Africa has seen significant growth in the 3D printing industry lately. In South Africa, for instance, millions of rands are being invested in the industry by the public and private sectors. If you are interested in starting a 3D printing business in South Africa, this article will help you to learn how to get started.
3D Printing in South Africa
- According to 3D Printing Market Outlook – 2020, 3D printing market in emerging economies is expected to garner $4.5 billion by 2020.
- The report shows that South Africa is among the emerging economies such as China, India, UAE, and Brazil that are investing substantially on the 3D printing technology.
- In 2014, South African doctors successfully completed jawbone replacement surgery using 3D printed titanium bones and at that time it was the second time such an exercise was done anywhere in the world.
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with Aerusud, an aviation manufacturing company, have built one of the world’s biggest 3D printers. The printer has capability to print tiny items to large customized parts as tall as 2m.
What is 3D Printing?
The 3D printing process builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design (CAD) model, usually by successively adding material layer by layer, which is why it is also called additive manufacturing.
3D Printing Business Opportunities in South Africa
There are many 3D printing business ideas in South Africa. They include:
- 3D distributor. You can become an official 3D distributor in South Africa of a well established brand. Many people order 3D printers from China to South Africa. You can simplify this by having a local distribution outlet.
- 3D printing education and consultancy. 3D printing industry in South Africa is still young and growing. There are many opportunities to teach and advise those who want to start or are already running 3D printing businesses in South Africa.
- B2C 3D printing. The technology allows you to print any kind of customised and innovative products for consumers you can think of. These can be cellphone accessories, artificial teeth, car seat covers and accessories, furniture, jewelry, hair, shoes, etc.
- B2B 3D printing. You can make products for businesses such as promotional materials, models (e.g, for interior designers, architectures, etc), medical implants, glass frames, etc.
Why Start 3D Printing Business in South Africa?
- 3D printing eliminates barriers associated with traditional manufacturing such as time, cost, labour, etc.
- Entrepreneurs can gain new customers and markets (both small and big) as well as improve their cash flow.
- 3D printing allows enterpreneurs to meet consumer demand for on-demand and advanced customisation.
- The technology allows for rapid proof of concept and prototyping.
- Ability to quickly create new product lines.
- 3D printing market in South Africa is constantly growing.
How to Start a 3D Printing Business in South Africa
Buy 3D printer in South Africa: It’s possible to buy 3D printers within South Africa. 3D companies in South Africa where you can get printers include 3D Unique, Build Volume, and Wantitall. Some people prefer ordering 3D printer from China to South Africa. You can do this via online stores such as Made in China and Alibaba.
You need the following to kickstart your dream:
- Register a company. For your business to be formal and legitimate, you should first register your 3D company. Find out how to register a company in South Africa.
- Business plan. Business plans are important for all businesses. They help business owners stay focused and stick to core business goals. The document is also very important when you need to apply for funds. A good business plan must clearly state the goals of the business and how it intends to accomplish the stated goals. You can use a professional business plan writer if you are not comfortable to do it yourself.
- 3D printer. You need a 3D printer that meets your capital size and intended output.
- 3D printing materials. The materials include filament, resin, glass, plastic, pellets, powder, granules, wax, etc.
- 3D design software. You will need a 3D software to design your 3D models. You can use commercial or free 3D software such as these: Google SketchUp, AutoDeskCAD, Vue Pioneer, Blender, Tinkercad, OpenSCAD, 3D Crafter, and LeoCAD.
There are websites that offer 3D templates, materials and models that you can use even before you are able to buy 3D software or printer. Some websites allow you to upload your own designs. Some of the leading websites are Vectary, Tinkercad, Thingverse, and Shapeways.
How to Raise Funds for 3D Printing Business
Once you have written your business plan and have a clear idea of how much capital you need to start your 3D printing business in South Africa, you can apply for government business grants. Options include:
- The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
- Khula SME Fund
- Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA)
- National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
- National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
- The Technology and Innovation Agency
- Black Business Supplier Development Programme (BBSDP)
- The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
- Incubation Support Programme (ISP)
- Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Funding
- The KwaZulu-Natal Growth Fund
Venture capital is also a common source of funds for startups. Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), for example, connects African startup entrepreneurs with the knowledge, support programs, mentors and investors they require to succeed.
3D Printing Business Types and Services
3D printing business is very broad. Your business plan will inform the decision you make regarding the type of 3D products you want to sell, products you want to print or 3D services you intend to provide.
Some of the key sectors to target include medical, automotive, architecture and interior design, robotics, arts and crafts, aerospace, cultural heritage, and clothing. Products range from prosthetics, hearing aids, spare parts, jewelery, shoes, construction models, surgical tools, furniture, and toys.
You may decide to venture into 3D printing services such as selling of 3D printing materials such as filament,glass, plastic, 3D printers, and 3D software.
3D printing can be expensive. High-end 3D printers and printing materials cost a lot of money. Moreover, there is training cost. 3D printing requires enough training before one can operate a 3D printer or design.
It should also be noted that there is no widespread adoption of 3D printing products and services in South Africa at the moment. However, like any other new technology, this will change
3D printing industry in South Africa is growing. Public and private investments are also increasing. If you are a South African entrepreneur, you should think about entering the 3D printing space. You should, however, make sure you have done enough market and industry research.