Small business owners and 3D printers have the potential to be a perfect couple. Like any strong relationship, both parties are continuously making efforts to adapt and make things work independently, while collaborating could be extremely beneficial for both ends. As the 3D printing industry has made waves in 2014, with shipments of 3D printers projected to double next year, small business owners are constantly adjusting to finding ways to improve and grow. When it comes to 3D printing, the possibilities are limitless – we are truly on the cusp of an industrial revolution which holds great potential for small businesses. At this stage in the game, the question should shift from if small businesses should take advantage of the growing 3D printing industry to how they can effectively do so. With that, we offer two recent moves in the 3D printing space that highlight how small companies can leverage the technology to help their business in the near future:
Last month, in efforts to make 3D printing accessible to start-ups and small business owners, UPS announced it was expanding 3D printing services to nearly 100 locations across the United States following a recent poll that small business owners expressed a high interest in trying the services. According to Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and sales at The UPS Store, the company is “committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all of their business needs.” As 3D printers continue to become more accessible, more small business owners will have the ability to turn their creative ideas into reality, manufacturing all of their product needs – from basic blueprints to user-ready products – in-house. UPS is just one example of a company helping small business owners and entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life, limiting the turnaround time to produce objects in a cost-effective way without having to outsource.
Earlier this year, Staples launched a 3D printing pilot program aimed at small businesses and consumers. For small business owners interested in exploring 3D printing but not ready to invest in their own printer, Staples allows them to bring their files to print at stores. Similar to the UPS services, entrepreneurs are able to quickly and efficiently test creative ideas and produce prototypes, giving them access to go directly from design concepts to manufacturing their product in a few clicks.
If anything, the recent news from UPS and Staples exemplifies the opportunities at hand for small businesses and 3D printing. With the 3D printing industry predicted to reach $10.8 billion by 2021, the opportunities for small businesses to take advantage of 3D printers continue to present themselves. Especially now that small businesses and even consumers can try out 3D printing at locations across the US, including many Radio Shack locations. The message for entrepreneurs of all sizes – if you’re searching for new ways to manufacture, create and drive growth, 3D printing holds the key.
Chris Elsworthy is the CEO of Robox, a British Based 3D Printer company. Chris is a Design Engineer and a family man, best known for pitching CEL in BBC Dragon's Den.