Up until about 10 years ago, if you wanted to manufacture a product the process would look something like thisSee an opportunityDesign some sort of solutionSort through hundreds of manufacturers to find one that can produce your part (Generally overseas)Get samples of the PartChange the design over months until the manufacture makes what you are looking forSpend 10,000’s of dollars on the molds.Order 10,000’s of the pieceThe manufacture produces the parts over several months Ship over an ocean to you Store in a warehouse for months or yearsDevelop a marketing plan and start sellingHope they all sell (Generally 10-25% of inventory goes unsold)Once they are sold they all go into the Ocean
And this system has worked. It is why we have cases for our iphones. Why there are more clothes in the world than anyone can deal with. And why about 90-99% of hardware product-based businesses fail in the first 3 years
In order to get rich making stuff you have to already be rich. The barrier to entry in manufacturing has been very high. You have to buy engineering skill, buy the molds, pay for storage of the parts, all before you even sell one. Compare this to what Zuckerberg did with a laptop in a dorm room on a weekend. All he had to invest was his time. Can manufacturing ever be like this? With 3D Printing it already is.
Let’s take a look at manufacturing a part with mass production 3D Printing at Slant 3D (other production 3D Printing companies follow a similar process). See an OpportunityDesign some sort of solution (Or send the sketch to our design team.)Find a manufacturer that can produce 10,000’s of 3D Printed parts. (There are only about 3 that can do it affordably. Slant 3D is the largest 3D Printing Farm in the World)Get samples of the part (Just email over the 3D model and they are made and sent in days)Change the design over days with help from the manufacturer Spend a few hundred dollars on the first run of parts to test the market.Parts are produced in 1-3 weeksParts are made and shipped within the USANever have warehousing because parts can be made at the same rate of demand (You sell 100-100,000 per month we make 100-100,000 per month)Test the market with the first run of parts, then scale up from there with no added cost because a part is not made until it is sold.If the idea fails you only lose 100’s of dollars not 10000’s.
The reason this is all possible is because 3D Printing does not have any tooling. Each part is grown from just the raw material. There are no stamps or significant setup. It is a digital process. All we need to make a part is a 3D model of the part. Basically you go from idea right to production.
Now many people question the scale of 3D Printing. That is, how many parts can it actually produce at a time. That question really depends on the part. But let us us try to break it down a bit.
Hundreds of Automated 3D Printers in Print Farm Beta work 24/7 producing parts
On a cost basis 3D Printing is generally cheaper than injection molding up to about 100,000 pieces
. So if you are making more than that a mold should be considered. If you are making fewer than that 3D Printing is likely the #1 choice.
As far as the ultimate quantity, our Print Farm Beta facility is able to produce between 30-80,000 pieces per week, and that number continues to increase.
Though again this really depends on the part. Print time and complexity can all affect this. A bigger piece is more expensive than a small piece. A Carbon Fiber Nylon piece is more expensive than something made from PLA. And 100,000 pieces will be produced more cheaply per unit than 1000 pieces.
The best way to find out for sure is to get a quote. Quoting is free and you can use the information to compare to other manufacturing options. And your project engineer will work with you get reduce the cost and improve the product.