Have you heard that we’ve got a 3D printer here at SiGNAL in Bordon, available to hire and use for business purposes? Already we’ve had plenty of interest in it, lots of local business people want to explore the technology and see what it’s all about. But one common question we get asked is, “what can I use it for?”

Recently we hosted a workshop to learn more about 3D printing. Our resident 3D expert, Ian Hiscocks, gave local makers and foodies an introduction to the technology and a chance to explore how they could use 3D printing in their business. Many attendees came away buzzing with ideas, including Think Scalextric a local business that put on Scalextric events. They’ve been asked to build a bespoke Scalextric track for a client and need to design unique components for this track. 3D printing will allow them to create these bespoke elements inexpensively, without having to employ the services of a model maker. For Think Scalextric 3D printing offers them the opportunity to increase the amount of bespoke commissions they take, and either increase their margins or pass on savings to clients!

So what can you use 3D printing for? Here are just some of the ways it can benefit your small business:

  1. Makes prototyping accessible

For many small businesses, especially start ups, prototyping an idea is not straightforward. Traditionally it would involve hiring the services of a prototype developer or engineer, or a skilled machinist. At this point your business begins to incur costs, which can be considerable if the design is complex. It can also take time and so the whole process of getting your product to market is slowed down from the start.

3D printing allows you to take control of the prototyping stage and potentially have a prototype within just a few hours. In fact you could design and create a product, photograph it and upload details to a marketplace like Etsy.com in 24 hrs. Costs are minimal compared to using professional services.

  1. Test new ideas quickly

Generally a prototype gets revised several times before your product is ready to be mass-produced. That means more time and money spent making changes, getting feedback, and making further adjustments. 3D printing speeds up this process considerably, while keeping costs low. It also allows you to develop a tangible prototype earlier in the design phase. Having something you can touch and interact with is invaluable for refining your design and addressing any issues before you’ve invested significantly in it.

  1. It’s not just for prototypes!

There are numerous products that can be created using 3D printing. You can test your ideas and then go straight to manufacturing it in one place. There are also a number of different materials you can print using a 3D printer (with the right technology) including nylon, ABS, resin, stainless steel, ceramic, gypsum and even gold and silver.

  1. Your can customise your offering

Offering bespoke, customised products can give your business a competitive edge, but for many makers one off customisations are too expensive to offer. 3D printing gets around this problem and allows you to differentiate your offer. Customised products can be sold at a premium price, whilst remaining affordable for both customer and producer.

  1. Business promotion

3D printing is not just for product development you can also use for marketing and promotional activities. How about printing a 3D business card or branded items for trade fairs and events? We’ve printed a coffee stencil with our logo, so visitors to SiGNAL can have their barista coffees sprinkled with ‘SiGNAL’ in chocolate powder!

You could also use 3D printing to get engagement with your customers, such as releasing an open source 3D file for a product and running a competition for the best modification.

3D printing has great potential for small businesses. Ultimately it can help you get products to market faster, reducing costs as well as time, but it also presents lots of opportunities for having fun with your brand and engaging your customers with this technology.

If you would like to find out more about 3D printing and how you can use our 3D Tech Zone at SiGNAL, please get in touch.

3d printing, innovation, tech room