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Commercial Printer Details Pros, Cons of 3D Printing

August 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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What do Jim Corliss, Jay Leno and Barack Obama all have in common? All three, in their own way, have made a substantial commitment to the future of 3D printing.

Leno, the host of the "Tonight Show," may be the world's most famous owner of a 3D printer, using it to recreate obscure, esoteric and hard-to-find parts for his beloved classic cars. And President Obama made headlines back in May when he informed the nation that the White House wants to invest $200 million in 3D printing, an area he hopes would help spark growth in high-tech jobs.

But it's Mr. Corliss' exploits in the world of 3D that interests us the most. Corliss, owner of trade shop Braintree Printing in Braintree, MA, has the unofficial distinction of being the first printer to obtain a 3D printer for the purpose of doing jobs. Earlier this year, Braintree installed a Stratasys Dimension 1200es unit, which has largely been used to create prototypes for design engineers.

OK, so we have no way of verifying that Corliss is the Lone Ranger of 3D printing among print providers. The New England firm appears to have been the first printer through the wall on 3D, however, and while it may not land him on a commemorative postage stamp one day, it certainly has piqued the curiosity of his printer customers, who gathered and gawked at the machine during an open house this past spring.

"I just fell in love with the technology," Corliss admits. "I saw it as a combination of a marketing ploy and being able to make a couple of bucks. Telling (a potential client) that you print labels is not a conversation starter."

But tell someone you're a 3D printer, and the curious voice inflection kicks in. Sure, traditional print buyers—which, in Corliss' case, are also printers—are not generally going to have a need for 3D work. But what it says about Braintree Printing speaks volumes about its willingness to invest and take chances, all for the betterment of the client. And, while 3D printing has been around for the past 15-odd years, it's only been the past year or so when the technology began occupying front of mind with the general public.

"I always felt the way to survive and thrive in this business is to invest in what you do for your life's work," Corliss observes.

 

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