Committee Examines Rise of 3D Printing Technology and Small Business Impacts
The Small Business Committee, led by Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), today conducted a hearing on the rapid expansion of 3D printing and the entrepreneurial opportunities the technology affords small businesses. The Committee examined how 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is creating growth avenues for small businesses, and the importance of ensuring these innovations continue.
3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional solid objects from a digital model, typically through the deposit of a material layer upon layer until an object is formed. The technology has been around since the 1980s, but a recent shift in the accessibility of 3D printers has led to an explosion in its use by consumers and entrepreneurs.
“3D printing is spurring innovation on numerous fronts, and we must ensure that policies don’t stifle small business entrepreneurship as this technology continues to emerge,” said Chairman Graves. “The growing affordability of 3D printing over the past decade is enabling small firms to develop new business applications and products. Today’s hearing provided valuable insight for Washington policymakers on this technology’s promise for small businesses. The testimony from these innovators illustrates why Congress and other policy makers should seek to foster the innovation this technology facilitates to create opportunity and jobs."
Patrick O'Neill, CEO, olloclip, LLC., Huntington, Beach, CA, said, “The mobile device market changes so quickly. To stay competitive, we use the 3D printer every day to develop new ideas. We’ve found that it’s the best way to innovate quickly and get to market faster. What we can now create in week would have originally took 1-2 months for development… Small and mid-size companies like ours need the ability to compete on the world stage —especially in rapidly changing, innovation-driven industries like consumer technology.”
Jonathan Cobb, EVP, Public Affairs, Stratasys, Inc., Eden Prairie, MN, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers, said, “…3D printing will not replace traditional manufacturing processes but, rather, it serves as another ‘tool in the manufacturing toolbox’ to complement how a good portion of manufacturers are delivering products to market in a more efficient and customized way. Like the Internet in the 1990’s and smart phones in the last decade, 3D technology is becoming highly accessible, and poised to usher in a new world of 'mass customization'.”
Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO, Shapeways, Inc., New York, NY, said, “Similar to how the Internet removed barriers for software development, 3D printing is removing barriers for manufacturing products. Designers can: create their products and have them printed out with little cost; ideate and update their designs quickly so there’s no need to do marketing research in advance; build products without costly upfront payments for manufacturing or molds; and distribute products directly online, with no retail investment. Plus, they can continuously evolve their products, since they don’t have to keep any inventory.”
Jan Baum, Executive Director, 3D Maryland, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, Columbia, MD, said, “The primary advantages of 3D printing are significant to small and large business alike, but they level the playing field so that small businesses have opportunity to compete and develop solutions. Proof of concept models and more efficient iterative prototyping lead to optimized products prior to commercialization. Cost savings can be captured with faster and cheaper prototypes. More importantly for small business, 3D printing allows for less expensive process improvement and innovations.”