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Business Opportunities

3D printing keeps PSPs one step ahead

Large format 3D printing can pretty much create anything you dream up. It’s enticing and carries infinite potential for print service providers.

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3-Metre Triceratops 2D/3D Billboard by METROPOLE

The technology has quickly penetrated the arena of wide format printing, where a growing number of PSPs are incorporating it into their offering. It allows them the creative freedom to introduce new advertising applications and offer far greater customization for existing visual communication applications. When you can create 2D/3D billboards, illuminated giant POPs, and even custom SEG frames, it puts you at the forefront of your market as well as opening the door into new adjacent markets.

3D Printed Carolina Herrera “Good Girl” POP Display by Composite Images

The opportunity to leverage the unique advantages of 3D printing couldn’t come at a better time, with print services facing ongoing market challenges that could threaten their entire business. The truth is, print service providers have seen these cycles before. As new production techniques go mainstream, PSPs lose that edge. Their products become commoditized, leaving them vulnerable to intense competition. Print shops are constantly fighting the bottom line and looking for every advantage to ensure this isn’t simply a race to the bottom.

In hindsight, we see that that the answer is almost always with new technologies. It’s the shrewd decision to take that jump into something new that has made the difference between success and failure. In the world of wide format printing, it’s been better to hop on the new wave too early, rather than too late. In the case of large format 3D printing, print shops will tell you that this wave is not only new and exciting, but it’s picking up speed at an exponential rate.

Rugby League World Cup Campaign 3D Printed by Composite Images

So Big, It Speaks For Itself

When people speak about “the next big thing,” rarely do they mean that literally. In this case, machines like the Massivit 1800 large format 3D printer use its huge presence to an advantage. When you’re able to print displays and models up to 1.8m high, you know you’ll have people’s attention. There’s also something about huge sizes that elicit the fantasy worlds we knew as children.

From larger-than-life retail displays, to supersized campaign props, to 3D bus wraps that literally jump out at you - the applications appear endless. Creating a 3-meter tall dinosaur stops people in their tracks and demands attention. 3D printing makes this type of ingenuity more accessible than ever. Clients can dream up their most audacious guerilla marketing plans, and PSPs can now deliver this vision right down to the smallest of details.

Those who have experience with 3D will tell you how liberating it is. By adding that additional dimension, you can create final, tangible products and characters that look and feel like the world around us or that bring a fantasy world to life - rather than being flat depictions of it. Watching how 2D clients begin to take the shackles off their imagination is remarkable. When you’re used to designing 2D prints, you can’t even fathom how self-limiting that is. Giving those same clients an opportunity to look at things through a big 3D lens is like letting a kid into a candy store. This is a huge opportunity for print services, who can offer them something truly spectacular to their current 2D clients, as well as attracting new ones who are already looking for 3D.

Once clients have seen the impact that 3D printing has on their campaigns, they become return customers. A great example is Sony Pictures. After New York-based vehicle wrapping experts, Carisma, created 3D bus wraps for the release of their Angry Birds movie, Sony Pictures was hooked. They’ve since requested 3D vehicle wraps for every film release of theirs. There’s no greater compliment than that for 3D printing.

Angry Birds 3D Vehicle Wraps for Sony Pictures Movie Launch by Carisma

New Market Prices

Where PSPs are seeing the biggest difference isn’t just the growth of their customer base, but rather the growth of their profit margins. New technologies bring with them the power of exclusivity. Being that brands and agencies can’t get large format 3D prints everywhere, they’re much more willing to pay a premium for them. Especially when they understand the impact it has on the success of their campaign.

Perhaps Craig M. Miller, CEO of Pictographics and owner of a Massivit 1800 3D printer, put it best when he said, “When you enter a non-commoditized market, like today with wide format 3D printing, you can benefit from a generous margin. Revolutionary, new technology means there’s no ‘going rate’, so you can name your price within reason. Why? Because there are few competitors and you are bringing a ‘wow’ factor to the customer.”

When you can offer your customers something different, you can control your margins to a much greater degree. In the current economic climate for print shops, this is a key consideration. Landing more orders isn’t as important as landing ones with healthy margins. That’s how print services are able to face the growing challenges of today’s business, and technologies such as large format 3D printing are the ultimate ace up their sleeve.

Speed Sells

Deadlines have always been crucial for printing, but this is even more so today. Campaigns need to be produced on short notice, and the onus is often on PSPs to somehow deliver. Producing 3D campaign props, for instance, is almost impossible using traditional hand carving methods. This type of work is laboriously slow, meaning some shops have to turn down orders because they simply can’t commit to such a quick turnaround.

This is an area in which large format 3D printing excels. A life-size human display can take 20 hours to create using a CNC router, and days or even weeks if created by styrofoam hand sculpting. Print shops can cut that time down to only 7 hours with a large format 3D printer like the Massivit 1800. The same goes for thermoforming moulds. A CNC router will create them in 12 hours, whereas a large format 3D printer takes only 4. Consistently slicing your turnaround time by 70% or more opens up opportunities that simply don’t exist with traditional technologies.

Louis Vuitton 3D Printed Pop-Up Store by SEEN Technologies

Nobody wants to turn down work because they can’t meet a deadline, but this is frequently the case. Not long ago Louis Vuitton went looking for someone to create a custom pop-up store design - but in a hurry. Astoundingly, they couldn’t find anyone to do the job. The timeframe was just too short. That is, until they called Omus/Seen Technologies, who have their own Massivit 3D printer. Owner, Robert Grosso, understood the dilemma Louis Vuitton was facing, and instantly knew the solution too. “Given the complexity of the design and the short turnaround time, 3D printing was really the only viable production method,” he explained.

The 3D Effect

While there are pros and cons to every new technology, there is a resounding enthusiasm among PSPs for 3D printing. At this point, print shops appear to be only scratching the surface of its full potential. Large format 3D printing has already made an impact in their business, untethering them from limitations and empowering creative breakthroughs.

This creative energy inevitably spills back over to their 2D work as well. Beyond expanding their offering for existing clients, or bringing in clients who need 3D work, print services have seen how it can spur their 2D business too. That was the impact Jeff Burt, owner of ElipseCorp, saw himself. He decided to create 6-foot tall (1.8m) 3D printed robots with his Massivit 3D printer and bring them along to the GlobalShop Expo. The result was an 800% increase in leads from the previous year, as the huge robots were attention magnets for his booth. “What was truly amazing was how 3D opened the door to new clients for our traditional 2D business!” he said.

Media Resources co-owner Steve Gallow can also attest to the instant excitement 3D applications create. While viewing some of these new applications at the print shop, representatives of existing client Fallsview Casino were mesmerized at the possibilities. This led to a $2.5 million LED order from the casino. They’ve since become addicted to 3D billboards too, making regular orders that have proven integral to their business.


Giant 3D Billboard by Media Resources

The rise in 3D printing reaches across all industries, but in wide format digital printing specifically it is clearly coalescing into a rising wave. Print shops are finding that they don’t need to wallow in a competitive, low-margin environment. All they need is to find that offering which will elicit excitement, while allowing them the freedom to create and expand their markets rather than reacting to them. It’s a proactive approach that is proving itself, and allows PSPs with large format 3D printers to position themselves for now and the future.

To learn more about the benefits of large format 3D printing, you can download a complimentary ebook “5 Reasons to Incorporate 3D Printing into Your Wide Format Digital Print Business”.


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