OIA Rendezvous® 2012: 3D Printing Could Reshape the Outdoor Industry

Sep 5, 2012

Topics: Events, Technology

Imagine a world with just-on-time delivery, where a customer can order a product and — in the same day — a store can manufacture and deliver it simply by downloading a CAD file and using a 3D printer to print out the product. If you think this sounds like some sort of futuristic space-age scenario, think again. 3D printing exists and is already changing traditional supply chains worldwide. Want to learn more? Attend OIA Rendezvous® in Boston Oct. 3-5 to learn about this and other technologies that have the potential to fundamentally change how the outdoor industry does business.

Just what could 3D printing mean for the outdoor industry? Same-day manufacturing is efficient — and more green. Brands and retailers can manufacture parts (metal, plastic or composite) as needed, rather than relying on stocks of mass-produced items that sit in a warehouse awaiting assembly. Customers can get products right when they want them, without having to place a special order and wait for delivery. Another bonus is that retailers can print out repair parts for any product, even one that has been discontinued. All a retailer has to do is choose a part, download a file, print it and sell the finished product to the customer.

Businesses are already using 3D printers to enable rapid prototyping and custom manufacturing. Consumers are also using them, to manufacture their own designs. Some pundits say the technology will upend more business models than the Internet. It‘s already affecting how outdoor companies do business.

In New Hampshire, for instance, NEMO Equipment Inc. has used a Dimension 3D printer from a Minneapolis company called Stratasys to reduce the time it takes to develop new parts for NEMO outdoor gear by up to three months. The machine liquefies thermoplastics and deposits them via an extrusion head that follows a tool-path defined by a CAD file. The printer deposits the materials in layers as fine as 0.005 inch, building the part from the bottom up, one layer at a time.

Wisconsin-based Trek has used a 3D printer to reduce the time it takes to manufacturer certain bicycle parts from six weeks to one day. The printers, which are made by an Israeli company called Objet that is merging with Stratasys, have led to much more refined designs because lower costs and faster turnaround enable Trek’s engineers to create and test more iterations.

These applications are merely milestones for a rapidly evolving technology that, while 25 years old, just now seems poised for explosive innovation and growth. Last month, the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation said it was using $70 million in federal and private money to create the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) to accelerate development of the technology. The initiative is a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.

“We are pleased to be part of a real visionary government initiative powered by 3D printing to increase our national competitiveness,” Cathy Lewis, vice president of global marketing at 3D Systems, stated in an Aug. 20, 2012, news release from the company. “We are particularly excited to support job creation and entrepreneurship by working with the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to make localized manufacturing a reality.” 3D Systems is a Rock Hill, S.C., company, which — like Stratasys — is partnering with NAMII.

Motorsports, automotive, medical and consumer goods companies are already using production-grade printers from 3D Systems to manufacture custom and end-use parts, including prosthetic limbs, track shoes and more. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 3D Systems unveiled a 3D printer for home use, called the Cube — a $1,300 machine that could bring new meaning the terms “home-based business” and “cottage industry.”

3D printing offers a dynamic, exciting and sustainable future to outdoor manufacturing and retail. Join Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems at OIA Rendezvous for an entertaining, interactive and insightful hour looking into our future, and discovering the possibilities of this 3D printing technology. And yes, she’ll print out a product during her presentation.

This is just one of many eye-opening sessions planned for OIA Rendezvous, the premier education conference for the outdoor industry, which takes place Oct. 3-5 in Boston. These days, businesses must evolve or die. Do you have what it takes to survive and thrive? Register for Rendezvous today. Space is limited and filling fast.