The 3D printer as a marketing tool
You’re thinking a custom 3-D printed piece would make a memorable marketing campaign – correct?
The developments of 3D printers have surged in the last couple of years. It is now possible to create show models and end-user products with it. In many different materials: from plastics to gold. And even in full color, which will really fit your company logo or corporate style well. You also do not have to take the expensive start up costs of mass production into account anymore, so smaller series have become feasible. The quality and cost price is now so good that 3D printing has become feasible as a marketing tool but there are still limitations as noted later in this blog.
Marketing innovations are now possible with 3D printing
You do not have to be dependent anymore on mass produced business gifts as a marketer: no standard pens and USB-sticks that you can find at any conference. With 3D printing you can create unique products that really fit your marketing objective and company. 3D prints can be personalized for your individual customers by integrating their needs, company logo and style. Designers now have way more design possibilities, as 3D printing gives them freedom of shapes. New products can now be thought of that would have been impossible to produce some time ago. We need to unlearn the design rules and design language of the past. Many ‘weird’ and innovative ideas can now be realized.
Extra media attention by using the 3D printing hype
3D printing gets a lot of media attention and hype. Many people might have heard by now of 3D printing, but most will not have touched it and experience the magic of the 3D printing possibilities. 3D printed marketing actions have a potential to be spread virally through social media and blogs. Wouldn’t you want to show your friends such cool things?
Synergy of 3D printing with other marketing materials
3D printed marketing products can be used well in cooperation with other marketing materials: for instance with paper based or online media. The wow-factor of 3D prints can be increased by designing special packaging for it. The magic of “how does it work?” can be used by shooting a nice video of the production and application. 3D prints can also interact with websites or apps by embedding electronics, by interacting with touch screens or with augmented reality of Layar. More on Layar
What exactly is 3D printing?
It’s an additive manufacturing process where materials are layered on top of one another. Quite a few technologies are capable to do 3D printing. The main differences are how layers are built to create parts.
SLS (selective laser sintering), FDM (fused deposition modeling) & SLA (stereo lithography) are the most widely used technologies for 3D printing. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Click here for a more detailed explanation.
Think of the possibilities
Trade shows – ever pay drayage costs at a trade show to move a full weight manufactured machine or part? 3D printing could reduce the costs drastically. Exhibiting at trade shows, while rewarding, can be very expensive and stressful: transporting and staging large equipment can consume a significant portion of a company’s marketing budget. But it doesn't have to. Using 3D printing techniques, firms can get to-scale, full-color prototypes and models of their equipment and products that can easily be carried to and displayed on site – at a fraction of the time and cost.
Customized Marketing - Your company creates a base item to be printed, such as a brand mascot or a miniature version of your product. You design multiple customizable options, from color to accessories. A brand mascot, for example, could have several clothing options available; a miniature product could have all of the customizations included in its full-size version. You create an online form that allows consumers to select their customization options. This form generates changes in the code sent to our 3D printers, to ensure each item is printed to the customized parameters.
Give it a try - Want to try your hand at customizing an existing design before printing then go to Thingiverse and customize a 3D printed tree.
Of course the simplest option is let people download the model and print it themselves like they did for the World Cup for people to support their national team with a SambaCan. Check it out.
Estimating the Cost of Producing 3D Models
There are several sites that allow you to estimate costs of producing your model based upon different materials. I think the calculator at 3D Printing Price check is the simplest to use.
While you can create some cool things, there are limitations. Start by reviewing the 3D printing Checklist for creating a custom 3D models.
- Items regularly take hours to print, even days. You can speed this up by making the layers thicker, but as soon as you do this, you lose your surface finish quality.
- To print something, you need a CAD model. Your options are to learn CAD (difficult). 3D scan an object if you only want to scan the outer surface of a part (they cannot scan the inside of items), and if you don’t want any driven dimensions. Download a 3D file but beware many are not moderated which means they are not guaranteed to be 3D printable.
- Print resolutions are pretty rough, analogous to the dot-matrix 2D printers of the 1970's. But they're slowly improving
- Not every shape can be printed. There are limits to the size of objects and the geometry of some shapes can only be printed on certain types of printers
- Simple objects are generally quite printable - but objects with internal or moving parts can be difficult or in some cases impossible to print
One other issue think about is just how green is 3-D printing? Check out http://www.rtcc.org/2013/09/02/how-green-is-3d-printing/ for some additional info.
When it comes to marketing, will 3D printing bring a revolution? Based on costs and options available, probably not in the near future.