Will 3D Printing Eliminate the Need for Traditional Fabrication Methods?

seal-setThe plastic and rubber fabrication industry is at a crossroads. The demand for custom sized and shaped plastic and rubber is incredibly strong, but the shift from traditional fabrication methods to newer technologies such as 3D printing is leading many manufacturers into a situation where they will have to make some hard choices on how the will advance into the future. They must not only plan for the future but also maintain smooth supply lines today in order to keep their customers’ needs met.

Most people agree that 3D printing is going to have an incredible impact in the world of industry and manufacturing. Some questions however are when will that time arrive, and when it does will it destroy traditional methods? Currently the scale at which traditional methods can produce product is one of its benefits. Also, it is much more versatile in regards to materials that can be fabricated into customized products. A further benefit is that while making rubber and plastic items that are bound to other materials, like how the rubber and metal are bound together during the manufacturing process of vee packing rubber seals.

Something that 3D printing has on its side though is the lack of  initial investment needed to produce custom molds for each new product or size. Once the designer has created the blueprint with whatever 3D printing software that is required, it’s much cheaper and easier to maintain, modify, and use. When working with a product that has a wide range of sizes, this is extremely useful and cost efficient.

While 3D printing is only in its infancy, it has already started to works its way into custom plastic and rubber fabrication services. It’s functionality and cost efficiency is something that traditional fabrication will have a hard time competing with, especially as the technology grows and evolves. It’s safe to say, 3D printing is here to stay. How it changes the rubber and plastic industry however is yet to be determined.

People in the Age of Tech

A lot of what we read about and push ourselves to learn more about these days, especially in the word of business, industry, and manufacturing revolves around computers and technology. In a very short time we have went from using email instead of snail mail, online video interviews instead of face-to-face meets, and complex computer programs that analyze our financials so that we can try to maximize our profits and minimize our spending to the utmost extreme. While this may be beneficial to the bottom line, it may eventually be toxic to business in the long run.

The core of business, no matter if you are a small retail shop owner or a large manufacturer, is people. We buy raw materials or wholesale products from people. We create new products and sell them to people. Even in B2B networks, there is a person or group of people behind the companies making deals. The more invasive and the more responsibility that technology assumes, the less interaction we have as people.

A major problem with this trend is that relationships can not easily be built in this manner. Although it can be misconstrued as a buzzword, the concept of synergy is real. A spreadsheet or automated analysis can not provide accurate information on whether or not two businesses or business owners will work well together. On paper, they may have what each other needs, but in reality, the relationship may prove disastrous.

Take the movie Moneyball as an analogy. Sheer math could only take Oakland so far. To this day, while Billy Beane’s teams have measurable success, they cannot go all the way. Aside from having math on your side, to succeed in the long run, you need real relationships, partnerships, and shared visions.

Technology is a tremendous asset. It has inarguably led to growth and innovation that would have never been possible without it. However, at the end of the day, people still do business with people, and while tech can and should be used as a valuable tool, relying solely on it as a decision maker takes a large part of what makes many  business interactions successful, and the is people.