Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

Type A Machines Closes Its Doors

Posted by Editor On February - 1 - 2018

Type A Machines Closes Its Doors

Type A Machines, maker of the award-winning Series 1 Pro 3D Printer, call it quits.

Type A Machines Closes Its Doors

Founder and CEO of Type A Machines Andrew Rutter with one of their early models.

Type A Machines has announced the folding of the company. After a six-year stint of providing award-winning 3D printers, the company had this message penned by CEO Andrew Rutter on its homepage as of Jan. 28, 2018.

“It is with a heavy heart we announce that, after 6 years serving the maker community, Type A Machines is closing its doors.

“As an industry pioneer, Type A Machines was birthed from the grassroots maker movement. Founded in 2012, its origins were at the NoiseBridge hackerspace and Tech Shop, moving to the East Bay to expand its manufacturing efforts.

“Makers of the award winning Series 1 3D printer, Type A Machines pushed the industry forward while remaining true to its open source origins. The Series 1 was the first 3D printer to include on-board Wi-Fi, the first to include material profiles, and thanks to its unique extruder, could print in more materials than any other 3D printer ever.

“I’m deeply appreciative and proud of the many customers, partners, and individuals who helped make Type A Machines a unique and innovative company, who pushed the boundaries of what was possible, and dedicated themselves to an ideal. Our future will be a bit better thanks to them.”

For more on this story, see:

The Daily 3D Detail: Disney Claims IP Infringement

Posted by Editor On November - 13 - 2017

Disney Claims IP Infringement

These low-poly count figurines of Star Wars fame are being removed from Thingiverse

While 3D printing has encountered very few significant intellectual property infringement matters regarding printed models since its inception, it was inevitable that such a breezy path of unrestraint would run its course. Even more inevitable, the first 3D modeling infringement claims would, of course, come from Disney.

Disney, the adopted-parent company of the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas and Lucasfilms, has demanded that Thingiverse, the STL file download site owned by Stratasys, remove a selection of Star Wars figurine models.

While there are a large number of Star Wars character models still available on Thingiverse and other STL file sites, including the ubiquitous Yoda heads, this move by Disney marks a turning point whereby the Dark Side of copyright law has begun to shred the unbridled freedom of 3D printrs to model and print their own creations.

As covered by All3DP, Disney’s attack on Thingiverse primarily seems focused on the detailed designs of Agustin Flowalistik from Argentina. Primarily, Disney’s claims of infringement have to do with three characters of Flowalistik’s modeling work: R2D2, C3PO, and Darth Vader figures. While these characters are now removed, Flowalistik’s work can still be downloaded in the form of an Imperial Stormtrooper.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Posted by Editor On November - 7 - 2017

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Ford dominated the SEMA show with an upstage venue of classic and future cars

SEMA gives 3D printing industry a nitro boost

By Gregory van Zuyen

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Chevrolet displayed a Corvette on its side to allow close-up views

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Beautiful productions of nearly every car imaginable were on display

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Hypertech ran a slot car track for scholarship fund donations

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

A lucky few were able to put brand new Camaros through their paces on nearby race tracks

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

A beautiful example that all is not shiny and gloss, as in this popular ratrod.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Serenaded by a nonstop chorus of revving motors and squealing tires, the megalithic SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) car show overtook Las Vegas the week of Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 with a vengence. Packed with new car accessories and manufacturing developments in automotives, SEMA remains the largest, most well-known car show in the world. Joined by Thai Editor Ratthakorn Niramitmahapanya, 3D Printr Magazine was on hand to witness the innovations 3D printing has made to the automotive industry.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Some cars were entirely handmade, like this 32-ish Dodge-ish creation by Phil Endicott of LizardSkin, a producer of sound control and heat insulation linings for cars

