We have been working feverishly at Celtic3d to get some new functionality ready for the site. Here is a sneak peek at what we are currently working on.
The Challenge with 3d Printing
At Celtic3d, we firmly believe that 3d printing makes it possible to offer products that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive or impractical to make. With new materials coming available, especially metals and ceramics, the opportunities to develop innovative products continue to grow.
It is important to think about what 3d printing is good at, and where it is not the best option. For higher volumes, say a hundred or more, traditional manufacturing has the advantage. High volumes will always be cheaper to produce than single items. Retailers will always be able to ship faster from stock, than items 3d printed to order. 3d printing is not going to challenge high volume, low cost manufacturing or next day shipping anytime soon.
But. For unique one-off designs and low volume production runs, it is 3d printing that has the advantage. Using online 3d printing services there are no tooling or set-up costs. If you are offering custom designs, items are produced to order, there is no stock. . You are offering uniqueness rather than commodity.
We wrote recently that Microsoft have tied up with i.Materialise. Everyone with Windows 10 already has the capability pre-installed to upload and print their own model files. With so many people already possessing the tools needed to 3d print, the remaining gap that many folks need to bridge is the design and creation of the initial model file. While the availability of 3d authoring software is getting better, and easier to use, it still takes some skill and experience to produce good 3d designs.
So, the challenge for companies interested in selling 3d printed products is to offer a very wide range of designs that will each be produced at very low volumes, perhaps only once. But design is a difficult and time consuming activity, so how to square that circle?
Involving Customers in the design process
Our answer to the challenge of offering uniqueness with ease-of use is to turn at least part of the design process over to our customers.
We plan to produce a range of base designs with pre-configured customization options for each. Some examples of customizations we are working on:
- Allow the customer to enter a name, date or a phrase that will be turned into 3d text and incorporated into the design.
- Pre-model different parts of the design for the customer to choose whether to include or exclude each part.
- Choices of materials and finishes. Especially metals, steel, bronze and copper. Including gold or silver plated. Plastics for some designs. Ceramics with a choice of glazes.
Join everything up – from clicking to shipping
At Celtic3d, we aim to join up all these parts so that customers can choose a base design, customize it and preview it on our web-site, then, when the customer is happy with the preview and the price, seamlessly order the item.
We have been developing the web-code to display the 3d designs in preview mode with the ability to rotate them on-screen so that customers can get a good look at the base design and their chosen customization options. We are linking the site with systems from online 3d printing services so that the price quote, shopping cart and checkout processes are simple, intuitive and familiar.
And because we like re-using solutions, we are putting this together in such a way that takes full advantage of the cloud to be scalable and as seamless and automatic as possible.
Our focus is making the advantages of online 3d printing services more accessible to people. These companies have invested tens of millions of dollars into industrial-scale production facilities and make them available to anyone to upload and print their designs. Our challenge is to provide the designs, the means to make them personal combined with the ease of online shopping.
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