(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Justin Mobilian, HGR’s sales & marketing summer intern)
Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) has been around for years – longer than I’ve been alive – but the industry has only gained popularity in recent years. Prior to my marketing research class at The University of Akron, I had no interest in 3D printing. So, Dr. Coleman. Who is he? Full-time marketing genius. Part-time marketing professor. Part-time marketing consulting firm owner. Because of him, my interest for 3D printing grew immensely. For our term project, he gave us a real-life client from his firm who couldn’t afford his services (for privacy purposes, we’ll say his name is Bob). The project’s topic? Yep, you guessed it. 3D printing.
Our task was to determine if Bob should enter the 3D printer market and whether or not it would be lucrative for him to buy one (Although, I still question to this day why Bob was interested in purchasing a 3D printer when he couldn’t afford the firm’s services). After hours of research, hosting focus groups, distributing surveys, and analyzing results, we came to the conclusion that purchasing a 3D printer wouldn’t be a worthy investment (unless it’s a large manufacturing/engineering company that’s interested). That was two years ago; a lot can happen in two years.
Thanks to Dave Pierson, senior mechanical design engineer for Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) and an expert on additive manufacturing, I was able to sit down with him to discuss the future of 3D printing.
So, you’ve been with MAGNET for almost 23 years. Can you tell me a little about what MAGNET does?
We offer consulting services to companies to help them achieve efficiencies through programs that focus on increasing productivity and process improvement. In turn, these efficiencies improve sales through a variety of new product development and business growth strategies – a great example being additive manufacturing.
How will 3D printing impact manufacturing companies? I know it’s used for rapid prototyping, but do you think companies will incorporate additive manufacturing to create parts used in the final product?
It’s not rapid prototyping anymore. For some companies, it’s not even prototyping. For example, Tesla and BMW already have begun printing parts that will be used in their final product. It’s evolutionary. Pretty soon, you’ll see more and more companies using additive manufacturing to print parts and pieces that will go into their finished product.
Do you see 3D printing as a technology solution or is it becoming more of a business solution?
It’s not necessarily a technology or business solution – it’s a manufacturing solution. We’ve found a way to cut costs and increase efficiencies for companies by implementing additive manufacturing. With one of our most recent successes, we helped a company implement a product that cost $0.09 to make, compared to the $44 they were originally paying.
When will we hear about the next generation of 3D printers? At CES 2017, the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, or do you think earlier?
Not too much at CES 2017. You’ll definitely see something big at AMUG’s (Additive Manufacturing Users Group) Annual Conference, which is in early April 2017. Keep an eye out for something soon. I bet several new printers will roll out within the next six months, if not sooner. HP, for example, came out with a new generation a few months ago and is already in the process of building a better one.
You mentioned in your email that additive manufacturing is “growing at a very crazy rate.” Where do you see it five years from now?
It’s hard to say what the future of 3D printers will be in five years because everything is happening so fast. I couldn’t tell you. As far as the product lifecycle, it’s sitting on the growth stage. This is just the beginning. I spoke at a conference recently, and one of the speakers said there will soon be a generation of humans that will never die because we’ll be able to print body parts – here’s a 3D-printed aorta. Who knows? Maybe that generation will be yours. We haven’t seen anything yet. It’s fascinating.
There you have it. Additive manufacturing can do it all.