With more than 2,400 booths, and hundreds of thousands of attendees, and representing a $41.2 billion automotive aftermarket industry, the SEMA show is impossible to imagine for the uninitiated. The conference overtakes every single square inch of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center with thousands of cars, spilling out across numerous parking lots turned into test tracks and pop-up tent communities, where various television shows interview impressive arrays of race car drivers, custom car designers, and celebrity car buffs like Jay Leno. It’s a sprawl. If there were a large city purely devoted to all things that go vroom and move fast, SEMA is what it would look like and Leno would likely be mayor.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Lexus ran a booth offering visitors a chance to drive on a virtual reality track

The takeaway of our experience of the SEMA show this year was customize, customize, customize. Consumers don’t want the same old thing anyone else can buy. They want a signature brand, a vehicular statement worthy of respect. Take the “3D-Printed Hellcat Project,” a 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT customized with 3D-printed modifications and presented at the show by Airwolf 3D.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Airwolf3D Sales Manager Tyler Caros getting behind the wheel of a Hellcat while Airwolf 3D Art Director Ruben Zeledón looks on

The brainchild of Airwolf 3D‘s president Erick Wolf and fashioned by his innovative team in Fountain Valley, California, the “World’s Most 3D-Printed Hellcat” is a customized car with 3D-printed features that make it a one-of-a-kind show piece highlighting what 3D-printed customization can do for the aftermarket industry. In addition to a number of interior modifications like customized rear speaker covers, safety handles, coat hooks, and a redesigned center shift console, Airwolf 3D also 3D-printed a full-size spoiler to show off what the company often heralds as its claim to fame: large-volume desktop 3D-printers capable of printing in high-temperature engineering grade materials like ABS and polycarbonate.

The spoiler was printed in four parts on the Axiom 20, the largest desktop 3D printer in its class with a 12x12x20-inch build volume. To drive home the point that 3D printing represents true cost savings for an automotive shop, all custom parts on the car were printed for less than $250.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Close up of the Hellcat 3D-printed hood vents

“This is the first time real, functional parts can be made in large format for minimal cost,” explained Wolf. “We 3D-printed a full-size spoiler and functional engine vents in ABS. That’s obviously something you can’t do with PLA, which can’t be used near heat — PLA also can’t be sanded or drilled to produce these parts.”

There’s a history to the 3D-printed Hellcat and its inception. Wolf got involved in 3D printing because of automotive design. Back in 2011, while still working as a patent trial attorney in Los Angeles, Wolf spent his free time pursuing his true passion: cars.

As a lifelong car lover with a degree in mechanical engineering and over 20 years of hands-on automotive experience, Wolf had a vision of the car he always wanted to design. Frustrated with using everything from clay and wood to build his prototype, Erick decided to try an inexpensive 3D printer. As the story goes, the printer failed miserably and Wolf decided to build his own. Wolf and his wife, Eva, eventually listed the 3D printer on Craigslist and got responses in minutes. The pair continued to sell their 3D-printers on Craigslist and, realizing there was a true demand for the machines, the two decided to start their own company and Airwolf 3D was born.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Details of the Hellcat’s 3D-printed customization

According to Airwolf 3D, the SEMA Show is simply the first “heat” in what the company is describing as its “Race to Innovation.” The Southern California company promises an even bigger reveal at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Industrial Designer Nick Maffey and his custom BMW motorcycle for Ultimaker

3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker, a first-time attendee to SEMA, also showed off automotive customization in a big way at SEMA. Ultimaker impressed the crowd with a customized BMW motorcycle made to order in 30 days by master craftsman Nick Maffey. Maffey customized the bike in a streamed-down minimalist approach, featuring uniquely designed parts made of nylon, ABS, and PLA, that screamed “Bladerunner” in style and grace.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Close up of the ABS 3D-printed brake housing on the Maffey Moto BMW for Ultimaker

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Maffey was effusive on the reliability of the Ultimaker3 which features an independently positioning dual-print-head function

They weren’t the only ones there to represent 3D printing to the auto trade. Formlabs was there to display new additions to their service line of rapid prototyping and end-use production. Their new cleaning stations and curing ovens are making DLP happen on an even broader scale. They were also announcing the launch of Fuse, their new SLS 3D printer with a 7x7x12 inch print bed due out in June of 2018.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Steven Thomas of Formlabs

The staff at Formlabs are always a pleasure to talk to and Steven Thomas was no exception. The conversation came around to Kickstarter and Thomas had some interesting facts to point out. “Did you know,” said Thomas, “collectively, Kickstarter campaigns made possible by the Form2 have raised more than our original Kickstarter promotion. People are using our machines to enable their own technology. We’re very happy about that.”

