Among recent technological benchmarks, 3D printing is unique in its potential to “democratize” technical innovation for consumers worldwide. Also referred to as Additive Manufacturing, or AM, 3D printing has managed in the few years since its emergence to not only enhance the precision and complexity of physical production, but also to eliminate many of the overhead costs and investment risks of traditional manufacturing. While no one can look forward to owning a quantum computer anytime soon, virtually anyone with a product in mind and a modest R&D budget can acquire a 3D printer and get to work, given a certain amount of know-how and planning. The operative question for 3D printing, then, is not how to make this technology affordable, but rather how to give the many people already able to invest in it the knowledge and familiarity they will need to use it – a challenge for multilingual localization, given the global nature of the consumer base for 3D printers, 3D printing software, and even the products and components that can be manufactured using this technology.
Technical documentation is a vital supporting resource for virtually any form of manufacturing equipment. As a novel and technically complex form of manufacturing equipment, 3D printers are likely to generate a far greater need among users for this type of documentation than a majority of devices consumed at similar scales and volumes. Whereas documentation for traditional manufacturing equipment can anticipate an audience of career systems engineers, for example, the user base for 3D printers more closely resembles that of CNC machining tools, ranging from ambitious inventors to small businesses and startups with a granular focus on parts, components, or entire systems for specific client industries. In other words, it is a highly diverse user base that is very likely to rely on these documents not as a fallback during troubleshooting but as a necessary means of orientation. From a content creation and localization perspective, this places an exceptionally high burden on the quality, clarity, and user-friendliness of documentation, as well as its technical accuracy, all of which in turn raise the quality threshold for localization when distributing 3D printing tools to overseas consumers.
Along with 3D printers themselves, a wide range of software products used to design three-dimensional products and components has emerged with its own demands for documentation, as well as software localization for user interfaces. Where in the past trial-and-error was a standard part of product development, advanced CAD software tools can help to de-risk design and prototyping in advance, lending yet another level of accessibility to 3D printing and driving the diversity of its user base. By making precision manufacturing cheaper and simpler than the process associated with injection molding, for instance, the technology that is making organic artificial organs a reality is also lowering entry barriers that were once prohibitive for small businesses and individuals interested in developing new products particular to their (or their clients’) needs.
For companies that have developed 3D printing solutions for their own use in manufacturing specific products, many of the same advantages are likely to apply. With a reduced burden for design and prototyping comes a greater readiness to rapidly pivot from one manufacturable to another as markets change, potentially making manufacturers that can shift to 3D printing more resilient, adaptable, and able to endure turbulence in the global economy.
For providers of 3D printing hardware and software entering new markets, CSOFT offers end-to-end content solutions that can help establish your brand, engage consumers, and ensure the operability of complex systems that users demand. From multilingual localization to technical content creation, our global network of 10,000+ linguists and subject matter experts has the knowledge and cultural insight to bring innovative products to market and reach consumers in every corner of the globe.