In the 3D printing industry, nothing may be more wasteful than an idle 3D printer, particularly when it comes to industrial systems that can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thankfully, the Internet has the uncanny ability to network people all over the world, resulting in the launch of businesses that can connect 3D printer owners to those that need parts printed. One such company is 3Discovered, which has, ahead of RAPID 2016, launched its Parts Forever service to connect industrial 3D printing bureaus to customers in search of unique or legacy parts.
Since its inception in 2014, Chicago-based 3Discovered has built up its network of industrial 3D printer owners, while it has simultaneously built a case around the need for digital inventory in the modern age. By replacing stock items with 3D-printable CAD models, companies have the ability to only house the necessary components needed at a given time and can 3D print specialty items, such as spare parts, on-demand. 3Discovered has now initiated its Parts Forever service in the hopes that such a model will be incorporated into the supply chains of parts suppliers, equipment manufacturers and end users.
With the Parts Forever service, users can upload digital copies of infrequently used components or parts that are no longer produced to a virtual digital inventory hosted by 3Discovered. Competitive bids from various 3D printing bureaus across the United States and Europe are then automatically generated to print those items on-demand in a range of materials and with a range of 3D printing processes. 3Discovered also boasts a network of engineers and designers that can aid businesses in the design, reverse engineering or 3D print preparation of their components. With third-party validation services integrated in the Parts Forever platform, these files will be checked for printability as well.
3Discovered CEO Peer Munck elaborated on what he sees as the possibilities offered by the service, saying, “One of the many advantages of 3D printing is that parts can be reverse engineered, re-engineered and improved upon and then quickly fabricated when and where they're needed. This makes it possible to extend the useful life of aging machines and equipment without hoarding used parts or costly safety stock.”
3Discovered will be at RAPID 2016 in Orlando, Fla., from May 16 to 19 to present its services, but they will likely face some competition. The networking ability of the Internet has not been overlooked by the 3D printing community. SyncFab is another startup with its own take on a network of designers and 3D printers, and, last year, distributed manufacturing site 3D Hubs launched its own industrial 3D printing network. 3D printing service provider CloudDDM is located directly on the UPS Supply Chain Campus in order to ship their orders anywhere in the United States within a day. Leading business-to-consumer 3D printing company Shapeways also leverages a network of 3D printing providers. In other words, 3Discovered is actually part of a larger trend that, regardless of each individual firm's take on the concept, will see distributed manufacturing become a part of the larger manufacturing supply chain as 3D printing increases in adoption in the coming years.