An estimated 10,000 start-ups have been created in France over the last 5 years(1). These innovative companies, many of which are part of the French Tech ecosystem, often use 3D printing for their incubation phase but also for their production. Indeed, this technology offers many advantages over traditional techniques.
(1) Source : 1001startups : http://1001startups.fr/chiffres-cles-startups-france/
Whether a consumer or industrial 3D printer, the objective is similar: to create original objects or objects that meet a specific expectation or need. In the context of a start-up, depending on the difficulty of the object and the technical and mechanical characteristics that you wish to obtain, it will be easy either to create it at home or in a Fablab with the appropriate 3D file, or to be assisted by a professional 3D printer. The various technologies available today in 3D printing allow to realize parts of aspects, but also technical and thus to print as well the functional prototype in phase of development as the small series once the project launched. With almost unlimited possibilities in the forms, this technology is an excellent tool to develop creativity and to realize customized parts.
An irreproachable quality
Constantly evolving, 3D technology is now capable of printing large parts in a variety of materials: plastic, wood, resin, textiles, metals... The quality and possibilities increase as printers improve. With a good printer and some expertise in the manufacturing process, it is possible to print very durable products with a high quality finish.
Reduced costs and development time
At the beginning of a start-up, it is not necessarily economically interesting to use traditional machining methods, either for prototypes before the launch, or for the production of parts, which is generally done in small series. With additive manufacturing, it becomes possible to produce simple prototypes or small series at lower cost in record time. Another advantage is that it allows to easily print functional prototypes and thus identify design errors and adjust the parts as many times as necessary at a lower cost compared to traditional machining.
Some examples of the use of 3D printing for start-ups that are making a name for themselves
Customuse, a London-based start-up, offers a range of 3D printed electric guitars. Four basic models are available with several customizable elements such as the head, the neck, the body but also the colors or the possible texts to be incrusted. Each guitar can be customized and available within a fortnight. The guitar is modeled by the Customuse team before being printed and assembled.
In the same vein and more recently, 3DVarius, a French start-up, presented its 3D printed violins at CES 2017. Each part of the violin is customizable to make the instrument unique.
As mentioned in this article, 3D PROD has become a partner of the French start-up Camen by ensuring part of the production of its cameos. The association between jewelry and 3D printing is becoming more and more obvious, as proven by the rising French company Gemmyo. Indeed, since 2011, this start-up offers to create online the jewel of one's dreams among nearly 8000 possible combinations by selecting different criteria such as the shape, the metal or the precious stone. Each piece of jewelry is made on demand and delivered in less than two weeks. Here, 3D printing allows to quickly produce the customer's jewel without having to store many copies. The technique used requires the 3D printing of a first wax model in order to create a mold where the precious metal will be cast. The use of this technology allows Gemmyo to offer prices 40% lower than the market.
In the United States, Normal produces personalized audio headphones: thanks to an application that scans the ear, it is possible to receive a personalized pair of headphones in a few days, 100% adapted to one's morphology. The brand has even created a concept-store where professional 3D printers allow to design directly on the spot the earphones customized to the customer's shape and taste.
Feetz is reinventing footwear by combining a mobile 3D scanning application with 3D printing technologies. The start-up offers to send in less than 7 days a pair of shoes to the precise measurements of the customer. Insoles users are the first to be interested in this new product, but the start-up intends to address everyone by offering different customization criteria (color, materials) for absolute comfort.
And the examples are still numerous... Young entrepreneurs have at their fingertips a quality technology at reasonable costs that allows them to be creative and dynamic, so why deprive themselves?