Calling all Leaders! What’s the real value of 3D Printing?

Like most people, you’re probably hearing more on the topic of additive manufacturing (or 3D printing).  Perhaps even you’ve had someone come up from the Engineering or your Innovation departments and provide a soundbite on how cool 3D printing is and how much it will cost to buy one.  As a business Leader you’ve likely taken a pass.  Why?  Well I speculate the reason is because nobody so far has articulated the real value to embracing 3D printing.

Over the years I have sat in on countless conversations with companies exploring such equipment.  Prospective buyers have Engineers and Purchasing mulling over spec sheets of build sizes, material capabilities, software, prices and countless comparative data points that feel equally constructive as me helping my Daughter decipher 4th grade common core.  To no fault of the Engineers and Purchasing with the flurry of information and opinions on additive out there but we have lost view of the big picture and have made what should be a fairly elementary decision into rocket science.  It’s my intent here to help clear the fog for Leadership and focus our attention to why this technology can be truly beneficial to your business.

Stephen Covey famously said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing”.  Now he was using this in the context of priority management and keeping central what’s important in your personal and professional pursuits.  However, the same thing could be said for your business.  My question to you is “what is your main thing?”  Is it to be more competitive than your industry peers or international competitors?  Is it to launch products faster into the market of higher quality and more variation?  A priority to increase profitability by lowering your design and manufacturing costs for your company?  Maybe protect your intellectual property from the growing threats of piracy?  Perhaps you’re in the medical profession and the capability to provide care for your patients for less money and better procedure outcomes is central for you.  What I can tell you unequivocally is 3D printing is one of those rare technologies in our lives available that can do all those things and more! 

To protect the names of the innocent, I’ll refrain from sharing Company names but I’ll share some quick stories of real customers that embraced 3D printing and the real value derived.

Saving Lives – in 2015 one of our customers was able to use their printer to create an exact replica of a patient’s heart using the MRI data.  With this model, doctors were able to better plan the pending surgery increasing confidence in what they’d see which resulted in shorter surgery time that lowered cost and better patient outcome minimizing potential complications and need for excessive follow-up care. 

Mitigating Costly Mistakes –  Last year we were on a sales call and as a complimentary service, we had 3D printed a part they had intended to bring to market.  In fact, they had already ordered and were awaiting the tooling necessary to begin high volume production.  During the meeting and Engineer barked up emphatically claiming, “it’s wrong… the design is wrong!”   In a matter of minutes, they recognized they had a design flaw thanks to looking at the prototype and were quickly able to cancel their tooling order to make the necessary design changes.  A low cost printed part saved them tens of thousands of dollars in flawed tooling and perhaps months in getting to market.


The American Dream – 4 years ago a couple of young and eager men scrounged up as much money as they could to buy 2 small commercial grade printers to start a 3D part build service.  Their vision was to become a fully staffed, reputable company that provided complex and high quality solutions to Aerospace, Military, Auto and Medical community.  As of 2017, those two young men now have millions of dollars in quality equipment that will be used to address the growing additive needs in North America.  Their pursuit of the American Dream is going to benefit countless businesses and innovators.

My Father shared with me as a young man that he hoped his legacy in this world would be to make a difference.  I’m proud to have landed in an industry where the output of the technology does exactly that… makes a real difference with people’s lives, with product quality, with the health of businesses and undoubtedly fuels innovation.

So, to the Leaders reading this message, before your teams start getting caught up in the 39 million bits and bytes of information available on Google about 3D printing, get clear on what the real value is in exploring this technology.  Understand what the main thing is for your business and hopefully you have a competent 3D printing advisor that can help you connect those priorities to the capabilities of additive.  Without question, this technology is here to stay and will be a growing contributor of our Automotive, Aerospace, Consumer and Medical industries.

Yours in Success,

       – Nate

For an AMA (Additive Manufacturing Assessment), click this link

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