5 step process for research & development with 3D printing

Edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, and espe­cial­ly uni­ver­si­ties, are rel­a­tive­ly quick to adopt new tech­nolo­gies that are used in the real econ­o­my. The rea­son is that oth­er­wise the out­go­ing stu­dents are insuf­fi­cient­ly trained for pro­fes­sion­al life and don’t serve their com­mu­ni­ty pur­pose. In addi­tion, new devices enable extra­or­di­nary ways to go as, for exam­ple, research with 3D print­ing shows.

In this blog post, we show a first approach how uni­ver­si­ties can enable their stu­dents to dis­cov­er new insights in their field. Due to the wide range of pos­si­bil­i­ties, we did not focus on spe­cif­ic cours­es and dis­ci­plines. Rather, we point out a gener­ic way that any enthu­si­ast can imple­ment in his orga­ni­za­tion. This describes a step-by-step approach where­by rel­a­tive­ly rigid state edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions can grad­u­al­ly approach the top­ic.

5 steps to research with 3D printers

At each point, the uni­ver­si­ty and par­tic­i­pat­ing pro­fes­sors must joint­ly con­sid­er which answer or approach suits their top­ic. Of course, the exist­ing bud­gets and the goal also play an impor­tant role. In our obser­va­tion, many nec­es­sary steps are skipped and one goes straight to the pur­chase of a 3D print­er.

Still, buy­ing a device does not mean research­ing 3D print­ers for a long time. This step is fol­lowed by eupho­ria and inter­est, accord­ing to which a very depress­ing sobri­ety fol­lows with the ques­tion “And now?”. There­fore, we rec­om­mend the 5 step process adding your own adjust­ments and improve­ments along the way.

Step 1: 3D printing basic knowledge

Most uni­ver­si­ties cur­rent­ly pur­chase devices out of inter­est from their mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing depart­ment. This is because they main­ly see the 3D print­er as a research object in itself. You can do that, how­ev­er, we rec­om­mend that you first learn in a group the basics of 3D print­ing tech­nol­o­gy, before you start work­ing with 3D print­ers. Such cir­cles include pro­fes­sors, inter­est­ed stu­dents and poten­tial experts. In it, sim­ple things can be done, like going through one of the entry-lev­el books, dis­cuss poten­tial use-cas­es, etc. With this infor­ma­tion you can under­stand your require­ments for a 3D Print­er in much more detail which is extreme­ly help­ful lat­er on to save costs in the long-term

Step 2: Analyze the subject and discover potentials

The goal of such groups and events, as men­tioned in Step 1, is the exchange of knowl­edge and the recog­ni­tion of oppor­tu­ni­ties. Espe­cial­ly at prac­ti­cal forums with exter­nal speak­ers and experts that have the nec­es­sary expe­ri­ence.

With a more detailed analy­sis and list­ing of all core com­pe­ten­cies of your fac­ul­ty, uni­ver­si­ty and study cours­es, spe­cial top­ics that suit 3D print­ing may arise. These can be sort­ed by a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion or ben­e­fit analy­sis to describe more detailed con­sid­er­a­tions for ini­tial research. It helps a lot at the begin­ning to agree on a few and promis­ing approach­es to allo­cate the knowl­edge and resources lat­er on.

Step 3: Analyze approaches to 3D printing research

Once you fin­ish the first steps, it will take a meet­ing to trans­form ini­tial insights into remain­ing top­ic col­lec­tions. These are not actu­al exper­i­ments, but rather more spe­cif­ic con­sid­er­a­tions. For exam­ple, in eco­nom­ics fac­ul­ties, the top­ics of mar­ket­ing, sales, val­ue chain and account­ing may be con­nect­ed to 3D print­ing or maybe not at all.

For exam­ple sales and mar­ket­ing have a great sales tool 3D Print­ing as they can pro­to­type prod­ucts and have sev­er­al test runs with cus­tomers in a very short peri­od of time. But it may be that the group decides to explore a rather dif­fer­ent con­nec­tion with 3D print­ing and account­ing.

Step 4: Perform experiments

There are innu­mer­able account­ings ques­tion to clar­i­fy about 3D print­ing. How do you account the depre­ci­a­tion when tech­nolo­gies rev­o­lu­tion­ize so fast that you can hard­ly keep track of them? How do mis­prints and mate­r­i­al con­sump­tion count here? What exact­ly are vari­able costs in this case and what are fixed costs? Does only the mate­r­i­al count as vari­able and the cur­rent as a fix or both vari­able? What about the cost of main­te­nance? And so on …

As you can see, all of a sud­den you come into research with 3D print­ers. It’s amaz­ing how much research has already been done on top­ics like 3D Bio­print­ing as you can see on Sci­ence Direct. Of course, it can also hap­pen that the research does not solve a prob­lem in the future. Still, find­ing out that cer­tain areas are not real­ly affect­ed by the tech­nol­o­gy enables you to find the con­nec­tions that are.

As described, par­tic­i­pants like to buy a device and jump right to that point. Of course, man­u­fac­tur­ers are hap­py about it and talk about the suc­cess­es of oth­er edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions that have mutat­ed into lead­ing researchers. But that is exact­ly the point of our 5 steps, you still do not need a 3D Print­er in our exam­ple till this point. You can play through the process on a men­tal ideation lev­el, access exist­ing ser­vice providers, con­duct research, con­tact oth­er uni­ver­si­ties or schools and, of course, inquire direct­ly with com­pa­nies. Per­haps these have account­ing chal­lenges through the use of addi­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nolo­gies.

Step 5: Evaluation and improvement

The 5th and final step in 3D print­er research is sim­i­lar to any oth­er ana­lyt­i­cal work. After the work is done, there is more work to be done, as analy­sis is need­ed. If we find a mis­take or lack of knowl­edge in our book­keep­ing, then it goes back to steps 1 and 2. If the exper­i­ments show that the sub­ject area of ​​the book­keep­ing is less inter­est­ing than ini­tial­ly thought, then this has an impact on the choice for step 3.

Ulti­mate­ly, it is a cycle with an inher­ent 3D print­ing learn­ing jour­ney to achieve suc­cess­es and insights. The team and the group are evolv­ing and dri­ving the field of study through inno­v­a­tive 3D print­ing research. This will pos­si­bly attract media atten­tion and def­i­nite­ly dri­ve the con­ver­sa­tion at your insti­tute. At this point, there are first ben­e­fits pre­sentable to pro­vide strong argu­ments in the next bud­get allo­ca­tion. This is espe­cial­ly true because the research work shows you your own require­ments help­ing you to find the per­fect device (our assort­ed selec­tion of 3D print­ersalso helps). And they are usu­al­ly a lot cheap­er than you think and what you would oth­er­wise buy 😉

Conclusion for research with 3D printers

For those who want to delve into this area and explore syn­er­gy effects to their own com­pe­tence, there are many ways. The direct route to the 3D print­er is not always the smartest, although it often makes sense. We rec­om­mend at least these 5 steps to go through and see if the entry from 0 to 100 is the right one. Of course we are hap­py to answer any ques­tions via our con­tact form.

Oth­er­wise, we wish you all the best!

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