3D printers are being used by innovators to produce a variety of products in the wine making industry. The wine related sector in the United States is a large industry; the Napa Valley, California area alone generates over $2 billion in sales around wine making. Wine product designers and manufacturers use additive manufacturing to produce prototypes, aerators, wine racks, corks, wine skins, bottles, glasses, ice buckets and more. Some researchers even use Carbon 3D printing technology to improve wine testing. Professor Vladimir Jiranek and Dr. Tommaso Watson, two researchers at the University of Adelaide, recently used 3D printers to create an airlock device that took less than a week to produce and saved over 60% on manufacturing costs. When innovators use 3D printers to manufacture items in the wine industry such as these they may be eligible for Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credits which are available to stimulate innovation.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Wine racks are one of the most commonly 3D printed items in the wine industry. While many wine collectors enjoy the hobby for drinking and tasting purposes, much satisfaction is also found in storing and displaying wines. In addition, many wine collectors are often very particular and demand precise or unique racks for storing their wine collections. The benefit with 3D printed wine racks is that they can be tailored to individual preferences and designed to hold bottles according to their precise dimensions. A single rack can easily be designed to display bottles of varying shapes and sizes. Innovators can experiment with different structures, mix and match frame material and color and change the frame and base of designs to their individual liking.
While humanity has been forming, blowing and molding glass objects for more than 4,500 years, researchers have recently unveiled the ability to 3D print glass objects including wine bottles. 3D printers can heat, cool and extrude glass objects at extreme temperatures, as liquid is extruded from a 3-D printing nozzle. This method allows customers to hold prototype bottles in their hands before they decide whether or not they want to use the prospective bottle for their wine product. For top shelf producers whose products often start at thousands of dollars per bottle, this concept can be extremely useful. For wine makers who manufacture limited production runs, the benefit is compounded because producers can avoid the large cost outlay for a blow molding machine.
Besides wine racks and bottles, there is a wide assortment of other products in the wine industry that can be 3D printed. This includes cases, wine glass holders which come in various shapes, sizes and dimensions, wine bottle corks, carousels, wine tilts that hold bottles at a perfect 45-degree angle for aeration, packaging components, stoppers and tools that can be used in vineyards and wine cellars. Etsy, the homemade e-commerce arts and crafts supplier, features hundreds of these products for sale on their website. Florida-based Ottermatics Design and Engineering designed and 3D printed numerous wine aerator products. ImagiGadget CEO Michael Aylesworth designed and 3D printed a product called Wave Hooks, 3D printed plastic wine glass holders that are used by wine drinkers to hold their glasses when taking a shower or bath.
Another commonly 3D printed wine product, corks are ideal for 3D printers. Corks and bottle stoppers are sometimes designed based on pre-determined bottle shapes. If production runs are small it doesn’t make sense to use traditional manufacturing methods which often require large capital outlays for production equipment. With 3D printers, as little as one or two corks can be printed economically, whereas, with traditional manufacturing methods, production does not become profitable unless large production runs are manufactured. Personalized bottle stoppers can also be easily produced with creative shapes and designs for special events. ZMorph, a multi-tool 3D printing company, recently printed wine plugs with Star Wars figure heads in order to grab attention and highlight what their new 3D printer is capable of offering. The company will soon be releasing source files for download so users can easily print their own corks. This capability eliminates shipping and logistics costs, just one more of the many benefits offered by 3D printing technology.
3D printers can now be used to print a variety of wine industry products, including wine racks, bottles and a wide assortment of various accessories. When the 3D print method is used, innovators may be eligible for R&D Tax Credits which are available to stimulate innovation.
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Charles R. Goulding and Michael Wilshere of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing and the wine industry.
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