How Small/Medium Businesses Will Drive the AM Wave (Authentise Weekly News-In-Review – Week 90)

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) have advantages that big corporations don’t have. One of them is agility, to make business decisions and to move into new markets. This agility is being augmented by technologies like additive manufacturing, laying the groundwork for them to become the next giants of the manufacturing industry. For starters, the barriers to entry in the industry have drastically lowered as startups no longer need to invest on expensive, specialized machinery. However, data shows that SMBs are already readily investing in AM, which puts them in the optimal position of focusing on new, maybe niche markets and grow unaffected by big, established companies. Furthermore, AM gives them the ability to nimbly change their production planning and strategy based on the whims of the market, better gearing their products and services to what is selling the most.

How 3D Printing Is Empowering SMBs in Manufacturing’s Digital Transformation

Traditional manufacturing requires companies to invest in expensive molds before a single product can be produced. And once the mold is developed, large order commitments are required to achieve enough scale for products to be priced competitively in the market. This poses a challenge for any company; but for startups and small companies it’s often completely cost-prohibitive. 3D printing eliminates such costly barriers to entry by not requiring physical prerequisites like molds for production. In fact, products can be custom-produced directly from digital files, with 3D printing software able to identify potential design flaws or inconsistencies before the manufacturing process even starts. And the ability of service bureaus to print products on-demand eliminates the need for large manufacturing runs or the potential for excess inventory.

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3D printing to be utilised by three quarters of Europe’s SMB’s by 2020

Following new research by Ricoh Europe, it has been revealed that almost three quarters of Europe’s small and medium sized businesses (SMB) believe that 3D printing technology is vital to reduce costs and improve agility. The research found that 44% of the 2,370 SMB leaders surveyed from 23 different countries have already invested in 3D printing with a further 30% planning to invest within the next two years. From the businesses that were surveyed, it was revealed that 70% of businesses are aiming to utilise 3D printing to introduce new manufacturing strategies and techniques.

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How “Speed Factories” Help Companies Adapt to Capricious Consumers

Speed factories are a growing trend among consumer-goods businesses, and one Jan Van Mieghem, professor of managerial economics and operations at Kellogg, has been researching. “More companies are focused on localization now, with custom-made products for very small local markets,” Van Mieghem says. Speed factories offer fast turnaround to meet demand in such markets, but they often have higher production costs.

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