The 3D Printing Tipping Point: Rapid Prototyping for Small Biz

by | Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Rapid and Narrative Prototyping

Last week, UPS announced that it would be test piloting 3D printing services in their San Diego stores. The announcement will further propel San Diego’s innovation economy and is great news for RE:INVENTION Clients. RE:INVENTION, based in San Diego and Chicago, already offers narrative and rapid prototyping for our mid-size and startup clients using a powerful combination of Google SketchUp®, Tinkercad®, visual mapping, interactive business blueprinting, infographics, video, and 3D Printing. It’s all part of our mission to help companies invent new products and services and reinvent underperforming brands and operations.

We’ve found that small to mid-size businesses are very interested in narrative and rapid prototyping to strengthen innovation and competitiveness. UPS customer research and 3D printing test market plans now validate our working hypothesis. Where it once took millions of dollars and years to try out a product idea, today you can do the same in a few short weeks using new technologies and software.

UPS in-center 3D printing will be done on a great machine: the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus. This particular 3D printer uses ABSplus material, has a build size of 8x8x6 inches, and a layer thickness of .010 inches or .013 inches. For those who haven’t yet seen a 3D printer in action, it’s fascinating. You start by designing a digital file that represents your 3D object, then the printer builds a plastic version of your model. The plastic hardens quickly so you can create on-demand, custom, and complex objects faster and more simply than ever before. Check out this quick video showing the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus in action:

Rapid and narrative prototyping allows you to test ideas, verify your assumptions, reduce risk, avoid missed requirements, and create better designs faster. You can prototype new processes, services, and apps in addition to new package designs, engineering parts, or fixtures for cameras. Regardless of what you are prototyping, you need to START with clear directives, market intelligence, and customer or consumer insights. You need to develop the right design (using those insights and computer software) BEFORE you transform your idea into a physical three-dimensional model. While 3D printing seems to be reaching a tipping point and it will be a huge game changer as it becomes more economical, success is still predicated on generating and validating ideas with the greatest potential and ultimately, commercializing them.

In the words of BTM Institute Founder, Faisal Hoque, “It is not enough to invent things; the world of innovation abounds with tales of how the initial inventor failed to commercialize. Innovation leaders don’t stop at creating successful products or services. They seek out new ways of delivering products, services, and customer experiences.”

Are you excited for mainstream 3D printing? Does your company plan to prototype ideas more frequently? Share your thoughts in comments below.

– RE:INVENTION’s 12 C’s of Commercialization Model
– RE:INVENTION’s 10 Principles for Everyday Inventive and Reinventive Companies
The Biggest Hurdle to Innovation is Implementation (RE:INVENTION Blog Post, 4/16/2013)

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