ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Technology keeps evolving, and the Rockford Small Business Development Center (SBDC) wants to make sure entrepreneurs keeping up with 3D printing.
“3D printing is not the wave of the future, its the wave of now,” said Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford). “It’s gonna help our youth, or entrepreneurs, to really understand that this is something that can make them more effective for their vision and their dream.”
3D printers are used to make all sorts of things, from gadgets to guitars, to toys and tools, and changing the way people do business.
“Once you get the (computer) file, you can just print out anything you want,” said SBDC director Edward Caceres.
The SBDC is hoping to cash in on the relatively new technology. Cybersecurity and Emergency Technology Expert Mike Rogers says 3D printing offers an alternative for manufacturers, minus the big cost.
“We’re going to make a fleet of printers that we can get into the hands of people, first hand, so it’s hands-on knowledge and experience,” he said.
Caeres says new tech means new jobs for the Stateline.
“With these new technologies that are coming, we’re also working on bringing robotics, and also artificial intelligence technologies in the area. We believe with that, we will boost the employment and get more of a qualified workforce in the area,” he said.
West helped secure funding for the 3D printer training, and says it is a good investment in local youth, entrepreneurs and the community.
“This is the way that we support our community and make our community even stronger,” he said.
The 3D printing class starts off with the basics and then advances. The process is used in everything from medicine to creating small knick-knacks, but it is the problem that it could help solve that has organizers excited.
“Creating our own businesses in our home and be able to sell things online, I think it’s an amazing opportunity for people to be able to have this,” said 3D printing student Scottie Welch.
The SBDC hosted its first class on Wednesday at NIU Rockford, 4249 E. State St. Welch’s goal is to create her own keychain business.
“I’m seeing things that I already seen but they are going more in depth, so now I’m learning about parts that I’ve seen but maybe I didn’t know their name or what their function was,” Welch said.
The purpose of the class is to give a leg up to the community and local businesses, according to West.
“Helping people in our community to live out their dreams and help them to see how your entrepreneurial spirit can be a benefit to the 3D printing, and how 3D printing can be a benefit to their entrepreneurial vision,” West said.
Caceres said that the technology can eliminate cost as a barrier that many new business owners face.
“You can take the orders and just in time print it out, customize it and send it back, so you save time, don’t waste materials,” Caceres said. “You don’t need a big order to get a really decent price for people buying online, for example.”
Welch said that she is excited to get her business off the ground.
“To see the object actually get made and then know that, ‘hey, I made this,’ like that’s amazing thing and have the power to say ‘if I want to own my own business, I can pay 300 dollars for a printer, take this free class and I can have my own business,'” Welch said.
Residents interested in learning how to 3D print can register for the class on the SBCD’s website.