3D printing — should you do it in-house or outsource it?

Over the last few years, 3D printing has really started to become mainstream. An increasing amount of businesses and innovative start-ups use additive manufacturing as part of their development process flow. Desktop 3D printers can be seen everywhere, particularly as prices have become more accessible.

Since you are reading this you are probably wondering how to focus your efforts in order to reduce costs and save time. Should you buy a 3D printer or outsource the additive manufacturing to service bureaus? These can provide more professional additive manufacturing solutions with a variety of technologies and more post processing options.

As a key assumption, we need to use the 3D printer as a tool and not as a target. Therefore, it is important to analyse your application field and reach a decision based on the requirements. Product development through trial and error requires fast action to be able to provide solutions of the highest standard, so you can reach decisions, move forward, and improve the product.

At the initial stages prototypes Illustrate macro abilities in order to test the required concept. In general, the initial steps require many iterations, so it is recommended to adopt in-house 3-D printing capability.

Consider in-house additive manufacturing solutions when you are using the same material. Using the same raw material will help you choose the right technology and therefore the right machine. Focusing on a specific production method will be a good way to develop your in-house skills.

3D printers are opening up a window to new solutions for all possible products. This enables us to create the options that were very hard to execute until now.

At some stages of development, we may need to use several materials with high quality printing abilities such as mechanical properties and special flexibility. In this instance, it is recommended to work with a service bureau. Compatibility to professional printers require accumulated know-how and service providers have access to a variety of technologies, materials, and post processing abilities (colorizing, filling, etc.) Those added values need to be translated into terms of reducing time and costs.

There is no contradiction between buying a 3D printer or using service bureaus. One is complementary to the other. Your decision and break-even point needs to be based on the annual total required prints.

Keeping these points in mind may help you decide:

  • Print quality
  • Variety of technologies and materials
  • Assistance and engineering consulting
  • Post processing abilities
  • Availability
  • Costs (machine, materials, production floor and human resources)

If you need guidance and support I will be glad to assist you.
Itamar Yona, Aviv3D