A 3D Experience – Will 3D Printing Impact the Window Film Industry?

April 2nd, 2014 by Editor

As 3D printing technology begins to take off, just what influence will it have over the direction of the window film industry? According to industry members, the technology is already being used.

Bob Williams, owner and designer at ProToolsNow in Denver, says his company has been using 3D printing for years.

Bob Williams of ProToolsNow created the above squeegee tool as a prototype using 3D printing technology.

Bob Williams of ProToolsNow created the above squeegee tool as a prototype using 3D printing technology.

“We create all of the tools you use to put on film with 3D printing and we have for a long time,” he says. The technology even recently helped his company develop a tool prototype in time for a trade show.

“I was able to show a prototype squeegee which cost about $300. The part will only cost around $20 when completed, but it was great for the one-time-only prototype for the show,” he says.

Williams notes that though it is a quick and effective method for peripheral applications, such as tool prototyping, he likely won’t begin mass producing tools this way any time soon.

“The cost of producing the parts through 3D printing is too high for resale and the resolution is too low compared to an injection-molded tool,” he states. “When we’re making tools (injection-molded) we can make 10 in a minute, whereas with 3D printing we may make 10 in a day.”

The technology likely won’t be used in the creation of window film products in the near future, either.

“I don’t see it as a technology for window film installers themselves because the optical clarity of the window film is so critical and the printers aren’t in that area,” Williams notes. “You can 3D print models of the window and window frames, or model houses to run a variety of testing on housing, but I don’t see it as a technology for something that has to have perfect clarity.”

Matt Blackmer of AutoTintCity in Dearborn Heights, Mich., echoes those thoughts.

“It would be interesting to get a 3D printer and make smaller plastic tools. They start at around $400 now,” he says. “However, then you need to design the 3D models and the small plastic tools only cost a few bucks [at] retail anyway.”

What are your thoughts about 3D printing technology? Is your company using it yet, or interested in investing in this technology? Comment below or send an email to the editor at cneeley@glass.com.

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