Keystone, being real about the advantages and the tradeoffs of 3D printing, used for the production of its TakTable™ accessories


 Keystone Outdoor Gear Co (KOGC), a designer and manufacturer of generational outdoor furniture., has leveraged 3D printing to fulfill special customer requests in a matter of weeks rather than months. By incorporating 3D printing for plastic part production instead of injection molding for their portfolio of TakTable™ accessories, they have quickly expanded their product line to include designs reactive to their user base.

Traditional mass manufacturing of plastic parts requires the use of precision steel tools mounted in large presses. These tools take weeks or months to design and build, followed by time-consuming part-validation procedures. The end result is production runs that create thousands of parts. Changes to the parts are slow and costly and often result in obsolete inventory and other expenses.

3D printing’s flexibility has also some tradeoffs. Additive manufactured parts may take several hours for a single part to be completed, vs seconds to minutes with injection molding. Material costs are higher too. A printer uses filament sold in spools for $15 or more per kilo, while injection molding plastic is sold in bulk for dollars a kilo. For larger production runs, like the TakTable itself, 3D printing is cost prohibitive. But by adding flexibility to their main product, it was possible to use 3D printing for add-ons.

Alex Sinton, president of KOGC, explains, “Our 3D printed plastic part cost for the telescoping edge bracer, for instance, is about ten times higher than injection molding. This leads to an overall retail price increase of 30% since packaging, hardware, assembly, and shipping are the same.” He continued, “But it’s important to note that without 3D printing, these products, most of which were suggested by users, would not exist at all. If we only developed what will definitely recoup the investment in hard tooling, we would be lucky to introduce one or two products a year. As it is now, we’re introducing a new accessory every month. It really gets our customers excited when they can recommend something and have it in their hands in a week or so. And if one user wants it, somebody else will too.”

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Passionate about new technologies, I discovered 3D printing through different professional experiences. Aware of the importance of this technology for today's and tomorrow's markets, it is with great pleasure that I share the latest news and analysis related to it, so that you in turn, can take advantage of it. #Staytuned #3DAdept