3-D Printer – Prototypes

New York-based Spuni sells a modified baby spoon that eases an infant’s transition to solid food. By using 3-D printers, the company had their first prototypes within months, at a fraction of what traditional manufacturers would have charged, said CEO Marcel Botha.

The team tweaked the design more than 30 times, making separate prototypes for each. It takes mere hours to create a Spuni prototype on a 3-D printer, allowing them to test far more variations, which Botha says results in a better product. The company’s first spoon came to market early in 2013.

The team invested in its own 3-D printer late in 2012, spending about $2,000 on one sold by MakerBot, which is now owned by Stratasys (SSYS). It costs Spuni about $5 to print one spoon. Botha estimates he would spend 10 times that if he used a traditional manufacturer.

Although its flagship spoons are mass produced, Spuni continues to use 3-D printers for work on new products and packaging. The company recently moved to a facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard called New Lab, where there are a few additional 3-D printers the team can use.

Design advanced technology

Dan Clark makes high-end headphones that can’t be manufactured using conventional technology. To improve sound quality, he created an intricate design with such detailed parts they have to be made individually. So MrSpeakers’ San Diego headquarters has 10 printers running at a time, all printing actual parts used in its Alpha Dog headphones.

Clark launched MrSpeakers in April 2012 with the Mad Dog headphones, which are manufactured using conventional technology. But with his next product, Clark, an electrical engineer, wanted to try something different. He bought 10 printers at about $1,600 each and started making the Alpha Dogs earlier this year.

It takes about 13 hours to print each headphone set, and Clark and his team of five put each through a finishing process that includes sand and chemical treatments. The extra time is worth it: Clark charges $600 for each set of headphones.

“We have a higher price point, so we can put the labor in to make it beautiful,” he said. “And the technical advantage is so great, it’s worth going through the effort.”

How about opening a printing store.

When Liza Wallach and her husband opened their 3-D printing store in October 2013, some people wandered in looking for a place to make photocopies, while others wanted 3-D movie glasses. But now, business owners and hobbyists come to HoneyBee3D to print things like prototypes and promotional materials. Other patrons are looking for a singularly unique item, like a personalized wedding cake topper.

And the shop, located in Oakland, Calif., won’t just print your projects, the cost of which depends on the size and materials used. They also sell 3-D printers and offer weekly classes on how the devices work, which Wallach says are usually filled to the six-person maximum.

3-D printing options like HoneyBee3D are growing. You can upload files to online service Shapeways, which will print your object and ship it to you, and some UPS locations have 3-D printers in their stores. MakerBot has three retail locations on the East Coast where you can buy printers and 3-D printed gifts, as well as take classes.

HoneyBee3D printing has plans too expand is business in the Bay area in the future.

3D Printing, Networking, Greenville, South Carolina

Secure a patent

Richard Baker, president of New England Intellectual Property, helps inventors acquire, sell and license patents for electrical and mechanical devices. Sometimes a client’s pending patent includes drawings but Baker doesn’t get an actual prototype — that’s when he puts his 3-D printer to work.

Inventors aren’t required to provide a patent model, but it helps Baker to see the physical object when consulting on a patent application. If it’s not described accurately, the applicant may end up with a patent for a different invention. Plus, he said a prototype helps lure investors.

Baker takes the text and drawings and translates them into a file that a 3-D printer can read. He then sends the printed object to the inventor to confirm the design. If Baker’s model is off, he’ll try again.

“It makes it a lot easier to know exactly what the inventor is talking about,” Baker said. “I need to see something real.”

Make home improvements

Caroline de Gruchy and Clive Bilewitz, owners of Home Inspections Squared, have been doing home improvements for the past 15 years, but they’ve recently found a new way to make repairs.

Sometimes a replacement part for a broken chain or lock just can’t be found in a store. That used to force homeowners to buy a whole new set of blind or windows.

“They sell the most common item, and sometimes we need a uncommon item,” de Gruchy said.

The team, located in Kitchener, Canada, uses a 3-D printer to make that uncommon part.

They take the broken piece home, scan it with their 3-D scanner, make the repair virtually and then print a new piece with a 3-D printer (they use one at a local tech lab). For now, their replacement parts are just printed in plastic, but they’re hopeful future advancements will allow printing in new materials, so they can fix pieces for pipes as well.

Create custom products

3-D printers allowed graphic designer Patrick Durgin-Bruce to launch a new business in 2013. Mymo sells necklaces, keychains and ornaments that customers personalize with any two letters or numbers.

The monogrammed mini-sculptures are created in stainless steel, silver or ceramic by 3-D printers, which make it possible for Mymo to offer more than 2,000 different designs. You can’t offer that many possibilities using traditional manufacturing, Durgin-Bruce said.

But he doesn’t own any 3-D printers, instead paying Shapeways to print each order. He has to wait two to three weeks before the product is shipped to him at Mymo’s Manhattan office where he does any final assembly and packaging.

He charges $75 for the keychains and ornaments, $75 for a stainless steel necklace, $160 for a sterling silver necklace and $275 for one made of hand polished silver.

Durgin-Bruce is planning to expand his product line by offering other jewelry items, but says it would likely be a long time before he bought his own 3-D printer due to the overhead and maintenance costs. A high-end 3-D printer can cost thousands of dollars and more than one machine is needed to print in different materials.

Article Provided by: CNN Money

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