Commercial Printer Details Pros, Cons of 3D Printing
"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.
So Far, So Good
How has Braintree Printing done with its Dimension 1200es 3D printer? Not too bad, considering it's not an offering tailor-made for Corliss' customer base. The knock on 3D is that it is largely devoid of repeat business, with predominantly one-off projects coming through the door. Not true. One customer, a battery producer, has two or three offerings in the prototype stage. That client will produce a shell, go back and tweak it, then have Corliss produce another.
Regardless of the client, all jobs must be produced using 3D CAD (computer-aided design) programs. Solidworks is among the most popular titles. Some potential clients are obvious: design engineers, architects and for the medical field (as an alternative to hand-crafted models).
As for the cost of a 3D printer, the high-end models can range up to $200,000 or more. Corliss' entry-level model, when all told, came in just south of $50,000 in cost. He's averaged roughly $300 a week in jobs, and has enjoyed spikes as high as $2,400 in one recent week.
"It's going to be a long sell," Corliss admits. "You've got to, one by one, identify these customers. One challenge is that the people who do a lot of 3D work have their own printers. We can get those customers who only do it seasonally or need their overflow addressed."
One of the more unique pieces Corliss has produced is a presentation piece for a corporate event in which the president was honored. With the executive being an ardent chess player and a ping pong enthusiast, the piece was a ping pong paddle with a chess piece as the handle. Another client needed a model of a bridge for a building project. It was "printed" in six pieces, then put together.