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

The Vector 3SP 3D printer by EnvisionTec is a new improvement in stereolithography

EnvisionTec was at SEMA to display their new Vector 3SP stereolithography printer capable of a 20 percent speed improvement with a temperature increase to 400 fahrenheit. The print speed improvement is to due to the addition of a second laser and a moving gantry.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Andrew Toft of FARO demonstrates scanning technology to SEMA attendees

Also making appearances at SEMA were Stratasys and MarkForged, along with 3D-scanning companies Creaform and FARO Technologies.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Avery Dennison presented vinyl wrap techniques by Wrap Institute’s Justin Pate to packed crowds at their impressive SEMA booth display

Not all customization was in 3D. Longtime paper product supplier Avery Dennison started off only a few years ago at SEMA with a 10×10 ft. booth. Now they command a center ring of a circus of events detailing how easy and rewarding vinyl wrapping can be for companies and individuals alike.

As we have covered in past events, there is always a stand-out discovery. In the case of SEMA 2017, that accolade belongs to Jay Thornton of Vibrant Professionals at

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Jay Thornton (center, in white) fields a host of visitor questions at the Vibrant Performance SEMA booth

Vibrant provides quality aftermarket parts for a variety of top-tier shops in the automotive industry, and sometimes packaged under private label. Working in specialty materials like stainless and titanium, Vibrant makes many of the needed components to help one complete an exhaust system, turbo kit, intake, and much more. As a fabrication components company, they also design and complement other companies in their efforts to bring new products to market.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

3D Magic Mike’s obsessively diligent CAD work resulting in printed parts

3D Printr Magazine had sought out Vibrant at SEMA because we had received news that they were working with 3D Magic Mike (aka Mike O’Brien from Roadstershop) and his amazing 3D CAD work. In this case, Magic Mike had recently designed an entire car, with every separate part, in 3D model. In our search for Magic Mike and Vibrant, we caught up with Thornton at the SEMA booth and were able to learn more about how Vibrant was incorporating 3D printing into their work stream.

One of the facets of 3D printing Thornton was avid about was the printing of jigs for inspecting production parts. His ability to quickly iterate a soft-surface jig that won’t scratch finished surfaces or a negative of a part to test tolerances has made their production go fluidly.

“We’ve been to SEMA more than ten years now and in the last four to five years we’ve seen more and more people understand the benefits of 3D printing, and how it can benefit the development of new parts” said Thornton, who also commented they use Solidworks for their design work. They have also recently added the flow simulation suite and are extremely happy with its performance. For scanning, they rely on an Artec Eva with translation to Solidworks through a DezignWorks add in9.

Thornton has been pursuing this career path since 1999, where his craftsman skills eventually led him to laying welds in an F1 shop midway in his career. In speaking with Thornton, one becomes engaged in the broad range of expertise he brings to the Toronto-based Vibrant’s design and engineering team. When asked about his educational background, Thornton admits he is essentially self-taught through a hands-on background with everything he does.

“I attended a few years of design in college but found it wasn’t teaching me anything about hands-on automotive fabrication and parts development. I found quickly this is where my true interest lied. I could have gone back to school for engineering, but I was too eager to start learning real life skills and applying them. Looking back on it, now working with a few engineers, I can definitely see the difference in my education versus theirs. My learning curve and success has not suffered though, from not pursuing an engineering degree. I found being hands-on early in my career was the best way to know how to design and execute any sort of part or product,” said Thornton, a senior technical member of Vibrant. The company also employs a team of select fabricators and engineers whose own principled manner of problem-solving complement Thornton’s approach.

