Tech startups are defining the entrepreneurial landscape, with companies such as Facebook and Apple proving that even the smallest beginnings can create a business with global influence.
If there's any recent technology trend that embodies the spirit of these former startups, it's 3D printing. As computer technology did for Apple in the 70s, 3D printing provides new startups with the resources to start a company in a garage - taking tech development back to its roots.
With more than 1 million small businesses spread around Australia, according to the Australasian SME Alliance, it's up to these companies to embrace innovative practices that set them apart from the competition.
As 3D printing is on the rise, but hasn't quite hit mainstream proliferation yet, now is the perfect time for tech startups to embrace the devices.
How are Australian businesses using technology?
There are a number of Australian businesses that have begun to utilise the freedom offered by 3D printing, with the release of the Ultimaker 2 making it easier for people to give it a go. Not only is the technology useful during the design and prototyping phase of a product's development, it can also come in handy at the sales stage.
Surfboard manufacturer Disrupt Surfing has created a unique position for itself in the industry by offering its customers a chance to use 3D printing to their advantage. As surfing is an activity that involves an athlete being at one with their equipment, the firm allows consumers to custom design a surfboard that is then 3D printed to their specification.
Where in a normal surfboard store a consumer might have to manage preset sizes, Disrupt Surfing allows them to design and mould their ideal board online. As well as being the more convenient option for the customer, it's an interesting point of difference for the company, and one only made possible thanks to 3D printing.
Are 3D printing startups succeeding?
As more organisations become aware of the value of 3D printing, these smaller firms have a better chance of finding success in their chosen industry. This was illustrated recently by Ford's acquisition of 3D printing firm Carbon3D.
According to the company, Ford has been investigating the potential of additive manufacturing - essentially 3D printing - for years, and believes it will have significant role to play in the future of vehicle manufacturing.
CEO and Co-founder of Carbon3D Joseph DeSimone says the new relationship is a chance for the company to grow the influence of 3D printing.
"Working with Ford offers a great opportunity to further prove our technology's ability to produce the wide range of material and mechanical properties that are needed across the automotive industry to truly achieve 3D manufacturing," he said.
Other examples have shown that 3D printers aren't only allowing companies to be more financially successful, they also have the potential to encourage innovative processes within existing industries. Because of this, the devices can be used to encourage efficiency, cut costs or simply spice up current operating procedures.
In fact, recent research reveals that the influence of 3D could stretch as far as food processing. A study from the Institute of Food Technologists discovered they're expected to to speed up food preparation and bring a further degree of customisation for consumers by utilising this printing technology.
Professor of Engineering Hod Lipson believes we still haven't seen just how far the technology will reach.
"No matter what field you are in, this technology will worm its way in," he said. "The technology is getting faster, cheaper and better by the minute.
"Food printing could be the killer app for 3D printing."
As with most other innovative ideas planned for the future of the devices, there's still further work to be done to turn these expressions of interest into practical solutions.
To find out how 3D printing fits into your current design practices, download our free whitepaper on 3D Printing.