3Diligent: The Sourcing Solution for Industrial-Grade Rapid Manufacturing

Posted on Mar 16, 2015 by Cullen Hikene

Instant Access to the Latest and Greatest 3D Printing, CNC Machining, and More

3D printing is an incredible technology, but it’s expensive.  If you want to access the latest technologies but don’t want to fork over a small fortune for a machine or waste tons of time hunting down vendors, only to find they don’t have your desired material, process, or reasonable pricing, 3Diligent is for you.  

The 3D Printing Story

3D printing is a game-changer—and we want to help your business access the best of it faster and for less.

Article after article says it, from The Economist to Forbes to Business Insider, there is no denying additive manufacturing (the more technical name for 3D printing) is fundamentally changing the way things are made.

It’s somewhat remarkable to think this is a technology that—at its heart—has been around for more than three decades. A number of things have held this technology back from adoption: patent protections, speed concerns, size limitations—but quality and cost have generally been established as the biggest recent issues.

Recent Developments

Recent years have been kind to 3D printing on the quality front. With aerospace-grade plastics and metals arriving in the market, material science has improved massively. Production accuracy has similarly improved, with accuracy from industrial printers capable of meeting or exceeding +/- .005″.  Case in point, GE is manufacturing all of its next-generation LEAP jet fuel nozzles using additive manufacturing.

There have been strides on the cost front, but cheap technology is not. Certain patents expiring on early technologies like Stereolithography (SLA) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and community efforts like the Rep Rap Project gave rise to desktop printers. These personal printers could be offered for a few thousand dollars—relative peanuts compared to industrial printers—but industrial printers (the ones achieving the quality and certifications that I mentioned earlier) still carry price tags in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If you want to access this incredible professional and production-grade technology to achieve something better than a basic prototype, what do you do?

The Printer’s Dilemma

Buy a printer? Not a chance…not with that price tag and related obsolescence risks! By the time you hired and trained staff internally, it’s a safe bet the printer you bought has been surpassed by a slew of faster, better models.

Lease a printer? The residual values built into leases after just a couple years make it almost the same as buying a printer without the capital asset.

Outsource to a service provider? This makes the most sense for all but the biggest companies. Even for mega-corporations, it still makes sense to outsource some production that isn’t viable in-house whether for overflow or for less commonly used materials and/or processes. The trouble is, utilizing a service bureau, or even a few, has its own issues. Service bureaus face the same concerns as their customers—trying to win the race against obsolescence by keeping machines running all the time, with full build trays, and striving to stock the right amount of material to perfectly match demand. Since every vendor takes a different approach to recoup investment and since no vendor is perfect at inventory management, pricing can be highly variable from one service provider to the next—sometimes 10x. Further, since no provider carries all the technologies in the market, let alone all the available material-process combinations, even a handful of select service providers are not enough.

That describes the challenge of how to get 3D printing, but we haven’t even touched on the separate analysis of when to use 3D printing and the fact that it isn’t always the best option relative to CNC machining, molding, casting, and a handful of other rapid-manufacturing techniques. How does a company not only access 3D printing efficiently and affordably but also know that they’re deploying the most cost-effective technology for the particular job at hand?

The 3D Print Sourcing Solution

3Diligent is the Answer

3Diligent has networked independent service providers who have invested in the industrial-grade rapid manufacturing technologies we’re talking about. When customers submit an RFQ through our secure platform, our algorithm identifies the vendors equipped to bid on the job, then facilitates messaging and transactions between the interested parties.

You’re not limited by a single provider’s material or process constraints. You’re not limited by the backlog they may have. You’re accessing the available capacity of the market.

Doing so not only provides more seamless and efficient access to the capability you seek but also allows you to take advantage of serendipity. If one vendor has excess capacity, or they have a scheduled run that your job could slide nicely alongside, you’re able to identify that vendor and take advantage of circumstances that may allow you below market pricing.

Savings of time. Savings of money. In sum, the ability to efficiently and effectively the best in 3D printed metal, plastic, and more.

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