It was also clear from the ever-present crowd at Vibrant’s booth that many other people knew about Vibrant’s great product line and their accomplishments in private label manufacturing, but that is the draw and importance of being a part of SEMA. That these companies seek to promote themselves here speaks well of their outreach and forward-looking thinking. How 3D printing will change the auto industry depends on what comes of this show and future ones.

2017 SEMA Show Event Report

Paintcolors in mesmerizing display

2017 SEMA Show Event Report
2017 SEMA Show Event Report

The scope of SEMA is unbelievable with products for every vertical of the auto industry, as in these booths for apparel leader Lethal Angel and the classic aftermarket specialty item provider Mooneyes

Stereolithography Turns 30

Posted by Fred Kaplan On November - 7 - 2017

Stereolithography—Staying relevant in the 21st Century

By Jim Reitz

Turning 30 invites a time of reflection. The landscape of additive manufacturing has changed dramatically since the 1988 commercialization of stereolithography (SL) as the first viable 3 D printing technology. In fact, the terms “3D printing” and “additive manufacturing” only entered the popular vernacular in recent years.

The scope of additive manufacturing has changed dramatically in recent years. Technologies encompassing thermoset and thermoplastic materials, as well as metal, have proliferated.  The 2017 Wohlers Report lists 96 different AM equipment suppliers across a broad range of technologies. Advances in equipment, software, and material have been substantial since the early days of SL, concurrent with increasing computer power and growth in the 3D CAD installed base. Competition within the early technology supply base has increased as patents expire and new players come to the international market. So, what’s in store for this young technological grandfather?

Stereolithography (SL) like all additive manufacturing processes provides a means to translate 3D computer models into a physical shape without machining. Material performance characteristics combine with 3 D printing methodology to shape application capabilities. Today, the inherent characteristics of 355 nm laser based SL technology characteristics leverage ever-expanding material capabilities to facilitate maturation into one of the widest used and highest utility AM processes. The term SLA, a registered trademark of 3D Systems, is often used by some to encompass a variety of 3D printing processes that fall within the ASTM grouping of AM processes as “Vat Polymerization.”

Stereolithography in this discussion will be focused on “industrial SL “, as the original technology has evolved and is differentiated from all other vat polymerization processes by:

  • Platform sizes ranging from 250 mm (9.5 in.) square to over 800 mm (31.5 in.) square.
  • Ultraviolet laser (355 nanometer wavelength) light source
  • Materials specifically formulated for 355 nm UV including clear, pigmented and composite systems
  • Imaging from above (build platform travels downward) 
    UnionTech High Resolution Part

    Metal Plated High Accuracy Sample Part Demonstrating Resolution and Precision of 355 nm Stereolithography

    The use of a laser to instantly cure a photopolymer with a UV laser with a nominal spot size less than 0.2mm provides one of the highest combinations of accuracy and resolution of any AM process, especially considering the range of part sizes the process is capable of. Today’s 355nm SL materials can produce parts that have excellent dimensional consistency and surface aesthetics ranging from transparent to a variety of colors resembling typical injection molded parts.  These materials have overcome robustness and aging issues encountered in earlier generations, allowing for parts manufacture with a broad range of mechanical properties allowing functional applications in prototyping, patterns, and beyond.

    Aerosport is successfully producing highly accurate parts that need very little finishing at the end of the process in the UnionTech™ RS Pro600, a recent entry to international markets.

    Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes utilizing thermoplastic materials are often cited for robust mechanical properties. Current generation SL materials can be selected to significantly overlap the performance range of many of the commonly used thermoplastics in other AM processes while retaining all the accuracy and aesthetic benefits of the SL process.

    Stereolithography is often typecast as a prototyping process sometimes based on an outdated understanding of material capabilities. The attributes of 355nm SL equipment in combination with the latest generation of photopolymers enables applications that extend prototyping capabilities as well end uses.  Significant opportunities in patterns for secondary forming operations ranging from large scale mass customization (dental aligners), low volume urethane part production, tooling for low volume injection molding, and metal clad composites are now being actively pursued. These applications are practical examples of how innovation can be attained via integration of SL with other conventional processes.

