not be or is built in to the existing study state of most typical designers is there’s a lot of variables to manage. If you’re in front of your CAD station doing design day in and day out and not working with operators on the manufacturing floor of these 3D printing systems, not understanding what support material and not understanding what the material capabilities are. That’s a lot to put on designers and engineers to understand with such a new technology, the nuances you’re expecting them to take into account and say, “Now, you have all this design freedom as well but it’s constrained by this material,” where you would put the support material, how I would remove that support material once it’s produced? How much time does that take? What key treatment do I need to go to if I make a part that’s six inches high versus twelve inches high? How long is that going to take?
That’s interesting that you say that because that’s actually a large corporation problem and not a small firm problem. Because we come from the opposite world. We come from the world where if you aren’t following your manufacturing process, if you’re not in the factory, if you don’t understand how things work, you can’t really be cost effective and innovative in the same breath and the same product.
We come from the world at which this is something that you just must grasp and learn just like you learned injection molding tolerances and constraints and testing standards and all of those things. You just have to learn that in your process. In large corporations, they really treat their teams like they’re in silos. Their engineers are the ones who do FEA testing or things like that or just they’re in their own world.
You’re absolutely right. I think some companies are changing or have special ops teams that try and scale out things like additive manufacturing. They’re getting better at that. For the most part, I would agree with you. I think even getting back to that, the challenge with an emerging technology like 3D printing is that even the most sophisticated machines, they all act slightly differently. I could have a 3D Systems machine, not picking on any one, it could be an SLS machine, SLM machine, whatever it may be, Stratasys. You could have the same machine and the same product line and buy that same machine, having two of them sitting right next to each other. They may perform slightly differently. There’s nuances even within knowing those design guidelines.
Like a lack of consistency going on there.
Exactly. I think you’re exactly right that it really still needs a lot of hands on, full team involvement. It’s not something yet that can just be siloed off within an organization.
It’s not the fictional ideal of, okay, tell the machine to make me up something like on Star Trek. It’s just there. It’s perfect and the same every time. It’s really similar it seems to me to other manufacturing processes. You’re going to have different machines that perform differently. You just can’t expect it to spit out a part that is consistent every time. You’re going to have to do quality checks, you’re going to have post processing. The advantage is probably just the same as we, I’m sure you know, as we experience, is that you can make parts in different ways and avoid other processes like welding for instance, if you’re looking at a metal part for aerospace that end up being tremendously advantageous.
Correct. That’s the big advantage, is this design flexibility where you can start looking at … I did some work in the footwear space before. A problem that I would’ve never thought of that athletes who are performing at the top of their game are thinking about with running and running on different surfaces. Typically, when a running spike or something like that is designed, it’s stamped or injection molded. You have a very, I would say, typical or standardized pattern for your cleats. With 3D printing, you can almost optimize that depending on what surface you’re going to be on. You can put in highly irregular or various shapes that otherwise would’ve been extremely costly to manufacture because of the tooling involved. You can now optimize it for a specific surface to help them grip easier or work in different weather, whatever it may be. For these designers and engineers, they come back to understanding the process. It’s understanding the customer as well and what are the real value of improving a product in such a way and does that line up with the new capability or extended capability that 3D printing might offer in such a case.
It really seems like advanced application of 3D printing in ways that quite honestly probably manufacturing has not really considered very much historically in decades past because you could not justify tooling for a different pattern of spikes for every different condition or even if they’re a professional runner that’s willing to spend a thousand dollars for a pair of shoes because they’re going to run on the Olympics or whatever.
It raises the expectation of the end user certainly that, hey, I’ve seen this shoe or this crazy type of faucet made that is now possible at least to go down that direction. It may do a lot to open up certain avenues for new businesses or people with very niche applications that can serve those types of desires of customers.
With these large industrial, commercial clients that you have some of, have you ran across the issue of trying to make it so that you don’t have to ship parts around the world, this idea of zero inventory at the local level? Have you done much with that?
