One of the design issues for many engineers in the additive manufacturing/3D printing space is that you really need more than one technology to prototype or print your designs, and most of these machines require a large initial capital outlay. Service bureaus are an option, but for many, not necessarily a convenient or cost effective one.
Interesting business models for additive manufacturing/3D printing are emerging. Several involve innovative leasing options. One new business model for the service-bureau space, though, builds on the ideas of community and crowd sourcing.
Brett Hanson, one of the founders of 3D Creation Systems LLC, located in Minneapolis Minn., has a vision of bringing large, 3D industrial technologies to the masses, and providing opportunities for anyone to learn how to use them, all at a reasonable cost. He is working to create a community of users, thus spreading the cost risk associated with the professional printing machines. He spreads this risk through memberships. For a specific membership price, for example, say $2500, you would get 60 hours of print time on any or any combination of machines, and that is pure print time, not setup or maintenance.
3D Creation Systems has built an advanced additive manufacturing facility that includes a range of 3D printing technologies: including multi jetting material, composite, digital light processing, stereolithography, and laser sintering, along with metal casting, CNC machines parts, sheet metal, and cast urethanes.
Specific machines include: ProJet models 1500 Color, 3510 HD, 3000 HD Plus, and Project 7000; the sPro60, and many of the former Zprinters, which are now part of 3D Systems Projet X60 line. Other equipment includes a Next Engine 3D scanner and various finishing stations and equipment.
The machines have an average build envelop of 12 by 10 by 8 in., with a few of the machines capable of larger builds, up to 20 by 15 by 9 in.
Yearly membership levels are:
$2500 receives 60 hours and 6 bonus
$5000 receives 140 hours and 14 bonus
$10,000 receives 320 hours 32 bonus
$25,000 receives 900 hours 90 bonus
If you use your allotted hours before a year is up, you have the option to buy more hours as needed.
As a member, your benefits include:
–No capital investment, maintenance, or repair costs, as 3D Creation Systems has purchased and maintains the machines.
–Access to all the equipment
–Access to expertise and advice from 3D Creation Systems staff on how to maximize time on the machines.
–The ability to send design files for printing from remote locations
–Access to a fully furnished finishing department
–Discounted printing material supplies; material is charged per cubic inch consumed.
Hanson believes that it is important to give back to your community. So every membership includes bonus hours that you donate to local schools, students, makers, or other interested parties. For example, if you purchase the 60-hour membership, you receive six bonus hours that you pledge to a third-party. The goal is to help promote 3D printing and educate present and future users.
The facility runs 24/7. Hanson’s goal is to have 185 members at each facility he sets up; he plans to set up 35 of these facilities in the next five years.
So if you are looking to experiment with 3D printing, but at an affordable cost, check out 3D Creation Systems further.