A shift is coming to additive manufacturing (AM). Where AM systems were previously used mainly for prototyping or small part run needs, more and more of the business of AM is turning to end-use products. Whether it’s printed aerospace parts by the thousands or print-on-demand services from service bureaus, expect to see more 3D printed products in the future.
Of course, not every end-use product has to be serious business. Plenty of the designs on display at Shapeways are little more than novelty items. It makes perfect sense that some companies would turn to AM to create custom products for smaller market segments. Hero Forge is looking to use 3D printing to custom build miniatures for tabletop gaming. Continue reading
The rise of 3D printing has made a different kind of manufacturing possible. Instead of parts being built in a dozen or more locations around the globe, then shipped to a final destination to be assembled, digital information is compiled and transmitted to any location with the capability to receive the data. Not only does this paradigm shift save companies money in shipping, it also makes it possible to set up end-use manufacturing shops around the globe.
The pace of 3D printer releases looks to be speeding up. Companies used to release information about one system at a time, slowly rolling out each new product. 3D Systems broke the trend at Euromold, and again at CES by announcing multiple systems simultaneously. Not to be outdone, MakerBot has announced its 2014 lineup of additive manufacturing (AM) systems and accompanying products.
On display at CES were promotions for three new AM systems from MakerBot; the next generation Replicator, Replicator Mini, and Replicator Z18. Alongside the new 3D printers comes an expansion of what MakerBot calls its “Ecosystem.” Adding to the library of downloadable objects at Thingiverse is MakerBot Printshop, the company’s first stab at simplified 3D design. Continue reading
This year was an interesting one for additive manufacturing (AM), with plenty of big moves inside the industry and hints of upcoming changes to the landscape from without. Medical uses for 3D printing really started to gather steam, with prosthetics being one of the largest areas of development. In 2013, we also saw a general shift in AM from a pure prototyping tool to an increase in end-use production.
Stratasys moved into the home 3D printer arena with its acquisition of MakerBot in June. That particular move, along with the merger with Objet in 2012, helped Stratasys to diversify its portfolio, branching out into areas of AM in which the company previously had little or no presence. Continue reading
One of the limiting factors for parts and products produced through additive manufacturing (AM) is the build size of the 3D printer in use. Larger AM systems tend to be more expensive to both purchase and to run (more material usage), but do allow for larger batch runs and designs to be built in one piece rather than several. Cutting a design into pieces is just one method of overcoming limited build space. A manufacturing and design process dubbed 4D printing is another.
With 4D printing, objects can be squashed down in size by varying the density of the object and building an object out of multiple smaller parts. This allows for objects to be build that far exceed the size of the print envelope. Until recently, 4D printing has mainly been an exercise in theory, but a company named Nervous System has brought the process out of the lab and into retail space. Continue reading