You couldn’t throw a sensor in the air without hitting a reference to a 3D printer. But a used one? Why am I getting a used one?
The answer is simple. They are still getting revved fast. My take is that we “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” In Singapore, I saw a 3D printer that if you could rent out the inside, would go for $2,500 a month in San Francisco. It was Uuuuge. It’s straight printing capability was amazing, but even more amazing was its ability to re-manufacture. The example part on display was a giant fly wheel from a ship that cost $90,000 new. A tooth had broken off the wheel. For a couple of thousand dollars, the 3D printer was able to form a new tooth that was just as strong as the original.
Welcome to a whole new chapter of your business model. What if you could do the same for your customers? Not only is it a very sustainable pursuit we all should be embracing, it could also be massively profitable.
The bugaboo on 3D printing for metal parts is a head scratcher. The printer prices are starting to come down enough that companies can start considering them. Their benefits are abundantly clear. I saw a 3D printed bicycle seat frame that was ½ the weight and 5x the strength. The printers can create new organic forms of objects that dramatically reduce parts from what would be required if you want to assemble something from pieces.
Now the kicker. These printers all use a metal powder that is in short supply, which just seems crazy and an eminently solvable problem. While it is non-trivial to create the right mix for different metal powders, this is a relatively simple problem in the grand scheme of things.
There is one more bugaboo. I heard one HP executive saying that they were looking at some scenarios that could reduce 100 parts to a single part. While this is amazing, it means you have to rejigger your entire supply chain, reducing vendors and identifying vendors who can really become design partners. If you are going to reduce 100 parts to one, you have to make one really perfect part and this requires intense collaboration that supply chains aren’t used to.
So, for now, you can pick up these printers used on the cheap as the form factors change and shrink and the raw materials they need as scale reformulate and come online.
Come on boss, I know you got a deal on these things, but we are looking for real productivity.