Why every business might have a 3D printer in the future


Date: 21 November 2019

A young engineer works with a 3D printer to create a component or prototype - manufacturing concept.

Business printing equipment is becoming more hi-tech with every passing year, and new functionalities are regularly added to the long list of things that they can do. From scanning to handling specialist paper finishes, a basic office printer can now handle most tasks that previously had to be outsourced to a professional.

But what if your office printer could not only collate documents and send emails, but actually build a product from scratch?

Welcome to the world of 3D printing.

How 3D printing works

Everyday printers are still vital for most workplaces - it’s likely that both inkjet and toner printers will continue to be an important tool in any office. However, people are increasingly cottoning on to how 3D printing could revolutionise their business processes.

3D printing is still a poorly understood technology, and many still don’t really understand how it works. According to one US 3D printing service, it’s a manufacturing process which makes three-dimensional objects automatically, using digital instructions to tell the machine which materials to put down where.

The process includes laying down multiple layers of material until a completed item has been created.

Why 3D printing could benefit your business

According to the Financial Times, one main attraction of 3D printing is the ability to produce more products, more quickly. Companies are always looking at ways to reduce complexity on their production line and cut costs - yours may be one of them. 3D printing allows complex shapes to be manufactured in a single step.

An additional benefit is the protection of the planet’s resources. In traditional manufacturing, a huge amount of waste is generated - and if too much product is manufactured that doesn’t end up being sold, it can also end up on the scrapheap. 3D printing allows us to ‘print’ perfect products on demand, creating a minimum of waste.

While 3D printing does bring many benefits, one downside is that it can take a long time to generate a finished product. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days or more to complete a job, depending on size, shape, complexity and the materials being used.

Coming to an office near you?

Richard Hague, professor of innovative manufacturing in the department of mechanical materials and manufacturing engineering at the University of Nottingham, thinks so.

He tells The Guardian: “[In the 1990s] there were all these expectations about what the internet would do, and then it disappeared. But quietly, in the background, people were forging ahead… I think that’s where we are now [with 3D printing technologies].”

Although it’s yet to become a staple office technology, there’s no doubt that 3D printing has the potential to become a vital function in many workplaces., As manufacturing processes are simplified and cost savings realised through mass production and reduced waste, many companies will consider the adaptation a positive move.

Copyright 2019. Article was made possible by site supporter Jessica Foreman

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