I mentioned in a previous post about how a 3D printer made a small, obscure part for a friend of mine. Then I said, almost jokingly, how I did notice more and more companies buying 3D printers, and I should do a post about it. Well, here it is.
I want to start by going back a bunch of years, when I was a teenager, at one of my first jobs (a large, stand-alone retail store.) We were one of the first area businesses to invest in a new technology – a “fax machine”. This amazing device allowed printed pages to be transmitted “over the phone”. It was a real timesaver, because calling in an order could take a half hour “ok, send me 9 of item X, 14 of item Y” and so on. The fax allowed you to call the number, and walk away.
I bring up the fax here because it’s a good parallel. It was a piece of equipment that saved time and money, and it was clearly “the future”. Right now, I see that with 3D printers, and as an added bonus, there’s almost no way these machines will be as short-lived as faxes seem to be (they get used less and less every day, it seems.)
So what type of company can benefit from financing a 3D printer? I would say any company that has machines, a maintenance department (even if that department is one person), maybe some vehicles, a few cubes/desks, etc. And how would they benefit? This is where it gets interesting.
See, a 3D printer can make almost anything. Almost any kind of small object can be printed. They can be solid, slightly mechanical, fit together, etc. They can solve all kinds of problems internally. For example, did a small (but key) piece on a 30-year old machine break? And the manufacturer went bye-bye 5 years ago? No problem for a 3D printer.
Some creative thinking can make a 3D printer pay for itself very quickly, especially since they have come down in price exponentially. I’m no futurist, but I can see every business having one in a fairly short time, and even many homes to follow. Case in point: I spent 45 minutes the other day going to the home center for a simple plastic hose washer. I literally spent more in gas than the washer itself cost, not to mention my time. I would have loved to have been able to print one out.
Financing 3D printers makes sense, because they are inherently useful to almost any company. Way more useful today than that quaint-looking fax machine (plus, they are Section 179 eligible!)