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Comment Jerry Ropelato, Whiteclouds CEO

How B2B Has Quietly Established Itself as 3D Printing’s Core Audience

Picture of Anatol Locker
by Anatol Locker
Jan 20, 2017
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Consumer stories get all the headlines, but B2B is driving 3D printing – that’s the opinion of Whitecloud’s CEO and Founder Jerry Ropelato.

If you’re in the 3D printing industy, Whiteclouds needs no introduction. The Utah-based company has the world’s largest full-color 3D-printing facility. Their “3D as a service” enables companies to create 3D experiences and turn them into full-color 3D printed products. They offer solutions in Medical, Architecture, and Entertainment.

We’re pleased to have Jerry Ropelato, the CEO and founder of the company, write this guest post for All3DP


Grabbing all the headlines and generating buzz, it’s hard to deny that 3D-printed toys and games are “all the rage.” And while it’s possible to be distracted by the B2C spotlight, consumer 3D printing isn’t the industry’s engine – B2B is.

Since its advent in the early 1980s, 3D printing has had a long, rich history of success in B2B business – first as a prototyping and R&D tool, and now as a leading manufacturing solution for a wide range of industries like medical and automotive. Furthermore, B2B is a major reason why the 3D printing industry is worth over $5.1 billion today.

Here are some ways that B2B has established itself at the core of the 3D printing industry, and how it will stay there moving forward.

Filaments and Finishes

When 3D printing enters the minds of first-time potential buyers, plastic is often considered the printing material. But 3D printing and its materials have evolved in just the past year or two.

For example, PLA – a popular plastic filament – is one of today’s most common materials, especially for consumer products such as toys and gadgets. And increased demand and innovation has caused the industry to introduce even more “enterprise-grade” filaments and finishes – including plastics such as ABS (think LEGO), PET, and Carbon Fiber.

Filaments include everything from metal and wood to nylon. The materials offer characteristics that increase durability and meet the unique needs of industries such as home décor and especially, medical technology for pre-operative models and prosthetics. This introduction of advanced materials has played an important role in the growth of 3D printing, and is a big reason why the industry is on pace to be worth $40 billion by 2027.

Software Growth and Evolution

In the 1980s, adding a “Z-axis” to print items in 3D was considered revolutionary. But today, we’ve come a long way from using 3D printing as a tool for prototyping simple models.

Without advancements in 3D printing software, it would be more difficult to make 3D printing a viable solution for complex tasks and needs like prosthetics, jet parts and more.

Specialized software – such as Sculptris, a popular sculpting-based tool, and Meshfix, which enables users to repair holes in 3D files – help companies streamline workflow and more effectively tackle their unique needs. This has been instrumental to increasing 3D printing’s appeal and applicability.

Improvements in Scanning Hardware

With the demand for 3D-printed products continuing to expand beyond athletics and architecture, personalization and detail have become two central tenets of the technology.

Beginning last year, the 3D printing healthcare industry alone was projected to grow at a CAGR of 26.2% until 2020. This growth is largely because personalization provides better care across the board, and scanning technology is playing a huge part in this success. For instance, to better map out operative planning, medical professionals can use personalized 3D-printed models of patient tumors based off CAT scans. At the same time, drone-scanning technology can be used to provide granular information on topographies for use in detailed outdoor prints such as cityscapes, maps and building plans.

As the 3D printing industry continues to grow, businesses will need to keep investing in B2B printing to drive long-term results and further establish it as a legitimate manufacturing solution.

License: The text of "How B2B Has Quietly Established Itself as 3D Printing’s Core Audience" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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