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Manufacturers: Is It Time to Consider a 3-D Printer?

Posted 6:22 PM by

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) recently identified 3-D printers as a future disruptive technology that will “transform life, business, and the global economy.” MGI estimates that the direct economic impact of 3-D printing per year by 2025 will range from $230 billion to $550 billion, with $100-200 billion attributed to direct product manufacturing and $30-50 billion from tool and mold manufacturing.

(For a quick overview of 3-D printing, view’s explanation.)

3-D printers aren’t for everyone. Because of their slow production speed they are more suited for manufacturers that make highly customized products that aren’t meant to be mass produced. A 3-D printer can also be ideal for a manufacturer who does a significant amount of prototyping. Rather than having to create a mold for each prototype and have to rework as designs change, a 3-D printer can produce a new design quickly for examination before a final product is settled on.

There is no question that the manufacturing industry is taking 3-D printers more seriously. According to Forbes, “35% of all ads posted for engineering jobs in the last 30 days prioritize 3-D printing and additive manufacturing as the most sought-after skill.” Even more impressive is that the number of job ads requiring workers with 3-D printing skills increased 1,834% in four years.

For many manufacturers, the initial high cost of a 3-D printer has discouraged them from investing in one. The cost of a single production level 3-D printer can range from $75,000 to $1,000,000. However, as various patents around the core technology expire during 2014 the cost will fall. Today, a 3-D printer is looking to be a better investment than ever. 

About the Author
Ben Crim is a member of Katz, Sapper & Miller’s Audit and Assurance Services Department. Ben audits and reviews financial statements, and he advises clients on accounting, reporting, compliance and internal control matters.

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