3D Printing

3 Steps to Embracing 3D Printing

Do you know how easy it could be to help your shop floor embrace 3D printing

Writing seems to be on the wall. Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing as popularly known, is here to change the face of manufacturing. I have several clients who have been grappling with the idea of bringing 3D printing into their environment. How, what, when, are all legitimate questions.

I generally recommend these 3 steps:

STEP 1 – Start with a toy printer on the floor, label “Free to Play”

Buy an inexpensive plastic 3D printer from local store and place it in your cafeteria or other common area. Label it “Free to play outside working hours.” Very soon, you will find your staff using it to make toys for their kids, and then repair parts for their home appliances and other small stuff for themselves. Please let them… they are self-training at the of cost of consumables.

As an example: you can have 9”x6”x5” capability from Dremel at less than $1,000 at Home depot; or a fancier one Ultimaker to build 20”x13”x27” available at dynamism.com for about $5K.

STEP 2 – Start using it on secondary applications – equipment repair, facility fixtures, tooling, etc.

Very soon a few of your employees will get into using the same toy printer for facility or equipment repair at your own shop and then even making tools, dies, fixtures, artifacts for trade shows, ….. Value added stuff while still learning. Then you all will move on to samples, demo pieces, and even prototypes to accompany your proposals.

You will soon reach a point, when your staff will start asking what next and when. They are trained, and ready to embrace the real stuff.

STEP 3 – Buy the real machine your business needs

While the employees are self-learning, leadership better get busy evaluating new markets, new machines and opportunities. With proper business case, make the serious investment required, to embark on the new wave.

Word of caution is that metal printers are very different than plastic ones. My suggestion here is aimed to overcome organizational inertia and fear. The staff would need full training on the machine you choose to buy.

SELF Discovery Question and improvement opportunity

If for less than $5,000 you can influence the mindset of your manufacturing staff and mentally prepare them for new technology, what is holding you back?

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