3d printing, cloud computing collide changing the face of small-scale manufacturing

By Glen White
Two powerful tech trends—3d printing and cloud computing—are coming together. And that might make it a lot easier for small companies to get...

Two powerful tech trends—3d printing and cloud computing—are coming together. And that might make it a lot easier for small companies to get into the manufacturing game, says a report published in the Wall Street Journal.

In recent years 3d printing has been pitted at the next big thing for small companies, allowing them to turn computer-generated designs into physical objects. But while the technology can produce items more cheaply than traditional manufacturing, for many small firms the investment is simply too big: High-end printers that produce finished products can cost thousands or even millions of dollars, and require specialized skills to use.

Enter a new batch of cloud-based services—such as Shapeways, Cubify, i Materialize and Sculpteo—that offer to do the 3d printing for small businesses. Companies can work up a design and upload it to a cloud server, and the cloud business at the other end 3d prints it. The cloud companies sometimes offer services such as packaging, shipping and billing as well—allowing small businesses to focus on core areas such as design. Enter a new era of small scale manufacturing - the result, an opportunity to create products with little or no capital outlay and the ability to rethink common problems such as carrying inventory and diversifying product lines.

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