Customers Are Not Your 3D Laminating R&D!
December 5, 2012 | 11:28 am CST

Customers Are Not Your 3D Laminating R&D!Well it’s been over month since my last blog. A heavy travel schedule, medical mission trip to Guatemala, and a few health concerns kept me out of commission for a while. I’m happy to report it’s all behind me and I’m ready to get back at it.

Before this extended break we spent several weeks dissecting available press technologies for 3D laminating. The strengths and weaknesses of each were covered. Buyers were given a little more insight into what questions to ask when sourcing equipment or outsourcing 3DL components. As a transition into materials, I’d like to focus on how to maintain a healthy approach when investigating new product developments.

Many years ago I made my living by selling automatic transmission parts to rebuilders. The joke in the industry at the time was that one particular auto maker used their customers as their R&D department. New transmission designs were released and massive numbers of overhauls were required, many just after the warranty had expired. Modifications for these flawed systems were developed just as totally new designs were being introduced, starting the entire cycle all over again. We sold a lot of transmission kits and expensive internal hard parts in those days.

Sadly, many 3DL component producers have functioned in much the same way. A new material is released with claims that it is cheaper, better, or easier to use than others and some jump on it immediately. “We’ll give it try,” they say. And try it they do…on their customers before ever running any serious internal tests. Personally, if a vendor ever explained a rash of failures by telling me they tried a new material and it just didn’t work out well, I’d look for a new vendor. When I buy a product it’s not so I can be used for R&D.

So what do you do when something new is introduced? Should all new products and technology be shunned in favor of the “tried and true?” Of course not! If that were the case we would never have a 3D laminating industry to begin with.

The secret is to cautiously approach the possibility of embracing new developments without giving in to our universal human tendency toward wishful thinking. Manufacturers should exhaust whatever internal testing they are capable of administering. Some larger 3DL component producers have their own testing facilities to test heat resistance, UV resistance, etc. Smaller manufacturers should seek to work with independent testing laboratories. Although the fees can run a few thousand dollars for each test, lost production and a damaged reputation are far more costly. Once again, in a niche industry like 3D laminating, it’s not just your reputation that’s on the line.


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About the author
Bill Formella | Technical Applications

Bill Formella is a 25 year veteran in the 3D laminating industry with extensive involvement in every facet including machinery, materials, supplies, as well as training and technical support.  Bill is the Technical Applications specialist for Smartech International and writes the Tech|Tips - 3DL blog, a free service provided by Smartech for the benefit of the entire 3D Lamination industry. Bill is also the owner and moderator of the LinkedIn group Membrane Pressing & 3D Laminating Design. Follow him via twitter @formellacsi and @smartechint.