Since 3D printing has invaded areas such as food production and medical education, it won’t be shocking to hear that it is making continued inroads into the area of signage. In addition to being a relatively quick way to create complex visual markers, it has the added advantage of eliminating the waste byproduct of processes such as engraving, which have been a more typical method for the creation of signage. The process of building up a surface has also made it an excellent candidate for the production of tactile based signage such as braille markers.
The company Fastsigns has jumped on this bandwagon and rather than using that term to suggest a mindless following of a mass trend, I mean that as a compliment. This isn’t just the latest fad in sign production, it’s a manufacturing method that’s here to stay and there’s no reason not to invest in the capabilities for 3D printing sooner rather than later. The costs of the machines are going down, but there’s clearly going to be a point at which the price drops no further and the production benefits lost by waiting for the machines to get cheaper mean that acting now is a better investment. After all, these machines cost significantly less than a laser printer did in the 80’s!
Fastsigns is a franchise rather than a centrally operated business, so decisions regarding the adoption of 3D technology in the sign making business isn’t going to come all at once. For now, it is being introduce in three markets: San Diego, Milwaukee, and Chicago. There are currently more than 560 independently owned and operated franchises, which could create a pretty significant network of 3D printed sign making once the other franchises integrate the technology.
The CEO of Fastsigns International, Catherine Monson, explained the interest in adopting the technology:
“We are continuously watching for and learning about new technologies that have the potential to make visual communications more interesting and impactful to and for our customers. By providing professional 3D printing, we are able to offer one more solution that can be used to create comprehensive visual communication solutions to help businesses develop innovative new products or solve manufacturing challenges.”
The early adopting centers are participating in a pilot program to test the possibilities for offering 3D printing technologies to their clients. They will be using production-grade thermoplastic, of the same quality used to make production parts, supporting the creation of prototypes and models. In addition to signage, the 3D printers at Fastsigns will be able to create replacement parts, detailed architectural models, gears, figurines and much more.
Victoria Crane, owner of the San Diego Fastsigns, a location participating in the pilot, gave some insight into her decision to participate in the pilot:
“Many businesses and consumers are experimenting with this technology. As experts in the visual communications space, we are always watchful for how different solutions can help our customers. Working with technology like this is also important because it gives us the opportunity to be innovative and find new applications for it.”
This sounds like a smart move for Fastsigns and it shouldn’t be too long before it takes off. Let us know if you have visited a Fastsigns location which features 3D printing as a service. Discuss in the Fastsigns 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.