Impact Of Additive Manufacturing On Product Development
It is commonly accepted that additive manufacturing is changing product development in many fields. Many companies have started using additive manufacturing to save money. Additive manufacturing has gone from simple prototyping to product development and to final production.
For many companies, bringing a product to market can be a difficult task, especially when complex manufacturing is involved. A physical product must go through many stages before a company can begin to market and actually sell it. The product must be designed, prototyped, tested, produced, marketed and sold. There are many costs involved in this, and a small business may not be able to afford the high costs of tooling and mass production.
Additive manufacturing has bridged this gap, and has recently allowed smaller businesses to market and sell their products — skipping the high costs of manufacturing, at least in the beginning stages. Tooling alone can cost $15,000 and upwards, and if changes need to be made, another expensive mold must be cut and produced.
Implementing Printed Parts Can Quickly Streamline Design Cycle Time
Often molds are produced overseas and this additional step of outsourcing the mold making process means sharing valuable intellectual property (CAD models) with outside parties. This can put your IP at risk. Additive manufacturing can also impact the traditional supply chain management practice significantly. As an independent, business owner, you now have the ability to react quickly to market demands.
Cable-Save, a homegrown company based in Kingwood, Texas has utilized additive manufacturing to solve a challenge and successfully bring an idea to market. Nate Schmidt, a touring guitar player and the Cable-Save inventor, used additive manufacturing to its full advantage. While on tour, Nate grew frustrated with the cabling system for his guitar. It was too easy to lose his cable, or have it fall to the ground, only to be tripped on and damaged. The cost of replacement cables quickly became unacceptable. He went to work and developed a product that solved his problem. This innovative product serves as a great way to hold a guitar, bass, or other instrument cable while the musician unplugs their instrument to switch to another. His friends took notice and wanted one for themselves, word spread organically, and soon Cable-Save was created. The product provides musicians with an excellent way to hold and organize their cables during a gig and allows the cables to endure the rigors of touring. Nate turned to additive manufacturing to develop his end-use product and the many iterations that predated the final product.
In his small shop, 3D printers allowed Nate to not only test and prototype his product, but also allowed him to do small production runs in order to get his product into musician’s hands. We caught up with Nate to ask him a few questions.
“My product was a success at the International Guitar Show. I sold 384 units which is virtually unheard of for a new product.” Said Nate.
How has additive manufacturing changed the product design process?
3D printing has given me the ability to work with multiple versions of my products on the fly. Those changes can be integrated and printed virtually in the same day. Ten years ago, this process would have costed tens of thousands of dollars and months to put into place. I have at least 20 versions of my flagship product and I can line them up from first to current and see the changes. I would not have had to opportunity to do so if I were having to have molds made each and every time I implemented a change. I would not be where I am today in regards to the evolvement of my product line if I were using conventional manufacturing techniques. My 3D printers have allowed me to take feedback from my customers and test group and immediately implement those changes/enhancements thus allowing me to bring my product to meet those requirements immediately. I would have NEVER achieved these types or results in the time it has taken my five years ago. I owe any success I have to the ability to 3D Print my product in my home workshop.
I have a total of six printers and can produce approximately 80/day but the other printers aren’t as consistent as the Airwolf EVO. 90% of the time I can “set it and forget it” with the EVO. The other printers require a lot of attention and downtime. Adding another EVO would definitely increase production and give me a better chance at holding off converting to injection molding which is something that we simply aren’t prepared to tackle right now. Not only that, but it would free my time up to focus on other areas of the business that are now neglected such as marketing, administration and business development.
Is it a faster path to market to additive manufacturing consumer products?
I have learned that we are in an era that allows people with ideas to take it from the “brain to the workbench” in an unusually fast manner thanks to the technology that is available to us as consumers. 20 years ago, the thought of 3D printing for the majority of us was just that.. a mere thought or fantasy. How cool is it to think of something, draw it and design it in CAD and then print is and sell it? Doesn’t get too much better than that if you ask me!
What was your inspiration?
My inspiration? To be the best role model for my children is the primary source of all my inspiration. I strive to show them that now matter who they are, how old they are or what they are attempting to do, that they can do it all and there are no limits imposed on creating. This is a family business. We struggle a lot as it takes a lot of money and resources to get a business off the ground and transformed into a successful endeavor. Every penny counts and I am accountable for everything whether this business succeeds or fails. I want to show my kids that hard work pays off. I still work a full time IT job 50 hours a week in addition to this. I get about 4-5 hours sleep a night. I now see my kids not shying away from chores and they all help in packaging our product and marketing via social media. This really is growing into a family business and I simply could not be prouder of the effort my children are putting in to help make us successful.
Nate required a material that was strong and reliable. ABS filament was chosen for the final product due to its high strength, affordability, and ability to look great right out of the machine.
With the large heated build platform (12” x 12”) on the EVO 3D printer Nate is able to lay out 12+ of his parts on the print bed, and produce multiple Cable-Savers at a time. In his words, he is able to “set it and forget it”. While the machine produces his parts, he can focus on other aspects of the business like marketing, packaging, and more. With a dependable machine like the EVO, he is able to repeat this process for thousands of printing hours. Partnering with Airwolf 3D, he gained unlimited access to technical support and tooling experts to help his new company achieve optimal results during production.
With the low-cost of high-end additive manufacturing equipment, Cable-Save and other companies can now bring a product to market faster and more affordable than ever. More companies are adopting the technology, and great products are hitting the market which may have never been produced due to the many rigors of manufacturing the traditional way.
Never trip over your cable between instrument changes again! Cable-Save is a simple, effective, and easy-to-use device that gives you a place to safely hang-up your cable when unplugged. Order one today for yourself or a friend by clicking here: https://cable-save.com/
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