The distributed manufacturing model. I think people are talking about it. I think with some of the organizations that I work with, the challenge … Certainly, they see the benefit. That’s bottom line. Yes, to your question. I think implementing it can be challenging still in a state where there is quasi standards for specific manufactured products whether it’s aerospace or automotive. It’s trying to maintain that consistency throughout your supply chain now that is distributed is more the challenge of people are looking at now and how to overcome that. I think it’s certainly a thing that people see. As of yet, I think most companies, the way these larger companies and commercial entities, I think most companies in general using additive, they have a heritage of putting it into the R&D section of the organization and then migrating that out into manufacturing is not always the simplest case.
Old habits die hard. That’s interesting. Controls.
But different mindset with the organization and then trying to move it towards … Again, I go back to expectations. Different people have different expectations based upon what they’re experienced with.
I think it’s really interesting as I was looking through what you guys do at 3Degrees that as part of your 3D print business evaluation, you provide training to existing company designers and engineers. Back when I started my first major job out of college, it was when CAD for textile manufacturing and textile prototyping was coming into play. The manufacturers at that time provided not just training on the CAD software and the printers that printed these simulated materials, but they also provided use and, as you have put it, advanced application support. We don’t see that really happening here with a lot of the 3D printer manufacture companies. We don’t see that application support. Is that what you’re providing in your training or you’re actually providing more machine and CAD training?
Really the full application. Trying to help an organization figure out the best approach to implementing 3D printing for a given application. That comes with everything from design training or understanding how you can build a design guideline for you printer and design specifications, materials, understanding and helping that process along. Part of it’s training the users of the machine, users of the designers and whatnot and helping them build a strategy to do that. I think we end up getting into our benefit or one of the things that we’re really good at is really hard engineering problems where it comes into play where materials that you might want to use for your end product aren’t yet available for the existing 3D printers, how do you get around that? How do you either design for it or design a new material that works in the printer to use that and going down that direction?
I think the fortunate thing for us is we see a lot of different problems across the industry and try to serve in a variety of capacities and helping a manager set up the organization around, how do you even set up a lab? How do you set up a facility? Who do you need to hire? To getting very detailed in what type of flooring should I use for my manufacturing site so that I don’t have vibrations, I don’t have electrostatic discharge when I’m making these parts and impacting machines. We get very specific, even going down end applications as I was saying. We see the industry from a lot of different perspectives.
I think that really it’s the existence of your company and your services indicative of the big gap that exists between the machines and all the real world applications. I know that sometimes the additive manufacturing machine manufacturers get criticized for not doing enough to help the companies. The reality is, and what you were saying really is a good example of that, that there are just so many variables. I don’t think that they could really provide all that’s needed for every application. Here’s been what I see is a big business opportunity and you’re really meeting that need.
The technology, it could be used in so many different industries that even with just the machine suppliers, for a long time, they’ve been making machines that are one size fits all if that makes sense, where you just have a black box and you can put material in and it builds you something with these types of properties. How you use that and which customers do they serve to really optimize the machine isn’t really explored. If I were to build a machine specific for aerospace, I may not build it exactly the same as if it were going to be used all the time for consumer products or for automotive application. I think in their business model, they’ve tried to get support and gain traction in building these more generic machines. I think as the industry expands, I would say, more streamlined or more customized applications may start to emerge.
I agree. You’re right, the entire industry has created these machines that can build anything or they’re trying to make it so they can build anything. I think in reality, they can’t. When you look at conventional manufacturing of let’s just say, wood, for lack of a better material right now. You’ve got all kinds of different machines for processing wood in different ways. Because there are so many different specific applications. I think there should be much more highly specialized additive manufacturing machines developed specifically for very narrow applications in order to do the best job that they can do.
Absolutely. That’s what I hear from a lot of end users. It comes out in different ways or different viewpoint where the existing machines, many of them are built in such a way where a laser interacting with powder or resin or something like that. The output of that is many materials don’t work in that system. You have polymer powders, laser centering and such. But for the last ten, fifteen years it’s only really been nylon 12 that you could use. End users are clamoring for those different types of materials. It’s constrained by what’s the actual process and what materials could actually work. You have this chicken and the egg issue where we want more materials but in order to do that we need to change the process. The process really is fixed in some cases with different machines and manufacturers. Many variables are going into this. It doesn’t make sense for the machine manufacturers unless they have very justified reasons of making a machine that is exactly for everyone’s particular situation. It just becomes too cumbersome of a problem to look at. You have to make the best of what you have for a particular demographic of the companies that you’re targeting.