    Innovation via Technology Integration 

    The 3D printing process is often positioned as a disruptive technology but it is better thought of as an enabling technology.

    In the late 1990’s, the founders of Align Technology imagined a different business model for correcting the alignment of teeth with a series of retainers. Today, this application is possibly the highest volume application example of mass customization. Converting the CAD images of individual patients to patterns used to thermoform the final aligners enabled what most would call a disruptive business model.

    SL patterns for a secondary thermoforming process remains the dominant technology of this application today, based on the rapid processing times on large format machines optimized for this single application of mass customization.

    Investment casting, one of the oldest known metal forming processes, has used the SL process for over twenty years. The ability to manufacture hollow smooth walled patterns for use in a foundry process that coats the pattern with ceramic, then fully burns out the pattern in preparation for molten metals to be cast in the hollow form. While molded wax patterns dominant most high-volume applications, SL eliminates tooling costs for lower volume casting but also facilitates sizes and part features not readily obtained in a molded pattern process. The latest generation of SL photopolymers for this application have excellent dimensional consistency and contain no heavy metals found commonly in 355nm photopolymers. This combination ensures accurate patterns as well as minimal ash after burnout that can cause casting defects.

    Investment Casting Pattern Manufactured With Somos® Element

    Similar hollow part methodologies used for investment casting can be applied to large parts, creating “lightweight” parts with tailored mechanical properties and reduced weight (less material cost). Materialise, a global AM software company based in Belgium, has developed multiple software options for hollowing and reinforcing lightweight structures. This development has facilitated the cost-effective manufacture point-of purchase displays, architectural model, and other art applications.

    The ability to manufacture full density highly-accurate patterns also facilitates another well- established molding process known as urethane molding, RTV or silicone molding. After careful secondary finishing, the pattern is embedded in a silicone rubber casing that becomes a 2-part mold for the casting of urethanes. Polyurethane materials can be formulated to achieve properties consistent with levels of performance from injection molded thermoplastics. The silicone tool can be used for low volume series when either multiple prototypes or low volume production is required. Many service bureaus have developed specialized methodology for supporting regular low volume part production capabilities that can both shorten supply chains as well as allow for iterative improvements as a low volume design ages.

    Creation of injection molding tooling has been an area of development interest since the earliest days of SL. The principal impediments to this potentially high-volume application for prototype and bridge parts include strength and temperature resistance of the 3D printed tool, predictability of tool life (durability), compatibility with a large range of injection molding materials including glass filled systems (abrasion resistance) . Also, high speed CNC machining of soft metal (typically aluminum) tools , a parallel technology , provides the potential of short lead times and predictable tool life. In just the last 2 years, the convergence of SL part build accuracy, material capability (heavily silica filled photopolymers and business models that combine SL tool building expertise with injection molding know-how has led to increased use of SL tooling.  Successful integrators of SL 3D printing and injection molding typically recognize that the goal is an injection molded prototype. Injection molders lacking an internal CNC machining operation can readily print mold sets for prototype production in actual end-use designated thermoplastics. This avoids the difficulties that can arrive with a pass-the –baton methodology that marked early efforts to equip service providers with injection molding tooling know-how.

    Dr. Sean Wise of RePliForm (left) and colleague Rick Dunlap are holding new electroplated stereolithography parts including a copper plated wave guide and nickel coated flexible mesh at the 2017 AMUG (Additive Manufacturing Users Group) conference in 2017.

