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A Look Back at 3D Printing in 2012

All the parties have ended, the ball has dropped, and people have dragged themselves off to bed. 2013 is sure to be an interesting year for additive manufacturing (AM). Before I get started on the new, let’s take a quick look at some of the most important, or most interesting, stories of 2012 from Rapid Ready Tech.

In April, Stratasys (company profile) launched its desktop, professional 3D printer; the Mojo. With a price point of under $10,000, the Mojo offered small businesses a low-cost alternative to using service bureaus for rapid prototyping. This was only the beginning of a year of serious moves by Stratasys.

 

Just a bit later in the year, rumors began to circulate that Objet (company profile) was going to be acquired by HP. Those rumors were quickly squashed with the announcement that Stratasys and Objet planned to merge. The merger process took most of the year, but was eventually concluded with the new company moving forward under the Stratasys name.

Meanwhile, 3D printers began to move into offices and homes with the release of 3D SystemsCube (company profile) and MakerBot’s Replicator. A number of other 3D printers also emerged, many with the support of Kickstarter. One of the most interesting of these systems is Formlabs home stereolithography system, the FORM 1, though we’ll have to see how the small startup fares in its legal battle with 3D Systems.

Moving on, the ASTM introduced a list of standardized AM terminology, in hopes of simplifying the potentially confusing morass of process names. The new terminology was covered at RAPID 2012, which was held in Atlanta. RAPID 2012 was an exciting event that featured AM manufacturers from around the world.

Magic Arms

3D printed "magic arms" bring joy to a child. Courtesy of Stratasys.

2012 was a good year for AM in medicine. Doctors in Belgium successfully transplanted a 3D printed titanium jawbone in an elderly patient. Medical engineers at the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) created a set of “magic arms” that allowed a little girl the use of her arms. And Bioprinting began to truly take shape as the AM of medical technology.

3D printing did receive some bad press last year, with designs for partially printed guns being posted online. This single bad apple wasn’t enough to spoil the promise of AM, which reached a new milestone with the construction of Shapeway’s “Factory of the Future.” Big business, such as Ford, took notice of 3D printing, as did the U.S. military, with its front line Expeditionary Lab – Mobile.

Finally, governments around the world invested in AM, recognizing it as a transformative technology. Pushed by President Obama, the U.S. opened NAMII in Youngstown, OH, as the pilot program for an AM network. The UK also announced a £7 million investment in AM, and China is investigating the best ways to back 3D printing.

Below you’ll find what I consider the most useful video about 3D printing that we posted here at Rapid Ready last year.

A Happy New Year to all from Rapid Ready Technology and Desktop Engineering.

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About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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