Want to get ahead in business? Get a 3D printer

Want to get ahead in business? Get a 3D printer

Summary: Businesses that start experimenting with 3D printers now could gain an advantage over competitors, says Gartner.

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Businesses willing to experiment with 3D printing technology stand to gain an advantage over their competitors.

3D printers are used to create objects by adding materials layer by layer in a process that is referred to as 'additive manufacturing'.

Businesses should begin experimenting with 3D printing technology in order to improve product design and prototyping, according to a report by analyst house Gartner released this month.

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"You can conceivably create a design in the morning using CAD (computer-aided design) software and then in the afternoon have a physical three dimensional representation of that," Gartner analyst Pete Basiliere, who authored the report, told ZDNet on Tuesday.

Basiliere said there are two ways in which businesses can use 3D printing to produce everything from building development models to finished mobile phone cases.

The first is to create a CAD file at the office and send it to a third-party 3D printing service that manufactures products on behalf of other businesses.

The other is to buy a 3D printer from manufacturers like 3D Systems, Makerbot and Stratasys, which sell a range of printer technologies and materials. Basiliere said businesses should choose a model that comes with a build size and materials that suit the company's needs.

"In both cases, the enterprise needs to have someone who knows how to use (or can learn) CAD software," added Basiliere. 

Early adopters of enterprise-class 3D printers, which start from $2,500, can experiment without expending large amounts of time and capital, according to the report.

The report claims that that 3D printers suitable for the enterprise will continue to fall in price and be available for less than $2,000 (£1,315) by 2016, resulting in them moving from niche adoption to broad acceptance. "We'll continue to see growth driven by the hype on the consumer side being applied to the very practical opportunities that exist today in the enterprise," said Basiliere.

3D printing has been used for over 20 years in industries such as automotive, medical and the military, according to Basiliere. More recently, Nokia released a 3D print kit to make cases for its Lumia 820 phone, while the European Space Agency is considering whether it is feasible to build a moonbase from lunar materials with a 3D printer.

While 3D printers are being used to produce a variety of useful and innovative products, Basiliere warned that they can also be used to make fake or banned products - including gun parts.

The technology can also be used to make sex toys out of a number of materials that are not traditionally used for this purpose.

Topics: Printers, Emerging Tech

Sam Shead

About Sam Shead

Sam is generally at his happiest with a new piece of technology in his hands or nailing down an exclusive story. In the past he's written for The Engineer and the Daily Mail. These days, Sam is particularly interested in emerging technology, datacentres, cloud, storage and web start-ups.

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5 comments
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  • No kidding!

    I think a bunch of us missed our calling. Gartner really went out on a limb, here. They must have one of those *real* crystal balls!

    Getting paid for stating the obvious seems to be a lucrative business.
    Lucky2BHere
  • Bias much?

    Why was this line phrased this way?
    "While 3D printers are being used to produce a variety of useful and innovative products, Basiliere warned that they can also be used to make fake or banned products - including gun parts."

    To my knowledge, the Clinton unConstitutional "assault weapons ban" expired some time ago, and has not been replaced.

    Yes, they can be used to make fake or banned products... like what... other than perfectly legal and Constitutionally protected firearms parts?

    I'm *really* starting to dislike ZDNet
    hiraghm@...
    • I Always think

      it must be difficult being the sort of libertarian who believes in gun rights above all else, but who REALLY hates all the potential terrorists out there, and thus faces the dilemma of deciding whether or not something like this is good.

      BTW, where's the bias? That was a statement of fact. It wasn't explicitly mentioned if this is a good or bad thing, and I suppose some people reading that sentence will be creaming their panties in delight over the possibility it offers. Perhaps future reporters should first vet with you what aspects of a new technology meet your standards of political correctness and which must be censored from public knowledge.
      hmmm,
    • Re: Bias much?

      >> Yes, they can be used to make fake or banned products... like what... other than perfectly legal and Constitutionally protected firearms parts?

      There are lot of places around the world where guns are banned.
      mKind
  • re: banned products

    the article was qouting Gartner, so not nessarily opinion od ZDNet. And of course, there are a lot of places in the world not covered by our second amendment.
    Old Dog V