I’ve just installed a Flashforge Creator X 3D-printer for plastic rapid prototyping.
The Creator X is—like many other 3D-printers—a Makerbot Replicator 2 clone (in itself modelled on the RepRap open-source printer). Like all other lower-end devices it uses FDM (Filament Deposition Modelling), is equipped with 2 extruders and can print in ABS and PVA.
In the past I have used commercial rapid prototyping services for both SLA (Stereolithography) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) prototype parts in plastics, and will continue to do so as the consumer-oriented Creator X has some limitations. The surface quality and dimensional accuracy of the commercial SLS/SLA parts is better, and commercial machines can build much larger parts. I do not expect to use the Creator X for looks-like works-like client prototypes, perhaps apart from some internal parts. However the advantage of having a 3D-printer in-house is that I can create parts in hours or overnight. I will mainly be using it to print rough concepts, parts for test models, fixtures and tools.
The Creator X joins my stable of workshop tools including a lathe, milling machine and manual injection moulder.
Years ago I worked as sales director for a company that brought to market one of the first digital production colour printers – with the ability to print one-off, professional looking brochures, catalogues etc. What paper printers and 3D-printers have in common is that the main value of the result is in the design. If you want something printed there are plenty of suppliers who can help, however if you want something designed please let me know!