A 3D printer means turning a morning's idea into that evening's physical prototype – or a fun key chain with your business' logo on it.
One technology that insists the future is here now is 3D printing. If you have the design know-how, a 3D printer and materials, your imagination is the only limit to your creations. Whether you create designs for others, print prototypes or manufacture actual pieces, you can turn your 3D printer into a profit-making machine for your business.
A CAD Comeback
In the early '80s, AutoCAD was released for the IBM personal computer. Designers and engineers could use the computer-aided design program to draw blueprints for two- and three-dimensional models. This digital drafting tool was a game changer back then and it became standard for many users. Although AutoCAD and other similar programs, such as Vectorworks, TurboCAD and SketchUp, were never really out of vogue, design hit a lull. The excitement around design is back now that 3D printing is accessible.
Whether you have experience or not, you can get started with Tinkercad, a free CAD tool that offers tutorials on design. Before long, you could be creating designs of your own that you can sell, or you can sell the 3D-printed result. If you're unsure of what to design first, you can check out thingiverse.com where you can browse (and download and print) tens of thousands of designs.
Your Vision in Your Hand
If you've ever thought that your idea could revolutionize the way people live but you weren't sure how to go about getting a prototype of your invention, 3D printing is your solution. Once you've created the prototype of your product, you can decide whether it's worth manufacturing.
3D Printing Services
If you leverage it properly, you can make your 3D printer work for you. You can sell 3D printing services locally. Even if you're just providing the service to print desk toys, you could make a small supplemental income with your 3D printer.
Creative marketing is often appreciated by the public. Promoting your business through traditional methods works, but when you come up with something a bit more creative, it sticks with your audience. You can try printing 3D business cards or custom items that represent your business. A great place to hand these out are conventions that focus on your industry. You'll get even more points from customers if you make items that can be useful, such as a custom-made keychain that doubles as a smartphone stand.
Whether you're in charge of the fun club at your office or you're in human resources and looking for a way to engage employees in activities, a 3D printer can be handy. You can create custom trophies for the winners of the company-wide salsa contest, or toys as prizes. You could even offer the use of the 3D printer to your employees as a perk.
Whatever your idea is, a 3D printer can help make it a reality. The cost of 3D printers is falling drastically, which makes them more accessible than ever. For less than $1,000, you can get started printing gadgets, parts, prototypes, business cards and desk toys.
Photo credit: Skoropadska Maruna