    Like investment casting, electroplating of a substrate material to improve physical or mechanical properties is well known. Dr. Sean Wise of RePliForm, Inc has actively optimized electroplating techniques for 3D printed parts using copper and structural nickel since the year 2000. All 3D printed materials can be electroplated to improve strength, wear resistance, EMI/RFI shielding, flammability resistance, and aesthetics. Photopolymer based printers; however, offer smooth, non-porous surfaces that plate readily with basic parts preparation.  355 production SL machines and state of the art materials combine to provide the largest range of part size and substrate options. The same highly filled silica photopolymers used for injection molding tools can create extremely thin (0.010 to 0.040 in) substrates for a Nickel/copper/SL composite with mechanical properties approaching die cast nickel. This level of mechanical performance creates a significant bridge of opportunity between the gap of polymer AM and direct AM metal. Aside from mechanical properties, the design flexibility of SL combined with a copper coating can create a cost-effective wave guide or “antennae configuration.” There are other parts currently in production where the structural nickel creates a renewable wear surface.

    The stereolithography process is successfully being used to create tooling for short runs.

    Turning 30 does bring changes. 355 nm SL, inclusive of equipment, materials , and software ;has matured into one of the most widely used 3 D printing technologies not only for prototyping but for use in end-use production processes. The trajectory of current developments and utilization in a broad range of direct and  indirect manufacturing techniques, as well new prototyping capabilities bodes well for a long life.

The Daily 3D Detail: Advances in Solar Greenhouses

Posted by Editor On November - 5 - 2017

While not yet in the immediate purview of 3D printing, solar technology advances are an item of immense importance to nearly all industries. This story is no exception.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz have published their findings on solar greenhouses wherein plants do well in energy-producing buildings.

According to the report, “Electricity-generating solar greenhouses are outfitted with transparent roof panels embedded with magenta luminescent dye that absorbs light and transfers energy to narrow photovoltaic strips, where electricity is produced. A new study shows that this novel technology, which has the potential to take greenhouses offline, didn’t interfere with plant growth or production.”

The Daily 3D Detail: Our new favorite STL download

Posted by Editor On August - 26 - 2017

Our new favorite STL download

The Minion chess set is sure to please young players

We love and their extensive lists. Known for ranking printers or presenting DIY projects, has been a favorite website of printrs for years.

Their most recent list is a celebration of 3D-printed chess sets and the selection is impressive. Whether you prefer conventional designs or unique assortments of chess pieces, this list is well-worth a scrolling and bookmark.

Our new favorite STL download

The Lewis chess set, based on the 800-year-old historical set on display at the National Museum of Scotland

The takeaway from this list is it is inevitably incomplete. Chess sets are a popular choice for beginner printrs and modelrs and there is no limit to the imagination that can occupy 16 squares on a chess board. Hopefully exposure of this list will generate even more download options and more follow-up lists to come.

Once you’ve downloaded and printed your set, you may consider traipsing over and playing the built-in AI interface. Ranked from levels 1 through 10, the AI is ready to match you at your skill sets and challenge you appropriately. Most can handle levels 3 and 4, whereas grandmasters find themselves stumped by level 8. No one, apparently, is smart enough to beat the computer at level 10.

In addition to gaming, the site also offers tips and strategies and a variety of resources for chess enthusiasts.

The Daily 3D Detail: Structure Synth create incredible 3D objects

Posted by Taila Rodrigues On August - 6 - 2017
Structure Synth complexy

Even if you who have never coded before, and even if you are terrible at math, you are able to use this tool and generate surprising and complex 3D structures.

Structure Synth is an open-source, multiplatform system for manipulating 3D structures.

Instead of using the mouse to position objects and modify structures, you position them with command lines written in the EisenScript code.

EisenScript is a programming language designed by Mikael Hvidtfeldt, pure mathematics, basic and simple.


EisenScript codes

This system has a full set of features that allow you to create generative 3D scenes. There are a lot of commands operators to explore, but with just a few commands you can quickly and easily generate 3D artwork that looks impossible or almost impossible.

The generated files can be saved in .obj format compatible with 3D slicer software and can then be printed in 3D.

The system is completely free, available for Mac, Windows and Linux – download here.

To read the full content and learn more about Structure Synth visit their website.

The Daily 3D Detail: Can you tell the future?

Posted by Franka Schoening On July - 9 - 2017

Crystal ball to predict the 3D future?