It’s interesting because we’re also seeing not just on that side of the machines and other things, but we’re also seeing a skill gap happening that companies like yours and ours are filling in that sense where you have a lot of … I’m saying this but technically, we are one of them, an old guard of design and engineering. You have this fresh, young new guard coming in with just fresh 3D print training out of college, but the reality is they don’t have application training yet. They haven’t been indoctrinated into the company so don’t know what it’s like to actually make and build products. They don’t have that experience level. They’re just so separated, there’s this big gap in between being able to do both.
Definitely. I’m seeing that a lot or more and more as most universities can give their students some level of 3D printing experience even with just FDM in some cases. When they get to their engineering role, they may have had access to multiples of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment at college but then they get to their company, it’s like they have to take five or six steps back. “We don’t have this option or we don’t have these sets of machines available, what do I do now?” I think in some cases they end up being either evangelists or like, “Hey, what if we approach it in this way or use a service bureau to get some prototypes.” That’s where it starts in terms exposing them at least to the company to some newer technology. I’ve seen it that way. Also, I think companies are getting smarter. At least, on the prototyping side on giving their engineers those types of tools or the budget to use a service bureau or something like that.
We’re really passionate about people getting going. If you’re ever going to scale this high learning curve, you better get going and just start. Even if you, as you put it early on, start small and have an advanced team. Make a commitment to exploring the technology, the innovation and whether or not you have an application in your company. Because I don’t think most companies can do that completely from the outside.
There are very few examples of factories that I’ve toured or gone into or companies that I’ve worked with where there aren’t at least one or two quick win applications of 3D printing that you could at least approach. It doesn’t have to be costly. We’re not talking about investing in a million dollar metal machine or something like that. The service bureaus exist and there are options to do some CAD work and get parts back and start to understand the technology and get introduced in the company that way. Exactly like you said. I think you can analyze, analyze and analyze and paralyze yourself after a while.
I totally agree with that. Just try something out, that may not work, that probably won’t work in the beginning but at least you’ll learned something. It helps move down that innovation pathway if that’s the direction of the company.
Mike, before we wrap up, I’m curious. What do you think, from your perspective, is one of the most exciting developments upcoming in the New Year or something that you’re hoping to see? What do you see for the future that is either exciting or a great opportunity?
I’ll be a little selfish on this one to put a plug for something we’re actually working on. One of the things we’ve seen over and over again with, again, companies on the larger manufacturing side of things that are going towards production is there is a requirement to really record everything that’s happening in your work flow, starting with who’s your designer, how are they orienting the part, what material supply are you using, what inputs are you putting in the machine and what tests are you doing after the part comes out. Those are required documentation steps for things like FDA and FAA certification.
At the moment, there’s limited tools to look at that. We’re actually building the software tools to help companies along that path and really both monitor and record some of that data that’s coming in through the 3D printing work flow as we call it. Taking a step back, that’s what we’re working on, this trace program. I think what I’m excited about is the development of new tools to support the infrastructure around 3D printing. New materials, we’re doing a lot of new materials research and some bio materials, new polymers and approaches. Also, all the things that you need to move 3D printing beyond this conversation of, “It’s really just a prototype thing material still for our company.” How do you convince the team on the manufacturing floor to look at it with reduced skepticism?
It’s interesting you say that. I love the idea of the work flow and, as you called it, the trace program. We have significant processes that we develop for our clients and for the way that we handle 3D printing and track it because of the inconsistencies, you have to rule out variables. You have to be monitoring and watching it all the time. It is critical. I think it’s great that you’re developing something standard that’s really going to be helpful long term. I love this idea of the new material development. It’s a big passion for us.
What we hear very frequently from lots of companies over time is that it sounds great to have this model by which you could make end use products or make products in your facility, but the end of the day, it’s fit and finish that becomes the biggest hangup. You might be in a distributive manufacturing model, be able to make it anywhere in the world, but if it requires post finishing, maybe you can only do that in certain factories and certain places in the world. You have a fit and finish problem at the end of the day. That’s where it starts to fall apart. Getting materials or post finishing processes on those materials is as critical as the material development itself in certain cases.
Absolutely. I still think that’s one of the bigger requirement. Does it look like the part that I currently have? Injection molded or machined? Can I get my 3D printed part to look like that? How much time does it take? Always big questions and big expectations of companies going down that path.
