“There is nothing efficient about innovation,” says author and TEDx Talk speaker Simon Sinek. This is true because innovation takes many paths —  starting and stopping — adjusting to meet needs. But we now have a tool to bring more efficiency into our innovation team — 3-D printing.

Most of you know the technology of 3-D printing, but maybe not the latest designs that help us see our innovation quickly. Many of us are very visual learners and observers. We judge the impact of a project by what we see. 3-D printing allows us to see and feel the idea we had yesterday the next morning.

Considering that this type of part printing is relatively new, it has progressed quickly to encompass many technologies and materials. Today’s printers can print flexible and rigid thermoplastics, metals and fabrics. They are also used in the medical and dental professions to make models and implants.

Another name for 3-D printing is additive manufacturing, since this process adds material until the part is done instead of the older process of subtracting material until the part you want appears. Other new innovations to this technology are multi-material printers that can utilize up to ten different substances — and a glass printer. (See the Fenestration Innovation Network.) Even the inexpensive desktop versions of the printers are now producing great parts. With a new printer, you can prototype parts faster, spark your innovation, learn new uses of this technology and understand how it can help your team.

I would like to challenge you to purchase your first — or upgrade your existing — 3-D printer today. We as an industry are in need of more innovation. Our customers have been conditioned to expect constant innovation by the electronics and consumer-products industries. We seem slow and out of date if we are not in a constant stream of innovation. The only way to change this is to gear up your innovation team and give it the tools it needs, including 3-D printers.

Many of the Fenestration Innovation blogs are about organizational plans and methods to kick-start your thinking, but today I’m asking you to take physical action and purchase, install and start using your 3-D printer. Why? Because I have seen what this can do for innovation at many companies. It can be used not only for prototyping new door and window components, but also for plant layouts, lean manufacturing tools, problem-solving gadgets, mistake-proofing fixtures and actual production parts.

There are many options to consider, as shown in the following links, but since the challenge was to act now, I normally suggest purchasing the Dell Makerbot 2x printer. This printer will get you started, offers high resolution, and prints two different materials and colors — along with being backed by Dell.

If you already have a printer, consider moving up to one of 3-D systems more advanced printers such as the Projet 3510.

Once you have your printer, start using it immediately in your innovation team meetings. Use this link to investigate one of the 500,000 free online files of useful tools to print on your machine. This will allow your machine to start printing on Day 1 and to help your team realize its potential.

I believe you and your innovation team will find the addition of these capabilities will propel your idea creation. Here’s a glimpse at how ten large companies are utilizing 3-D printing.

We will see some great innovation over the next few years in the use of additive manufacturing. Your company and your team will be part of this innovation wave with the purchase, use and integration of one of these groundbreaking tools of the future

If you want to let me know how you innovation is progressing or to ask any questions, e-mail me at raygarries@gmail.com.


1 Comment

  1. I really appreciated this article, not only for addressing 3-d printing as valuable technology but for the discussion about innovation that applies not only to fenestration but to the glass community as a whole.

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