R&D Tax Credit Aspects of 3D Printing Lighting Products

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The lighting industry is using LED technology to completely change its product offerings. 3D printing enables lighting manufacturers and lighting designers to achieve product innovation, process innovation and improved inventory management.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent 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.

How 3D Printing Can Transform Modern Lighting

Lighting product options are currently limited to what can be manufactured by the machinery used to create them. 3D printing, however, allows the input of designs and materials that could never have been utilized with the equipment currently used by lighting manufacturers.

Custom Lighting Design and Manufacturing

Shapeways, a 3D printing service and marketplace, allows people to develop and purchase 3D printed products, including lighting accessories. On their website, customers can print a custom 3D printed product just by uploading a 3D file or engaging a designer to bring an idea to life. Consumers can create lighting made from over 50 different materials to fit any room within their house and even design an accent piece that can illuminate a space.

3D Printed Lamp Shades Inspired by Everyday Life

Canadian industrial designer Samuel N. Bernier designed and engineered a lamp shade inspired by the Eiffel Tower. The M&O Paris Lamp is a part of a collection of other 3D printed clocks, lamps and containers based off art in France, Miami and Singapore.

La Citrouille d’Omar, also known as the Pumpkin Lamp for its shape, can be displayed to make an illuminated pumpkin patch and add a little spirit during the Halloween season.

PwC Belgium and Philips Lighting

In the beginning of 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Belgium released findings from an investigation they conducted on how 3D printing could benefit Philips Lighting. Researchers were able to determine that 3D printing could completely transform the company’s spare parts supply chain.

Philips’ factory in Turnhout, Belgium is required to maintain a portfolio of at least 4,600 stock keeping units (SKUs) in order to remain operational. This means that 5% of the firm’s annual revenue is going toward inventory of spare parts with a maintenance and repair budget of 3%. The inventory for spare parts for both the company’s products and machinery are costly and eventually become obsolete when the products become discontinued and the equipment is replaced with newer technology.

PwC recommended the use of 3D printing for the spare parts instead of keeping an inventory on-hand because 3D printing allows for print-on-demand. The only stock required would be a digital stock of products that can be printed when needed. The 3D printed products not only allow for cost efficiency and the use of less material but they allow for more designs to be produced as well. All that is needed is the digital CAD file for a product and some raw materials along with the 3D printer to be able to develop almost anything.

Whether the design is complex or simple, the price to produce it through 3D printing is the same. A product can be made with a combination of different materials all throughout the piece while remaining as one, single object. This allows for fewer mistakes as there is less assembly and labor required to manufacture the product.

The machinery used to manufacture lighting fixtures could also become more efficient from 3D printing technology. Machine parts are kept in inventory stock in case the equipment breaks and needs to be repaired quickly. Benefits of 3D printing a missing or broken piece are the reduction of consumed space and expenses of holding pieces in inventory, as well as having the appliances ready to be used again in the same, or less, amount of time that it would take to retrieve them from a warehouse. Operating 3D printing technology also requires less skill than conventional equipment used in the manufacturing process, allowing more people to be capable of getting the job done.

3D Printed Head and Tail Lights

Maxxima, a division of Panor Corporation, is a leading manufacturer and supplier of various LED lighting products for commercial vehicles, including Stop, Tail & Turn Lights and Head Lights. Maxxima has received patents for innovative designs and functions which has allowed the company to provide high quality lighting units for customers. During development, engineers create CAD drawings of a potential design and 3D print prototypes to determine if the design is functional and ready for production.


PwC Belgium provided a perfect example of how 3D printing can drive change to an established industry. Lighting manufacturers can utilize 3D printing technology and transform how their products are made while being fast and cost efficient by eliminating the need for inventory space. Not only are the products made by 3D printing less expensive than traditional products but they also have a longer lifetime due to the materials used to create them.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

Charles R. Goulding and Madison Khazzam of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing and the lighting industry. 


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