Because otherwise, it really limits the types of products or the types of parts you can do.
Right. Not all parts are hidden in the back of a plane or underneath the hood of a car.
Some of them need to look good at some point.
Mike, we really appreciate you joining us today. I just love talking about these advanced applications and the support that you guys are providing to large companies as we hopefully see a much bigger tip in 3D printing and the marketplace going forward despite the hype.
It’s great. I really enjoyed the conversation.
3D Print Business Evaluation – Final Thoughts
As we’re talking with Dr. Mike, I really was thinking through, as he talking about how 3D printers are really today are made in a one size fits all, more general application sense. That is so true. I was thinking a little bit about an episode that we did a while back, because it was a really good video application of I think it was an experiment. I don’t think it was actually a production machine. I think Autodesk was involved in it where they had a series of FFF 3D printers that were working together to make a very long and narrow part. I’m talking about a part that was like ten or twelve feet long where no 3D printer and no production 3D printer is really made, especially this was an FFF 3D printer, is made with a build plate that is so massively long and narrow.
Instead of just making one machine with one print head that would do it, which could be done. We also interviewed those folks from Colorado, wasn’t it Titan Robotics? That’s the one that I was thinking about when he was talking. I was thinking of Titan being in a great niche area because not only did Titan have any size printer that they could create, but they were doing it with more industrial and tolerance sensitive processes of how they hung the gantry and all the stuff, the materials.
They were definitely seriously like the Hummer of 3D printers, not just our consumer level. The point is, we’ve seen some glimpses I think in those two examples of the thing that Mike was talking about, that as time goes on, that’s where I think we’re going to see a lot of development in niche areas for specific industries. The same way we have with other industrial equipment in conventional process in recent decades.
I think the issue really is though is that you aren’t really getting that experimentation on 3D printing within an organization. It’s not happening at a fast enough pace or getting these advanced research projects or whatever. When I used to work for Milliken, in the textile businesses, there was a whole research division that would research all sorts of new ways and they’d modify existing industrial machines to do different finishing processes or different yarn texturing and all sorts of things like that.
When they found that it could work and it could scale up, then they went and they made their own machines because it makes sense, because you know that the tolerances are there. To discount and say, “The machine’s not good enough right now for us to do this. We shouldn’t even be experimenting,” is a huge mistake. That’s really where you have to get in, you have to dive no matter what size your businesses, you have to be looking at these advanced applications of innovation and say, “What could my company do with this? Does it make sense?”
It may not make sense, that’s an okay result. If you were to go with diving in and just buying these machines that aren’t fulfilling the promise of it, you’re going to fail anyway. You might as well really treat it like an application process and project.
I can really see where a company like 3Degrees can come in and play a huge role in helping an organization achieve the results. I’m having a flashback right now in my memory when we lived in South Carolina probably because of materials and processing but also we were talking about textile applications and things like that with the CAD software and all that. I remember when at one point briefly, I worked for this roof window and sky light company named Velux.
They’re actually a Danish company that had a manufacturing plant and US operations in South Carolina. Didn’t work there for a very long time because it really wasn’t my passion. While I was there, when I was talking about wood processing during the interview, this was another example of that where they were trying to always push the edge of the envelope on the materials and the processes they used to make roof windows and sky lights.
You’d think, “How complicated is that? They’ve got a wood frame.” That’s true, but the wood frame was a certain kind of wood and then that wood get very expensive and so they would only use a portion of that expensive wood and then where it was unseen, use a less expensive wood. We were looking at making these extruded wood, not extruded, molded really with knives, wood profiles and then wrapping them with veneer, just a very, very thin layer of the actual good looking wood that people wanted to see if the wood was going to be shown in their room if they weren’t painting it.
That kind of development took in house engineering. It took really advanced development and customized processes that we’re talking about. I think 3D printing will have applications where that is needed, where there will be a lot more engineers employed and a lot more internal designers and probably systems and control people if you’ve got all these serious documentation things that you’ve got to comply with.
I think that right now, the way that the industry is moving, you can’t possibly keep up on this in house yourself, with all the changes that are happening in machinery and equipment and processing and CAD and just all the different changes that are going on there. You need someone to come in and support you in that, whether it’s in training support or consulting support. You need someone to support that side of it.
