Early 3D Adopters: Who's Doing 3D Printing?
For printers, Corliss believes that the future is in applications many have not even thought about yet—like printed circuitry, medical applications or prosthetics. "Something in which the value is in the uniqueness of the part—parts that have a unique use, such as for one patient and one patient only," he muses. "That is a less price-sensitive market."
Although Corliss is still investigating potential markets, he is thrilled with his purchase of a 3D printer. "I just fell in love with the technology," he says. "We've always invested in the latest and greatest, and this technology is not daunting. We were printing within an hour or two from the time it was installed. We have the infrastructure. Our people are used to dealing with digital files. We've just added another printer."
Like Hudson Printing and The UPS Store, Braintree Printing keeps its 3D printer in its lobby. "We have a steady stream of people looking at it," concludes Corliss, "but I'm not sure the process is something that they actually stay to watch. Because it's so slow, the build itself is not particularly interesting. It's like watching paint dry."
Other 3D Installations
Also like watching paint dry, is watching the number of actual 3D printer installations occurring in the printing industry. Still, it is happening.
While still closed-lipped about its plans, for example, Sandy Direct is also reported to be using 3D printers. The company is experimenting and outputting customer files upon request, but not doing in-house design.
Staples has launched a consumer-oriented 3D printing service. Currently available only in the Netherlands, its MyEasy3D service allows designers to upload and print their designs, as well as create their own "stores" full of printable designs. 3D creations can be purchased by the public. Staples uses full-color Iris printers from Mcor Technologies. Unlike the plastics-based printers, the Iris printers create 3D objects with layers of paper and a water-based adhesive. The advantage is bright colors and lower cost, but these objects are not as hardy as their plastic-based counterparts. According to Staples, it takes around eight to 14 business days to finish an order, and the models are delivered via parcel service.