New and improved 3D printing
technologies are enabling a wide range of businesses to offer new
products or reduce the costs of existing products. Business
advisors including accountants and tax professionals have an
important role to play with the wide range of businesses that
benefit from 3D printer purchases. To assist business owners
in making the decision to purchase a 3D printer, advisors need to
ask the following fundamental questions.
Are final product custom
deliveries delayed because of long lead times related to
particular parts or components?
Can profits be increased by
measurably reducing the cost of certain components or parts?
Could the business potentially
benefit from beta testing new and improved products before
making a major production process investment?
Product manufacturers use 3D printers for several reasons.
Some prefer to print vendor supplied parts that are otherwise
unavailable because of long lead times or are simply too
expensive. Others use them to make highly engineered
components or parts that either: 1. aren't suitable for regular
production runs or 2. are custom or too complex to be created
using traditional processes. Designers use them as well,
typically to enter markets with a product when they don’t have
manufacturing infrastructure in place. These users may
obtain substantive benefits from 3D printer purchases. Some
of those benefits are listed below.
Product Variation: 3D printing offers the ability to
manufacture highly complex and custom products one at a time
without modifying or purchasing additional equipment. Conversely,
traditional manufacturing machinery is typically designed to
produce homogenous products over and over again.
Material Variation: 3D printing offers a wider range of
materials that can be substituted for one another when products or
available materials change. Reduced Cost-per-Unit: Mass production in traditional
manufacturing is typically inefficient on a limited scale. With 3D
printing, the cost per unit is stable even if a small number of
products are produced.
Integration: 3D printers are relatively low cost.
They are also small; thus they save floor space and can be easily
integrated into existing operations. Reduced Cost of Components: Some products and
components are particularly expensive to purchase. Smart
manufacturers identify these products and often 3D print them for
3D Printer Tax Incentives
3D printer tax incentives include
potential Section 179 equipment expensing, possible bonus
deprecation, and R&D tax credits related to the 3D printer
integration process. Many of these yearly tax incentives typically
depend on the enactment of federal tax extenders, which typically
have been available in recent years.
Choosing a Printer
Some websites offer reviews of 3D
printers by previous purchasers. For example,
3Dhubs.com has a 3D printer guide based on the reviews of over
2,200 verified 3D printer owners with over 1,600 collective years
of experience. They provide information on the following
parameters; print quality, ease-of-use, build quality,
reliability, failure rate, customer service, community, running
expenses, openness, software and value.
Lease vs. Buy
During the 2014 year 3D printing
industry sales have stalled in part because purchasers are
anticipating new, lower cost, higher performing printers.
One technique that addresses concern over technology obsolescence
is a short term lease arrangement or using a 3D printer service
Informed 3D printer purchasing
advisors can help their clients enter new markets and reduce
printer costs. End users also benefit from tax incentives
that may be available at the time of the purchase.