Early 3D Adopters: Who's Doing 3D Printing?
To service this customer base, Jones recognized that his store had to offer 3D design. He brought in a full-time 3D print manager, who is also a designer. "You can't print a file you don't have," Jones says. In addition to designing files from scratch, the 3D print manager also tweaks "almost printable" files brought in by amateurs using software like Google Sketchup before they are output in the shop.
The UPS Store has its Stratasys uPrint in the front window where people walking by can see it working. "While the technology isn't new, it's new to people on the street."
This level of trust extends beyond the general public to larger companies, as well. "When their own machines are full, engineers and prototype designers come to us because we're a brand that they know," says Jones.
In terms of cost, Jones makes no bones about it. "We are more expensive. If you want cheap output, you can go to online companies like QuickParts. They sell the commodity of 3D printing, and it works for a lot of people. But, it's a different model if you want to talk about your part, see it and have a relationship with the printer. Our rent and overhead are not the same as someone in a warehouse somewhere."
Braintree Printing is more focused on the traditional 3D prototyping market, which doesn't require an investment in in-house design capabilities.
Owned by Jim Corliss, Jerry Hogan and Jose Tafur, the Braintree, MA-based operation specializes in high-end, four- and five-color offset printing and digital printing. It claims to be the first printer in New England to embrace 3D printing. Braintree selected a Stratasys Dimension 1200es, which is a more robust production device that prints in multiple colors and resolutions depending on desired build speed. The machine can print in fine resolution or offer faster printing, with layer thicknesses of 0.25mm (0.010˝) or 0.33mm (0.013˝). Files are output by the shop's production staff.