How 3D printing services help B2B, B2B2C and Startups
Posted By Jess Hedstrom on Apr 27, 2016 | 0 comments
So, you want to start using a 3D printing service but you are a little trepidatious? It’s understandable. The additive manufacturing industry is shifting away from the business to consumer model and now is the perfect time for budding entrepreneurs as well as established businesses to offer more options to their clients and customers.
Why is 3D printing moving away from B2C?
The additive manufacturing industry has certainly disrupted the traditional manufacturing model by promoting a DIY approach to how things are made, and with that comes many of the same enlightenments that occurred at the height of the first industrial revolution. The maelstrom of innovation ushered in during the first industrial revolution is reflected in the consumer goods we purchase today. A great example of this is the fashion & textile industry, we see the B2C model very clearly. Traditional manufacturing after the industrial revolution gave the textile industry a way to make high volumes of the same item, from socks to glasses. The value proposition for businesses during this time was simple: large quantities of the same item cuts overhead and simplifies the assembly process, when assembly is needed. But when your customer is looking for customized items, as I’m sure you already know cost increases along with manufacturing lead times; these bottlenecks and price increases directly affect your customers. Which is typically acceptable in the fashion and jewelry industries; paying more for a customized shoes or jewelry is widely accepted. But it is unacceptable when working in a B2B capacity.
As I’ve already said, “the maelstrom of innovation ushered in during the first industrial revolution is reflected in the consumer goods we purchase today”. But what about outside of the consumer goods market? The precision machining industry is a direct reflection of the innovations launched from the industrial revolution, as I’m sure we all remember from our history class, the automotive sector was made possible thanks to the first industrial revolution. Along with that came other precision machining areas such as Aeronautics, Maritime, Defense and Energy. What is the value proposition of additive manufacturing in these B2B and B2B2C areas where increased lead times, and pricing increases are not acceptable?
It takes 9 months for most budding entrepreneurs to go from an idea to a finished prototype; however the same process can years and hundreds of thousands of Dollars / Euros for larger companies.
Can 3D printing add more value for B2B, B2B2C, and budding entrepreneurs than traditional manufacturing alone?
What is the value proposition of a 3D printing service in the B2B Sector?
This is a simple question to answer based on Sculpteo’s worldwide 3D printing report released in 2015. In last year’s report over 1,000 people surveyed described why they are utilizing 3D printing for their businesses. Below are 2 huge reasons why they are incorporating 3D printing into their B2B model. What does Business-to-Business 3D printing servicing look like? AudioQuest is a great example of this process. They launched their Nighthawk headphones in 2014 and for one portion of their headphones they utilized Sculpteo’s 3D printing service. Based on the results of Sculpteo’s report here are the key reasons more B2B companies are reaching out to 3D printing services.
Accelerating product development: As stated above it can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring an idea from concept to reality, but using a 3D printing service cuts the overhead cost of purchasing in house 3D printers. Also cut is the cost and time spent training internal staff on how to operate them. By outsourcing the work to a 3D printing service, companies can design and quickly iterate without the upfront cost of building out an internal factory.
Another overlooked issue that can occur within the B2B sector is that many companies with internal 3D printing factories, still need to outsource some of their requests to a 3D printing servicer due to sheer volume of the parts they need printed. They simply don’t have the capacity to fulfill their clients orders. Last year over 30% of those surveyed in Sculpteo’s report cited this value prop as the most important reason for adopting 3D printing in their business.
Improving Spare Parts Management: Inventory and storage are huge factor when producing hardware products, especially when assembly is required. Each part needs to be stored and categorized; inventory needs to be checked either via a software system or counted by hand. This is not only time consuming but it takes up a lot of physical space (especially when considering obsolete versions of a product). When considering the value proposition of 3D printing on improving parts management, we see that instead of a mold, 3D printing services require a CAD file which takes up no physical space at all. And with proper design even assembly can be removed from the equation as well. This means inventory and storage are reduced to a folder of files on your company computer.
What is the value proposition of a 3D printing service in the B2B2C sector?
Business-to-Business-to-Consumer differs from Business-to-Consumer in the 3D printing servicing sector because instead of offering products directly to consumers, they offer services that can benefit the customers of other companies. For example when Staples launched their 3D printing program, they outsourced their orders to Sculpteo. Instead of purchasing professional 3D printers and building a factory themselves this company decided to offer the service to their customers via a 3rd party. Based on Sculpteo’s 2015 report here are the key reasons why businesses in the B2B2C sector saw value in using a service.
Offering customized products and limited series: As mentioned briefly before the value prop for traditional manufacturing is making large volumes of the same item. But what if your customers want to customize their part? This is a value that only 3D printing can offer. By using a 3D printing service the overhead cost and training are reduced exactly like in the B2B sector, but in addition to that the option to provide highly customized items in smaller batches is possible.
Enabling co-creation: If your business works with savvy customers that know how to use CAD software and 3D modeling software, co-creation is very important. When using a servicer you can accept more modeling files which can allow for more innovation and creativity, which includes a broader range of materials & technologies available for manufacturing.
What is the value proposition of a 3D printing service to budding entrepreneurs?
Working in the San Francisco bay area and having access to several hardware startups and accelerator participants has provided endless insight into the first 9 months of an entrepreneur’s journey. Combining that knowledge with the results from the “2015 State of 3D printing” by Sculpteo we see that the 2 biggest value proposition for using 3D printing service offered by the entrepreneurs surveyed are listed below. An example of budding entrepreneurs would be Scanse and MagTarget. These companies are perfect examples of how a 3D printing service can help your budding business.
Optimizing prototype product expenses: When you’re hoping to raise capital it is always a great idea to have a working prototype. Giving investors and potential customers an idea of what the finished product will look like and how it will operate is a great way to obtain their trust and confidence in your product/company. In the early stages time and money are crucial and there isn’t much of both to waste, creating a prototype with traditional manufacturing can be very expensive and even for small plastic prototypes the lead times can be 8-12 weeks. Even with some 3D printing services the wait can still be 3-5 weeks, with Sculpteo the wait can be as short as 48 hours depending on the material. This allows for faster iterations with the option of small to large series as you get started building a customer base and obtaining investment capital.
Offering customized products and limited series: As mentioned in the B2B sector this popped up again in the budding entrepreneur sector for many of the same reasons, including the importance of inventory control, the lowered upfront cost by outsourcing rather than printing parts yourself. But a huge value prop for budding entrepreneurs is the ability to pass that value back to your customers with customization options. Offering your customers the ability to pick the color or material they’d like their object printed in. Or offering different sizes is no problem with small series orders. And it makes the object more customized and more valuable to your consumers.
3D printing is not here to replace traditional Manufacturing, but as you have seen it can aid in reducing cost & manufacturing time for B2B, B2B2C and it helps budding entrepreneurs looking to attract investors and more customers.
Sculpteo will be releasing their “State of 3D Printing” 2016 report in May, however these value propositions will remain beneficial for B2B, B2B2C and budding entrepreneurs for many years to come. If you’re interested in receiving more information regarding the 2016 State of 3D Printing email: [email protected] to express your interest.