What if you could make nearly any item you need in the convenience of your office or home? 3D printing is moving us closer to that future.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process in which the “maker” designs a three-dimensional object on a computer and sends the design file to a connected 3D printer. The printer heats a material (such as resin, powders, plastic or metal) to a consistency of hot wax. It then sprays this gooey material in fine layers, one on top of another, to form the object.[1]

It’s not surprising that some economists herald 3D printing as the next industrial revolution. First used to refine prototypes for new, more complex products, its application as a production method can significantly reduce manufacturing time, allow a higher degree of customization, bring production on site and speed delivery.[2] As the cost of the technology continues to decline, Gartner estimates the number of 3D printers shipped will total more than 6.7 million by 2020.[3] Industry analysts estimate the 3D printing market will reach $30.19 billion by 2022.[4]

3D printing is economical, especially for the production of low- or medium-volume complex products.[5] It enables on-demand manufacturing so a company can offer a broader “virtual” inventory and customized products, available for faster delivery and at a competitive price.[6]

Because the cost of entry for this technology is relatively low, small businesses, offices and consumers can easily add 3D printing capabilities on site. In addition, Staples now offers a service where a customer can upload a 3D design and Staples will 3D print the item and ship it to the customer’s office or home.[7]

[1] “Next Christmas, That Swiss Watch You Covet Could Be 3-D Printed,” by Corinne Gretler, Bloomberg New Service, Dec. 15, 2016. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/next-christmas-that-swiss-watch-you-covet-could-be-3-d-printed

[2] “Next Christmas, That Swiss Watch You Covet Could Be 3-D Printed,” by Corinne Gretler, Bloomberg News Service, Dec. 15, 2016. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/next-christmas-that-swiss-watch-you-covet-could-be-3-d-printed

[3] “Gartner Says Worldwide Shipments of 3D Printers to Grow 108 Percent in 2016,” press release from Gartner Research, Oct. 13, 2016. Available at: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3476317

[4] “3D Printing Market Worth USD 30.19 billion by 2022,” press release issued in April 2016 on research report issued by Markets and Markets. Available at: http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/3d-printing.asp

[5] “Five Ways 3D Printing Is Transforming the Supply Chain,” by Chuck Alexander, Supply & Demand Chain Executive blog, April 8, 2015. Available at:  http://www.sdcexec.com/blog/12062956/five-ways-3d-printing-is-transforming-the-supply-chain

[6] “How 3-D Printing Could Disrupt Your Supply Chain,” by Adam Kidd and Jamie Sciacchitano, Industry Week, Oct. 30, 2015. Available at: http://www.industryweek.com/supply-chain/how-3-d-printing-could-disrupt-your-supply-chain

[7] Staples website, service offering available at: https://3dservices.staples.com/en/

This news is provided as a service to you by Marlin Business Services Corp., a nationwide leader in commercial lending solutions for the U.S. small business sector. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan programs are available directly and through third-party vendor programs, including manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers, to deliver financing and working capital that help build your success.