As 3D printing becomes more accessible, affordable, and capable of impacting various industries over time, a handful of questions have arose from those trying to better understand exactly what this technology can do for them. Luckily, for those looking to implement 3D printing technology from one of the many accelerators or incubators out there, the France-based online 3D printing service provider Sculpteo might just have the answers you’ve been searching for. As of late, Sculpteo has been more engaged in the 3D printing community than most, they’ve recently started releasing their “State of 3D Printing” industry report, which thus far has detailed the widespread hobbyist market, as well as their survey methodology and sample data.

sculpteo-logoLast week, Sculpteo took a step back to examine 3D printing technology in light of incubators and accelerators. When young startups and companies are planning to get involved with 3D printing, it’s vital that they fully grasp what they’re getting into with additive manufacturing. In order to prepare them to make critical decisions, Sculpteo’s blog writer Arthur Cassaignau recently posed a series of questions that could help lead newly acquainted enthusiasts down the righteous path of 3D printing. The first question is an obvious one, but is extremely important to the decision-making process nonetheless. Have you ever 3D printed something before? It might seem frivolous, but if you’re looking to launch a business involving 3D printing technology, it’s a necessity to have at least experimented with it in some kind of shape or form.

Secondly, it’s also critical that the project is examined through a lens a 3D design. Whether you’re planning on producing the files yourself or outsourcing them, it’s a must to make sure that the 3D file of the product or parts being 3D printed is actually printable. There are a set of rules out there that help optimize 3D files for printing, which can be found on Sculpteo and through other 3D printing service providers. It’s important, especially if you’re experienced with 3D printing, to enlist the help of a professional who is capable of designing your content into a high-quality 3D printable file.

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For those looking to introduce 3D printing into their business model, it’s probably wise to fully immerse into the emerging technology sooner rather than later. As 3D printing slowly shifts from prototyping to production capabilities, a large number of 3D printing services and different technologies have arisen out of the blue. Cassaignau suggests gaining some hands-on experience with the wide-range of 3D printing technologies that are currently available, from desktop 3D printers to the more advanced industrial-grade machines. This knowledge can be acquired by visiting a maker space or 3D printing service bureau, which can help bring clarity to the five key factors of the 3D printing project:

  • The time it takes to 3D print a product vs. a large amount of goods
  • The quality of the 3D prints you should aim for
  • The price of your 3D printed parts
  • The failure rate during production depending on the technology
  • The different materials you can use

sculpOnce these factors are sorted out, it’s much easier to decide on which 3D printing process is the best option for you 3D printing project. It’s important not to rely on the incubator or accelerator to make these decisions for you, as no one knows exactly what you want out your project quite like you do. Still, it’s a wise move to discuss the different technologies with a 3D printing service bureau that offers a wide-range of 3D printing technology, such as Sculpteo or Shapeways. After the knowledge behind additive manufacturing is grasped, the next step is to see where 3D printing is advantageous for your project. According to Cassaignau, the four areas that 3D printing technology is best used for is in complex geometries, mass customization, integrated assembly, and engineering redesign.

Finally, Cassaignau suggests that you research other means of manufacturing as well, for sometimes 3D printing—as much admiration as we may have for it—is not always the best route to take. In order to further assist with this manufacturing choice, you should research other 3D printed projects that are similar to yours or reflect what you’re attempting to accomplish. By doing this, you can see exactly what will you need in order to bring this project to life, whether that be an accompanying software, additional 3D content, or other internal resources that can make or break a startup. By performing intensive research before diving into the vast world of 3D printing, you can avoid mistakes, unnecessary spending, and most importantly, creating a product that doesn’t live up to your standards. Is there anything you would add to Sculpteo’s guidelines? Discuss in the Sculpteo 3D Printing Guidelines forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Sculpteo]
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