You also need the product support side of it because you haven’t scaled that learning curve, you haven’t spent two to three years figuring out how 3D printing works and how it can fit into your manufacturing process. You also need a product support team as well. That’s really what we’ve been doing and where we fit in the realm, is that we started to look at people’s products and say, “Can this be 3D printed? Should it be 3D printed? What makes the most sense in terms of making it more competitive if it is 3D printed or more customized?” We take a look at it from the product size. Mike and his team at 3Degrees are really looking at it from a manufacturing and a processing and an engineering application side.
It’s really interesting. When you think about any kind of part or product that you’re developing, regardless of the manufacturing process, you do come across these issues of is the machine it’s going to be made on a real fit for what it is you’re trying to make. We always say, we’re all about the what. It’s really no different. Additive manufacturing has the same issues.
I can remember also back when we were doing our stylus pens for handheld computers and we were making the really, really thin ones that fit inside the Palm Pilot. This is dating ourselves, I know, but inside the Palm Pilot. We used a company that was a CNC machine company. This was really advanced stuff, make a CAD file and they would have this amazing combination of a laith and a multi access CNC router that was making the body of our pens with all of its shape and core and threads and everything that it needed.
It was like we were shooting a mosquito with a bazooka or some much larger weapon because it was this huge machine that had all this capability and it was the only machine that had all the capability to do everything we needed in one process to make this part. It seemed in some ways very overkill. The same application, if you’re traditionally manufacturing that in large volume, eventually, you’d make a machine that was really specific to only doing what was needed for that. That would be the most efficient thing. Small parts are easier to make I think on conventional 3D printers. It’s probably the reverse where larger parts become something where you might need something customized. There’s probably other technical aspects that would need to be customized.
It’s quite fascinating to hear from Dr. Mike and about the different unique aspects of the commercial space or heavy industrial space. Aircraft parts and FDA things having all these specific requirements, which we want them to have because we’re either going to be flying on them at 35,000 feet or we’re going to be eating them or whatever. These processes and controls are incredibly important.
I just think adopting 3D printing or 3D print application for your business is so critically important right now to be considering because of that steep learning curve, because of the time return on investment that it makes. It’s time to start, if you haven’t already considered it, it is time to start exploring. It’s past time.
I also like what Mike said that there are a lot of these quick wins that you can have. While there is some of this is advanced development and creating things that don’t exist, I think that today, right now, just about every company involved in manufacturing or developing and/or selling any kind of product or part, there is an application involving additive manufacturing and 3D printing that will improve your business, your process, your profitability, your speed to market. There’s so many different ways. You can have quick wins today.
You may have to look at that return investment, as we mentioned, in a different way. It may be a faster development cycle, it may be a speed to market. There may be so many other intangibles that shift that actually become tangible. You just have to look at that return on investment with a little different mindset than, “I buy a machine and I get X out of it.” And consider the new benefits, the new particular advantages of additive manufacturing over conventional. It may not just be speed, it may be capability, it may be something regarding the customer experience, it may be making things that are safer.
From our experience, what we point out to you really here, what we want to stress the most is, and I think Mike was touching on that, is that by bringing it in house, by doing these tests, by trying to scale that learning curve, you will discover the thing that is most unique about 3D printing that you can apply for your business. Or you will discover, “This has zero application for us and we don’t want it,” which is a great thing to find out. Find it out now instead of feeling like you’re behind the curve later. Or finding out the hard way that you are behind the curve later when your market is taken away by someone else.
- 3D Printing Outside the Build Plate
- The Need for Singular Focus in 3D Printing – Can One 3D Printer Really Fit All?
About Mike Vasquez
Dr. Mike Vasquez is a 3D Printing expert specializing in pushing the boundaries of advanced 3D printing technology. He is the Founder of 3Degrees, a Chicago-based consulting company focused on helping organizations maximize their investment in the technology. He has worked side-by-side with some of the top machine manufacturers, material producers and end users in the industry, consulting with them to identify novel applications, test new materials, and develop frameworks to maximize R&D efficiency and boost ROI. He completed his PhD in Additive Manufacturing at Loughborough University and received both his Bachelors and Masters from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering.
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