3D printing as value add for traditional manufacturing?

Earlier this week I visited the memorial candle factory of my friend Irena who kindly gave me a tour. This is what I learned:

Supply chain
My friend procures plastic vases, lids, wicks, wax powder, and the small metal plates that hold the wick at the bottom of a candle.

In her factory, the wax is pressed into a candle form and the wick is inserted. All resulting candles are white, round, and have the same diameter from top to bottom.

This basic candle can already be sold as a final product, in this case it is used to refill memorial candles. Each is put into a plastic case and then boxed in quantities of 50.

The second final product takes these basic candles as input for a separate production line: a candle is put into the colored plastic vase I mentioned earlier. These vases are bigger and have a different form so they are filled up with molten wax, cooled, and topped off with the lid before being boxed up. Those products are the ones that you most frequently see as memorial candles.

Obviously, memorial candles are a commodity product, you do not need any special expertise or complicated machinery to produce them. Producers have to compete on price and in tough times margins are squeezed to stay competitive.

My friend was musing about how she would like to offer an added value to her clients but so far couldn’t come with one.

Adding value through personalization?
I can see how in the future, when 3D printers can produce a plastic vase in minutes rather than hours, it would be easy to offer personalized memorial candles for those who are willing to afford them and make design work part of the equation. But what about now?

Current 3D printers in the sub-10k€ range could be used to fabricate little clip-on trinkets. The process would still take hours though.

I hope to get new insights and inspiration at 3D Printshow.

Preparing for 3D Printshow 2012

Only yesterday I found a reference to the 3D Printshow that takes place in London from October 19th to 21st. It is a great opportunity to see what some of the more exciting start ups in the 3D printing space, such as formlabs, are cooking up and how they compare to the established players.

Due to prior plans I can only be there from Saturday evening to Sunday morning, but I’ll try to make the most of my time there and gather as much information as I can.


Exciting times! The past weeks I researched the current state of 3D printing, and trying to wrap my mind around the possibilities and implications requires quite some heavy lifting. This technology will revolutionize our world and will touch personal life, society, and economy on so many levels that we are only beginning to understand.

Solids2Go will chronicle and comment on the relevant developments and I hope to spark interest, debate, and participation from as many different disciplines as possible. Open your minds!