The Silicon Review
3D printing is widely considered as the future of manufacturing. Unlike traditional manufacturing, where most three dimensional objects are made separately and assembled thereafter, 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) builds a three-dimensional object using a 3D printer by adding successive layers of materials to “print” an object. The process is somewhat similar to the process of printing on paper, where a printer prints images on a two-dimensional background.
3D printing reduces the costs and complexity of manufacturing significantly, in terms of overhead and labor, in addition to bolstering the speed of production. Additionally, additive manufacturing does not require any specially designed parts to churn out specific objects, since the entire product is made directly inside the manufacturing platform, layer by layer. 3DCompare is an ambitious startup that aims to establish a global network of 3D manufacturing centers for rapid production and deployment, keeping affordability in mind. The company provides an on-demand manufacturing platform where customers can upload a prepared design, and get their product 3D printed at one of the numerous manufacturers 3DCompare has partnered with. These manufacturing centers are spread across the globe and handle the manufacturing of whatever the customers order. Furthermore, 3DCompare has also partnered with delivery services that take care of packaging and shipping.
3DCompare does not own any manufacturing centres but plans to become the go-to destination for individuals as well as businesses that want to get products manufactured. The business model is similar to that of Uber and Airbnb. Uber does not own a single cab of its own, but still is the world’s largest cab company. 3DCompare will not directly own a single manufacturing center but plans to become ubiquitous in the manufacturing and 3D printing industry.
Founded in the United Kingdom, the founder of 3DCompare faced all the challenges that are typical of launching and running a budding enterprise. He had to hire the right people who would contribute to the development of the platform, in addition to individuals who also believed in the mission. Furthermore, talking to manufacturers and convincing them to join a growing network presented its own set of challenges.
The beauty of 3DCompare’s platform lies in its simplicity. Customers who need a particular item manufactured can just log on to the company’s platform, upload design specifications for their product, choose from among a diverse range of materials and get it printed out from a convenient manufacturing location. Furthermore, customers can also get an instant quote on the price for their product and even choose from among numerous manufacturers to fit their budget. What’s more is that 3DCompare also offers innovative solutions for corrections in designs that have been uploaded by customers so that they don’t have to worry about inaccurate designs being manufactured, resulting in considerable loses. It is such a commitment to customer satisfaction that has stimulated growth and cultivated a sense of trust for 3DCompare.
In its commitment to ensuring quality, 3DCompare has implemented a strict set of standards which are adhered to when accepting manufacturers into its network. Any 3D printing center found flouting the rules more than once are immediately removed. Additionally, 3DCompare has an excellent way of garnering feedback from its clients, all of which are used to assess numerous features of 3DCompare’s marketplace and improve customer service. It is this culture of feedback that has contributed to 3DCompare’s enviable levels of customer retention and customer satisfaction.
While 3DCompare aims to become the biggest name in 3D printing, its platform also offers 3D scanning. Just as a conventional scanner scans a piece of paper to produce a digital rendering of what is written on it, 3D scanning analyzes a real-world object and gathers information on it to produce a realistic three dimensional digital model of the object. 3D scanning has applications in various industries such as augmented reality, virtual reality, video gaming, industrial design, quality inspection/control, reverse engineering, and so on.
3D scanning operates on the principle of collecting data about a subject, which can be anything from an object, an environment or a person. The subject is captured using something called ‘point cloud data’. When scanning an object, the scanner is pointed towards the part and moved by the operator to measure all or a large number of points on the external surface of the object. All the data points are logged together by the scanner to essentially form the outer layer of the part, creating a 3D ‘cloud’ when the physical object is taken away. Point cloud data is later used to create 3D CAD models of objects.
The manufacturing industry is one of the cornerstones of a nation’s economy. With most of the manufacturing in Europe and America being shipped off China, that sector has been observing a gradual slump over the last couple of decades. However, given the lower labor costs and overhead in China, coupled with highly favorable regulations, the challenge of bringing manufacturing back from China has been a tough one. Establishing a network of 3D printing centers across Europe and the rest of the world is touted as being an excellent first step towards democratizing the manufacturing industry.
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