Emerging technologies continue to shape the business realm. From smart watches to voice-activated devices, these tools can have a profound impact on your small business, helping you streamline operations and improve overall efficiency.
One technology that has advanced rapidly over the past several years is 3-D printing. What was once just a plot device in science fiction movies has become an everyday reality for business professionals who know how to work 3-D printers, which allow people to bring sketches and drawings into the three-dimensional world.
But honestly - how helpful are these devices? Can you actually use them for business, or can they merely provide novelty value? If you're considering picking up a 3-D printer, discover the answers to the following questions to ensure you can use the device to benefit your company.
How does it work?
You've seen items that have been created by a 3-D printer in the news before - from small trinkets like toys to larger things like limbs. These tools have been utilized to develop various objects that can be used in many different industries. The process begins with a drawing - whether physical or digital - that is transposed to a specific virtual format read by the printer. The software then interprets the drawing and adds dimension to it, compiling layers until the item can be created in real space.
Simply put, the printer breaks down a model into many 2-D planes, then prints numerous layers until you've got a tangible option.
Seem simple enough? While the process isn't too complicated, it should come as no surprise that purchasing a 3-D printer may be a hefty financial investment for small business owners. The technology has become more advanced in the past several years, but that doesn't mean it has become less expensive. If you're not looking to drop a few thousand dollars on a device, search for nearby stores that offer 3-D printing services.
How can I use it?
There are many ways to implement 3-D printing into your business operations. If you own a small store that sells trinkets and homemade pieces, these devices can be a fun way to bring 2-D drawings to life, then sell them in your store.
Alternatively, if you're looking for a less-than-conventional way to draw attention to your store, consider hosting a contest among your business' youngest consumers. Ask each participant to draw your store a new mascot, then let the winner know that his or her creation will be brought to life with a 3-D printer.
As you become more familiar with the technology and how it can be used each day, you'll find new and inventive ways to integrate it with your business operations.
Where do I start?
If you're looking to dip your toe into 3-D printing, it all starts with a drawing. Meet with your fellow employees and decide which item you want to print first. Then, start researching which stores in the area can hook you up with a printer. Compare prices and experiment with one of your drawings. Once you're comfortable with the process, you'll have an easier time rendering drafts and visiting printers.