The company added 3D printing capabilities several years ago when it began using AM primarily for form and fit testing and periodically function testing—depending on material used. They were also using AM for rapid tooling for R&D, production and service as well as visual demonstrations for various technical and non-technical purposes.
Early on in their exploration of 3D printing, the technology had many upsides for their business, yet it took engineers and designers several hours to output a single prototype. Once complete, the prototype then had to be cleaned and finished—adding extra time to the process, which took away from their primary duties as design engineers.
Additionally, the company wasn't tracking print volumes or consumables use, with various operators purchasing materials from the printer manufacturer that weren't necessary for day-to-day production. While large prototypes needed to be outsourced, parts that could have been created in-house were outsourced due to lack of time from designers or inefficient process—causing costs to rise. Back then, with fewer available internal and external resources, those challenges were a necessary organic growth pain which allowed the company to confirm and strengthen their use cases and knowledge for AM rapid prototyping. However, it quickly realized that a centralized infrastructure was the best way to go forward, with dedicated resources to optimize job request and file processing, printing management, part post-processing, training and support to internal users.