Revitalizing local manufacturing
That fact alone points to the potential for 3-D printing to make manufacturing local again and provide a huge boost to the American economy. While 3-D printers replace a lot of human bodies, the fact that most consumer goods are manufactured in China and other places where labor costs are low suggests that in this case, any repatriation of the process will yield benefits for local communities.
“It’s much less labor-intensive so production will go local again because it will save on shipping time and shipping costs,” Weijmarhausen says. “That's an amazing prospect.”
With the ability to produce small runs locally, 3-D printing technology represents a boon for small businesses, who are generally cut off from traditional manufacturing techniques due to a lack of capital to invest in making the huge quantities of a product required to sell each one cheaply.
Fabio Esposito, vice president at Solidscape, a subsidiary of the largest 3-D printer manufacturer Stratasys (Stock Quote: SSYS), says the efficiency gains for small business are huge when they adopt 3-D manufacturing technology.
“A 3-D printer works overnight and works on the weekend, so a business owner has a 24-hour production that before he could not afford,” Esposito says. “You can launch a job overnight, come in in the morning, unload the machine, and load in another design. Friday afternoon you accumulate jobs and run them over the weekend.”
Hagop Matossian, owner of Bostonian Jewlers, uses Solidscape to print models for his business’s unique jewelry designs. For him the cost savings directly impacts the bottom line.
“If you're having a single model built for you that costs you anywhere from $80 to $120, which is probably the norm out there, and you can now build six models or five models on one run,” Matossian says. “As a business owner I think about all the money I'm saving doing these models ourselves.”