3D printer: http://ces.cnet.com/8301-34445_1-57563395/still-emerging-for-now-the-3d-printers-of-ces-2013/ (Credit Rich Brown of CNET)


The 3D printer is in every business, tech, and entrepreneur magazine this year. This isn’t your regular ink-jet operation. 3D printers can build actual three dimensional objects right before your very eyes. Currently there are three main types of 3D printers available for purchase:

1.        Fused deposition modeling printers build objects by pushing out a selected material which it molds in layers until it’s the desired shape is formed.

2.        Selective laser sintering (SLS) uses a high-powered laser to cut and shape the object you desire starting out with a chunk of resin material.

3.        And last but not least. There’s the stereolithography printer which works very similar to the SLS except it uses liquid resin as its starting material rather than a solid.

Just the fact there are multiple 3D printer options for people in the market just goes to show this industry is wide open and about to explode. The 3D printer is an innovation on par with the copying machine, the actual printer, desktops even – and most of those didn’t come to market with three or more product types for you to choose from.

Who uses 3D Printers?

Small businesses appear to be the main segment getting excited about 3D printers. It’s the perfect product for them. It’s hard for small businesses to have the capital and time required to travel to other countries where manufacturing is rampant, make contacts, and find a manufacturer willing to just build a few little Prototypes/iPhone cases just to see how it goes.

With a 3D printer, small businesses interested in making tangible goods can finally make their own small batches right in their very own office. This flexibility allows people to run through the plan, build, test, evaluate cycle several times before really pumping money into a product.

Current studies show 50-85% of small businesses fail in the first two years (the numbers vary widely but the moral of the story doesn’t: the statistics aren’t in your favor if you’re starting a small business) but the 3D printer could turn this around for businesses selling goods.

Right now, companies around the world are already seeing the value of a 3D printer. Products made with 3D printers include:

• iPhone Cases
• Invisible braces for humans
• Toys
• Dinosaur bone replicas
• And more

The options are unlimited for creative minds.

Cost of Entry

3D printers don’t come cheap, but they are definitely getting cheaper by the year. A few years ago, a 3D printer cost US$60,000 or more, today prices for cheaper models has fallen to US$10,000. It’s a high cost, but not compared to the cost of having something manufactured in China.

The 3D printer industry is currently worth US$1.7 billion and is predicted to be at US$3.7 billion in two years.

One of the latest stories to hit the newsstand is about an architect, Janjaap Ruijssenaars – he’s Dutch – who is planning a two story building completely from a 3D printer. Today the 3D printer is making iPhone cases; tomorrow it could be building your vacation home.

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