Should You Insource or Outsource 3D Printing?

>>Should You Insource or Outsource 3D Printing?

Should You Insource or Outsource 3D Printing?

Benefits of 3D Printing

By now, nearly everyone has heard about 3D printing.  This is especially true for players in the plastics industry as around 90% of the machines sold for AM (additive manufacturing) are for polymer-based materials.  However, many companies are investigating how to integrate AM into their business.

From OEM’s to tiered suppliers to tooling and machine shops, AM is helping to reduce cost, shorten lead-times, achieve faster part maturation and allowing  more customization: all to bring true value-add for their customers.  Common examples of these benefits include rapid prototyping, producing functional custom fitted products (such as prosthetics), creating assembly jigs and check fixtures, low-volume final parts (aerospace and specialty automotive) and producing replacement parts for older equipment.

A less common example is 3D printing insert molds for plastic injection molding.  Molds 3D printed with high temperature polymers that include CFD-optimized cooling features, can be inserted into a steel die to then be injected with mass production grade plastics.  Depending on the polymer used, the method can yield 50-200 parts that are essentially high-level tooled parts without the need for any machining of aluminum or steel.  This can cut out double digit weeks of lead-time and save tens of thousands of dollars.

Another unique example is the use of 3D printed parts for investment casting.  A 3D printed part can be used to create the mold for injecting wax cores, or for low volume products or prototypes, the core can be 3D printed directly with wax to build the tree.  This would essentially be “rapid high-level tooled” parts for investment casting.


Insource vs. Outsource

The typical concerns include

  • High equipment purchase or lease cost
  • Expensive service contracts
  • Choosing the right technology (FDM, SLA, SLS, etc, all have their pros and cons)
  • Rapidly improving equipment (higher performance for lower cost)
  • High material cost (typically industrial grade printers require use of their “closed” material cartridges)
  • Material selection per application (what material is best for your needs?)
  • Hiring and training of technicians.

For some operations that may want to use AM for a few processes with a specific range of materials or those who want to make production parts, it may make sense to bring the capability in-house.

For most other businesses, 3D printing can be outsourced to a service bureau that can simply print and ship parts to them to their specifications.  Outsourcing will still most likely yield a significant cost savings, especially for those companies who are still experimenting with how AM can be integrated into their processes.  It’s a low cost and low risk way to trial various strategies and technologies.


How We Can Help

IC3D, one of Ohio’s top manufacturers of 3D printing consumables and other 3D printing products, is now offering 3D printing service and additive manufacturing consultation for your business.  Our engineers have over 15 years of combined experience in additive manufacturing from operating large scale industrial machines all the way down to open-source desktop 3D printers.  In addition, we have over 15 years of automotive OEM product design and development experience from concept to mass production, and a wealth of know-how with automotive plastics including designing for manufacturing and supply chain.

IC3D engineers and designers will work with you to craft a solution for you and your customers.  Our in-house capability includes large format FDM 3D printers that we’ve developed ourselves to significantly reduce job cost.  We already have proven 3D printing skills with all the know-how required to quickly create professional 3D prints with a variety of polymers.  If the solution you need is not in-house, we have a network of partners that cover all existing technologies.

Our goal is to help you figure out a value-added solution at the lowest cost possible.

For assistance on figuring out the next steps to taking advantage of additive manufacturing for your business or for 3D printing your designs, please contact us at or visit us at


By | 2018-08-07T08:07:21-04:00 January 31st, 2016|Articles|Comments Off on Should You Insource or Outsource 3D Printing?

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