Steps to Get Started with 3D Printing

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Thinking of implementing some 3D printing in your business processes? 3D printing for small businesses is a great way to obtain physical replications of your prototypes, create promotional material, and so much more. The industry is still fairly new, but the possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

For example, architects can use 3D printing for client pitches and clearing the line of communication between clients and contractors. Contractors themselves can use 3D printing to produce higher priced objects in low volume and create replications of certain parts to keep on file. Engineers will be able to test new product concepts faster and cheaper than ever before.

No matter what industry you work in, here are the steps to get started with 3D printing:

Find a 3D Printing Firm

You have many options when it comes to 3D printing firms and it all comes down to your product and how much you need. If you require a large number of complicated items, seeking out a larger firm makes sense. Smaller orders can be fulfilled by more retail-oriented 3D printing companies including Shapeways, and UPS is starting to offer onsite 3D printing as well. UPS is the first nationwide retailer to offer 3D printing services in-store.

Design Your Part

You can find a variety of 3D printing software online to help you create the design yourself. If you plan on using 3D printing more and more in the future, purchasing and learning the software is a wise move to make. If you are creating something intricate, such as a mechanical part, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional designer to ensure perfection. Accuracy is crucial to mechanical components, but building promotional materials may be something you can manage on your own.

Choose a Material

No matter what level of strength and flash you are trying to achieve, there is a 3D printing material out there for you. Here is a list of materials on the market right now:

  • Plastic
  • Detail Plastic
  • Frosted Detail Plastic
  • Elasto Plastic
  • Ceramics
  • Color Sandstone
  • Wax
  • Alumide
  • Brass
  • Stainless Steel
  • Sterling Silver
  • Titanium

Order Your Part

If you have already designed the part(s) you need, all of the premier 3D printing companies allow you to simply upload your files to their server. At this point they will ask you what materials you want and the quantity for each model. Keep in mind that while simple objects may only take a matter of hours to print, complex objects can take up to 24 hours. You will find the majority of 3D printing firms eager to help and enthusiastic about their new and emerging market of commerce.


About the author:

Steve Erickson, Vice President, Sales & Engineering, brings more than 30 years of experience in the plastic injection molding industry to First American Plastic Molding Enterprise and Quad, Inc. (, both in South Beloit, IL. First American Plastic Molding Enterprise is a custom plastic injection molding manufacturer and assembler for the automotive, food, medical, and industrial markets.

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