Building a Case for a 3D Printer Purchase


This article orignally appeared on the Fisher/Unitech blog on May 6th. It is reprinted here in its entirety with permission.

If you have been in the manufacturing industry long enough, you have probably found yourself making requests to upper management for new equipment to do your job more efficiently. Sometimes you make a compelling enough case and get what you ask for, and other times there may not be room in the budget, or management decides they are not interested in buying new tools. Purchasing a 3D printer is no different.

3D Printers – the latest, greatest? How do you justify a purchase?

Two stick figure business people shaking hands

As most in the manufacturing industry are already aware, 3D printing has become the latest and greatest new technology for manufacturing. However, many engineers are still looking for advice on how to justify the purchase of a new or upgraded printer. What many seem to find is that it’s difficult to establish the cause and effect of new technology implementation and put it into tangible numbers. It’s not easy to quantify things like higher satisfaction, increased idea flow, and better communication between departments. Also, depending on the applications you are looking to use a 3D printer for, the cost to buy can be a pretty big hit to a company’s budget.

3D printer purchase. Make the case with real business metrics – not fluff.

To build a case for the purchase of any technology, you must show how this new purchase is going to improve operations within the company. Whether your employers are more driven by finding ways to reduce cost or increase profits, be sure to tailor your message in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure to not add fluff or tangential information about which your management can say “that really doesn’t apply to us anyway.” In a short business case, it’s helpful to detail your current challenges, your solution to these challenges, and the costs associated with these challenges. Once you have established the need for change, you can then begin to build a case for your new 3D printer purchase.

Will buying a 3D printer speed up production, increase cost efficiency?

One hypothetical scenario is where you currently have a service bureau making your prototype parts, but you feel printing in-house will give you more control over making changes and speed up production; when building your case, detail how that helps the company. Will this new machine mean increased cost-efficiency by not using the service bureau as much, or possibly faster approvals for build designs so you can move on to other projects sooner? If you can put hard numbers down in your report for the ROI a 3D printer will provide, do it. It will look good to management and it’s more difficult to argue with math.

Understanding what management wants is key.

Remember when pitching your idea for a 3D printer to stay on point with what your audience wants to hear. When management invests in new equipment, generally it is either because something is broken, the investment will reduce costs, or it will increase profits. Make sure you understand what management is looking for before you begin your proposal.

3D printer

When other departments are competing for budget, it’s good to try and build an argument of “this won’t only help me; it will help the whole company.” If a 3D printer will save you time in one aspect of a project, then you have more time to direct your attention to other issues or ways to help other departments.

Meet Fisher/Unitech’s 3D Printing Experts at

Metrology Matters Live!

Are you registered for the Wenzel America Open House on June 17th or 18th? There’s still time.

We’ve teamed with Fisher/Unitech to create a one-of-a-kind 3D printed part that will be the focus of our unique metrology demonstration. Their team will also be on hand to answer all your 3D printing questions in person.

In the meantime, you can also visit the Fisher Unitech website to see more about their capabilities and the Stratasys line of 3D Printers.

If you’re ready to build your case for purchasing a printer but need some help, you can contact their sales team for assistance.