3D printing has very quickly become an integral part of many major companies. It can prove to be extremely useful especially when it comes to producing prototypes, validating designs and performing functional tests. Stakeholders can be easily given an understanding of the concept by letting them interact with 3d printed prototypes. Meanwhile, 3D printing can also be used by various industries for end-use applications and bringing new products to market. The most important question for companies considering 3D printing as a solution today is whether they should outsource their projects to a professional 3D printing service bureau or get an in-house 3D printer.
Purchasing a 3D Printer is a Significant Investment
The thing is, a 3D printer is not like a 2D printer that you can just buy and start printing. In addition to its hefty price tag, it comes with prerequisites like trained staff and the ability to make on-site repairs independently. 3D printing repair services are still very uncommon and local support is nonexistent in most areas.
If you only need a few 3D printed parts per month and you require frequent customizations in your designs, then integrating an in-house 3d printing service would be very costly. There is always a certain amount of uncertainty about in-house manufactured prototypes and their functionality. Inexperience quickly leads to wasted material and printing time, negatively impacting the ROI on a newly purchased 3D printer. Even the engineering teams of large enterprises do not always have the budget or proper industry expertise to invest in expensive equipment and training of the operating personnel. The operations and maintenance of 3D printers is a time consuming effort that requires industry specific systems and materials knowledge.
Local vs. Online 3D Printing Services
Outsourcing to a 3D printing service bureau comes as a viable solution to the above-mentioned problems. It means no heavy initial investments in machinery or training and gives you access to the right level of industry expertise. These dedicated 3D printing service companies enhance their production equipment regularly, maintaining versatile and bleeding edge printing options. These enhancements would likely be prohibitive to maintain in-house if your sole business was not 3D printing as a service. Local 3D printing service bureaus are typically best for prototyping and validation while online 3D printing services provide better economies of scale for larger production runs.
Let us look at some of the advantages that outsourcing your 3d printing needs have over in-house production.
Advantages of Outsourcing
As mentioned earlier, outsourcing to a local 3D printing service is one of the most viable options for exceptional quality, low quantities, and high complexity. Large format 3D prints, large quantity orders or parts that require non-standard materials can be easily printed by large online 3D printing service bureaus. Using 3rd party service bureaus is also useful for finalized products that require unusual materials and remarkable finishes. Many of these advanced techniques require significant levels of expertise and years of experience to master.
You will get an expert working on your project so you can rest assured that your product is in safe hands. This means increasing focus on your core business as opposed to learning 3D printing operations and maintaining complex equipment. Moreover, you don’t have to make long-term commitments, hire employees, provide training or make a high initial investment on machine purchasing.
Outsourcing to a 3D Printing Service Bureau Means:
- Several technologies are available to choose from and make use of, such as FFF, SLA, MJF, DMLS and SLS.
- Access to more materials which are hard to arrange in-house, providing you with remarkable flexibility and versatility.
- Experts with better knowledge of materials; how to use them and their limitations.
- No-long term commitment required. Pay per part or project.
- No initial investment required.
- Manufacture larger parts easily.
- A number of projects can be submitted simultaneously as service bureaus will have multiple machines available.
We could talk about some of the cons of outsourcing such as potentially higher cost per part and slower delivery times, but for most situations and applications, outsourcing is simply the most cost-effective and only profitable solution. Furthermore, we are working hard to eliminate these potential cons at SD3D. We do this primarily by integrating cutting edge automation and industrial IoT into every aspect of our workflow. This has allowed us to ensure that our pricing models meet or beat the costs to produce most projects in-house. We also now offer 24/7 on-site pickup for our local clients. This speeds up rapid prototyping projects by eliminating shipping times entirely. Furthermore, with 24/7 on site pickup your 3D printed parts are (nearly) as accessible as they would be if they were printed in house.