Why in-house production is the best option
The benefits of 3D printing and rapid prototyping are numerous and well recognised. Whether it’s design validation, functional testing or faster launch of new products, executives seldom need to be to be convinced of the benefits.
Still, many businesses continue to outsource 3D printing because they believe ownership is cost prohibitive. What many companies don’t realise is that 3D printing has advanced dramatically; the availability of a new breed of high-quality 3D printers at affordable prices now discredits the argument that they are too costly.
What’s more, the lower upfront costs of 3D printers represent just the tip of the tangible benefits. The six key advantages an in-house 3D printer are lower costs; accelerated time to market; competitive advantage; fewer manufacturing errors; greater confidentiality; and improved model accuracy and quality.
An outsourced prototype can cost from several hundred dollars for a simple design to thousands of dollars for a more complex model – as much as three to five times that of a part printed inhouse.
Creating the same prototype on an in-house 3D printer brings a significant cost saving, even if your company prints only two models a month on average. These savings are augmented by designers and developers not having to wait for prototypes to return, time to market savings, and savings on reduced manufacturing errors due to the ability to print many prototypes.
One Fused Deposition Modelling customer Akaishi, estimates it reduced costs by 73 percent with in-house prototyping versus the traditional outsourcing method.
Turnaround time with outsourcing rarely takes the perceived two to three days to get models back. In fact, it normally takes around a week or longer. Most delays take place before a model order is placed, in large part because of the prohibitive cost of outsourced prototyping.
For example, a company might not order a model until the design is advanced enough that the company feels it’s worth spending the money. Including internal design review meetings, order placement, approval processes and other procedures, the total design delay time can be five or 10 times the actual turnaround time when outsourcing. And in many cases, this process may be repeated two or three times before a product design is finalized for production.
Delayed time to market is not the only cost, even though some things can be done in parallel, a significant amount of time is spent waiting for models to return from an outsource provider. In comparison, an in-house 3D printer produces a prototype within hours, rather than days, printing during the night or over the weekend can also save time.
This can shave weeks off the development cycle and dramatically accelerate time to market for new products and new features for existing products.
Additionally, because development continues while a design is at the outsource provider and after the model comes back, designers are often caught in a development time lag with prototypes that are already obsolete.
The ability to quickly print 3D models in just hours means decisions can be based on accurate prototypes and data. In a survey of more than 1,000 Stratasys 3D printer owners, almost one third reported experiencing a 25 percent or higher improvement in product launch times.
More than half of respondents reported a product launch time improvement of at least 10 percent or more.
Many factors can slow down the introduction of new products during the product development lifecycle – everything from choice of tools to time spent waiting for prototypes to arrive from an outsource vendor.
Early-stage and frequent prototyping leads to more effective product launches, enabling a company to introduce new innovations to market ahead of their competitors. If a picture speaks a thousand words, how many thousands does a lifelike 3D replica speak?
Designers can quickly visualise all their product ideas by avoiding lengthy processes, budgetary decisions and approvals for outsourcing.
Innovative design ideas can be effectively communicated with 3D models, ensuring that great ideas are not overlooked because team members and managers didn’t understand the designer’s explanation.
The same visual power of an accurate 3D model can turn ideas into winners in front of customers. The ability to quickly print physical models that customers can see, touch and play with is instrumental in winning bids or gaining approval to proceed with jobs.
Prototyping reduces manufacturing costs by fine-tuning designs before moulds and die casts are made. When prototyping is readily available, and can be done inexpensively in multiple iterations, the potential for design errors is significantly reduced.
Designers can test out different ideas to find the optimal design, using small variations on the model to check for functionality. In a recent survey of over 1,000 Stratasys 3D Printer owners, almost one-third of respondents were able to reduce iterations by 25 percent or more by having a 3D printer in-house. More than half of the respondents reported a reduction of up to 10 percent thanks to their in-house 3D printer.
In today’s competitive market, a leaked design may spell disaster, making it imperative to ensure confidentiality. Keeping rapid prototyping in-house with a 3D printer eliminates the need to transmit design files to any external network. It ensures that designs never leave company premises, safeguarding intellectual property.
Keep design and prototyping in-house and avoid the risk of having your ideas stolen.