Customs: Startup 3D printing business

Discussion in 'Creative General Discussion' started by blaynescott, May 18, 2012.

  1. blaynescott

    blaynescott Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone,

    A friend of mine in banking and I are considering starting up a 3D printing/rapid prototyping business in Toronto, with potential for 3D scanning as well.

    The most immediate use is for replicating jewelry (scanning the original created by a goldsmith friend of ours, reprinting a copy, and casting the copy to avoid damage to the original).

    However, the applications (we both feel) extend beyond that. We both have some experience in 3D modeling, and I've been working on Shapeways projects for a bit - but I'm hoping to crowdsource some information from people here at TFW:

    Can anyone point us in the right direction for equipment/software in these areas of 3D printers and laser 3D object scanners? I'm aware of the makerbot for printing, but we're looking for the highest resolution at the lowest cost. The same goes for the 3D laser scanners, capable of scanning small objects.

    It's fairly confusing, as there seems to be a variety of competing standards for both technologies. Any direction would be appreciated.

    I've come across some interesting articles comparing home-3D printers, but to my eyes the Makerbot (even the newest generation one) looks like the objects were made with a tiny tube of toothpaste, as you can see the striation-layers very clearly. These are present with Shapeways printing, but it's much, much finer. That's the resolution of machine I'm looking for.

    Ideally, if this business gets off the ground (and our business grants go through once our proposal is written up/equipment sourced) - I think it would be of great use to the custom toy / hobbyists communities I frequent online. :) 

    In any case - the cart goes comes before the horse. :)  Any direction or guidance from research you've done would be appreciated.

    -Blayne
     
  2. project9

    project9 White n' Nerdy

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  3. Treadshot A1

    Treadshot A1 Or just 'A1' for short...

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    I couldn't help you much, but i'd suggest contacting Destrongerlupus, as he should know his way around these machines.

    Just as general advice, i'd make sure the machine is capable of printing in materials which are living hinges if you're looking to help the model building community as well. A lot of things do well with materials which are able to flex a bit.

    [/2cents]
     
  4. project9

    project9 White n' Nerdy

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    This site seems to have a few different model printers and scanners. Might be a good place to get manufacturer/model info to start from.

    3D Technologies from Inition

    I toyed around with the same idea a few years ago, including molding/casting service, but couldn't put together a business plan that would show making that $30-50K back to cover the loan. It's a hard balance of affordability to increase client adoption but profit to cover the expenses/materials. (see people's complaints about Shapeways) At least you have a couple of markets you plan to work with. I only had in mind to service the action figure/customizers market (TF, GI Joe, etc). But it was ultimately a pipe dream. =)
     
  5. Bigbot3030

    Bigbot3030 Well-Known Member

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    This is a tough thing to get into, and since your asking questions about this, honestly, you might want to reconsider doing this or not. You need to have a good knowledge base before you dive into getting into this business. I know it may seem like Shapeways is making a killing without doing much, but these machines are not cheap, and the startup costs are going to be huge. To top that off, by the time you get these paid off, there will be new, better machines out there that can do more. I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but you REALLY need to do alot of research and figure out the loans for these type of machines (unless of course, you have the capital to do it yourself). I know you said you are in banking, so I guess you may not have to deal with that as much. Saying you want to get into the RP business, then asking what machines you should use; could be compared to saying you want to be an auto mechanic, and are asking how an internal combustion engine works. I've had people ask me about this before, super excited because they see the makerbot and think it's easy to get into, but it's a lot of work. I know some who do their own work, and spend alot of thier own money printing stuff, just to get noticed in the business. So if you think your scanning jewelry side could cover all these costs, then awesome.

    Unfortunately, the money you spend seems to be in direct relation to the resolution you get out. You are correct in that the Makerbot is an extruded machine, that has a lot more "stepping" than other machines. You can crank this down to get that minimized (minimizing the distance from the extruder head to the part, but since it's a hot extruder head moving over the part, you can actually start digging into your part if you get to close) , but it's nowhere near what you are going to be able to do with, say, the Zcorp or Objet machines. One of the best things about Makerbot, or extruded machines, is that it uses ABS for material. Then you can print out in a flexible and strong material. A friend of mine has one and he's been able to make some interesting things, but nothing super precise.
    So, what are you hoping to do with this? Are you wanting to become another Shapeways?

    Project9 pretty much nailed it. I looked into it as well and just couldn't justify it. Adding a Molding/casting side to the business is recommended since only the very high end machines seem to be able to give you the strength and resolution to be able to use the parts as a final product. Shapeways "strong white flexible" material is strong and has some give, but is "fuzzy" and doesn't look that great compared to other parts. Usually they are used as sight models (or low functioning working prototypes) so companies can see the product they want made, in their hands, before they actually make it. Whenever I've used RP'd parts, I then clean them up and mold and cast them in Urethanes.

    So, if you want to get into this, i'd look into how much you can afford to spend. I'd recommend staying away from machines that can do different colors at once if you are more into the hobby side. Also, if you are starting out in jewelry, maybe look into a machine that can make parts out of wax, so that it's one step less for investment casting. I think there is some machines that can do both, but I honestly don't know since whenever we've done investment casting we've farmed it out to another company.

    I WILL own a 3D printing machine at some point, and I think that may happen within the next 5 years or so. They keep on getting better and cheaper. I've also heard rumors that 3D systems patent is about to run out, and several other companies (like Sony) have already developed their own machines and are just waiting until that time to drop it on the market. As evident by that kickstarter project (which honestly seems more promising to me than Makerbot) things are getting better. Sorry if this doesn't actually answer your question(s), but it's something that I (and Project9 by the soudn of it) have tried to figure out an answer for, but no no real conclusion. the closest I've come to a cheap machine that I like is the Objet Desktop 30 Objet Desktop 3D Printer Family. Best part about going back to school is they have one of these, and I only have to pay for cost of material to print things. it's pretty awesome. I'm told that the cost of machine, plus tax, warranty and training is about $30,000. nice resolution, and it's fast.

    R!
     

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