23-07-2018 | By Christian Cawley

An office in 2018 looks very different to one 50 years ago, but the similarities remain. There's a desk, with a typewriter/workstation, and in the corner a Photostat machine/printer. The tools have changed and evolved over the half century, but the setup is constant.

And a further change, unimaginable just a few years ago, is set to materialize: the ability to print new supplies, cut costs, and perhaps even improve public perception of corporations and organizations. Introducing a 3D printer will revolutionize office life.


Cut Down on Costs

An office may have a requirement for a 3D printer already, or it may simply have one to replenish items. Paperclips, for example, can be printed; pencil holders, cable tidies, replacement keyboard feet, letter openers, tape dispensers… the list goes on and on.

Rather than spending money on buying these items (which are typically bought in bulk), they can be created on site, as and when required.

Going further, there is scope for generating departmental income. If department A has a 3D printer and department B (perhaps a site services facility) does not, then an order can be placed, paid out of department B's budget. Turnaround would be fast (third party shipping costs will no longer be an issue), and operating costs covered, with a small profit.


Improved Staff Morale

A 3D printer can also have an interesting effect on staff morale. Not only is there the comparatively immediate arrival of much-needed office equipment, it also puts the power into the hands of office colleagues. No longer limited by requisition forms and other time-intensive form filling (3D printer filament orders will be required, however), office-based staff can easily have the tools to get the job done.

It doesn't end there. An office-based 3D printer offers colleagues the opportunity for seasonal decorations, away from the limits of standard printed paperchains at Christmas, for instance.

And then there are the personal benefits. Colleagues should undergo training for the use of a 3D printer, from printing existing designs to developing their own with Blender and similar tools. This is a piece of personal development that could have huge importance beyond the workplace, and as such is highly valued.


Improved Public Relations

Solutions for engaging customers on a one-to-one level can be enjoyed thanks to a 3D printer. Forget wasting money on furry bugs and car stickers; with a 3D printer, custom stationery (tape dispensers, bookmarks, whatever) can be produced, bearing the company logo, mission statement, and URL.

Meanwhile, business cards can be easily distributed from custom-designed, 3D printed dispensers.

Furthermore, the presence of a 3D printer in the office, coupled with training, can give employees the opportunity to create bespoke, personalized gifts for regular clients. An ideal way to keep a business at the forefront of the customer's mind.


Environmentally Sustainable

A 3D printer may require some additional office space, and long periods of electricity use (depending on the project), but it can also be an environmentally friendly option too. Plastic filament is vital for the 3D printer (as ink is for a standard printer), and several suppliers have begun offering recycled reels.

These are filament reels made from various types of recycled plastic. While the colors may seem limited, this is typically due to the origin of the source plastic. For instance, re-filament.com offers a narrow collection of colors, but these filaments have been made from old bottles, food containers, even car dashboards. One thing to note, however, is that recycled plastic filament may not be available in the preferred filament type, which can affect the quality and resolution of 3D printed objects.

Having taken over the garages and workshops of hobbyists, a good-quality 3D printer can have a striking impact on the office environment. Furthermore, it's coming: 3D printer manufacturers see the office as the bridgehead to domestic use. As with the computing and internet revolutions, the office is the perfect place for 3D printing to normalize, and consolidate its position.


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By Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley is a freelance technology writer, with a background in healthcare and financial services industries. He writes extensively online, and contributes to print periodicals and specials.