No one has a reliable crystal ball, can read coffee grounds effectively, or actually predict the future through cards. If we could, we would all be stock market millionaires. At least, I would be…

However, there are some smart people that can analyze a market and make predictions that are very possible to come true. Read this amazing article on on predictions about ease of design, resolution, materials, colors and more. Will it all be reality one day? Who knows. But it sounds amazing!

The Six Steps to a New Manufacturing Paradigm

Posted by Fred Kaplan On July - 8 - 2017

Can additive manufacturing deliver on a $12 trillion promise?

By Fred Kaplan

Delivering on Additive Manufacturing's $12 Trillion Promise

The quality and clarity of SL-printed parts gives the additive manufacturing a definitive advantage

The manufacturing world is in transition to additive manufacturing.

The promise of this transition is $12 trillion worth of goods. Trillion. With a T.

Recent advances in technology by HP’s (multiJet fusion), Carbon3D (CLIP technology) and Desktop Metals, have all successfully employed FDM production for short-run end-use parts with at the enterprise level of 3D printers. At the DIY level, desktop model manufacturers such as Markforged, Roboze, and AirWolf3D offer commendable end-use production with the same FDM method.

Stephen Nigro, HP’s President of 3D printing, speaking at the 2017 RAPID + TCT show, described the areas where the additive manufacturing industry can optimize the transformational future of additive manufacturing. While Nigro’s presentation was framed around HP’s multiJet fusion technology, it is a useful look at how these key points are being addressed across many technologies industry-wide.

Following are six essential keys that Nigro believes will transform additive manufacturing toward this $12 trillion goal:

    • World-Class Product and Technology Capabilities: Additive manufacturing has never been more innovative. HP, Carbon 3D, and Desktop Metals are at the very beginning stages of developing technologies that offer the possibility of disruptive short-run manufacturing. Improvements they to chose to address included printing speed, printer “up” time, and higher percentages of acceptable finished parts. While these new technological innovations are getting the media’s attention, another manufacturer, UnionTech entered the U.S. in a new product category showing great promise in both resolution and material strengths. Since 2000, this company’s large-format open source printers have been using stereolithography to produce unheard-of build times with impressive results.SL technology, as seen in the graphic below from, is shown on the very far right in the “Plateau of Productivity” as opposed to the newer technologies which could be located in either the bubble of “Inflated Expectations”or the “Trough of Disillusionment” before they are on their way to the “Slope of Enlightenment.”

Delivering on Additive Manufacturing's $12 Trillion Promise

  • Open Materials Platform to Drive Down Costs: The cost of proprietary 3D printing materials has made it almost impossible to calculate a profitable ROI in manufacturing end-use 3d printed parts. The traditional razor blade method that has been employed by 3D printer manufacturers doesn’t work in an environment in which OEM manufacturers need the broadest portfolios of available materials from the 3D printer. HP began a program to qualify open source material partners at the K2016 plastics and rubber trade show. DSM Somos, has a complete portfolio of SL materials designed to go with open source SL printers such as UnionTech. Since the late 1980s, DSM’s Somos group has earned a global reputation for stereolithography material innovation. Prototypes made from Somos resins closely replicate the functionality of engineered thermoplastics, but are delivered with increased speed and accuracy.Delivering on Additive Manufacturing's $12 Trillion Promise

    UnionTech printers, made in China, have developed a reputation for quality prints

    Another aspect of additive manufacturing materials that has to be considered is the difference in part construction which varies from one technology to the next. Processes such FFF which depend on the adhesion of one layer to next tend to have little strength in the Z axis versus isotropic construction of stereolithography.

  • Materials Diversity: A wide array of material availability is the foundation of successful manufacturing whereas the promise of new materials in the future is an innovation driver. Open-source desktop printers have broken down the barriers closed-source manufacturers have attempted to use to control their market. Open-source printers have brought us PET-G, TPE, and ASA polymers and a variety of other filaments. Matterhackers’ matter guide is a good example of the material range and Somos lists 14 open-source stereolithography resins currently available.
  • New Design Methods for Additive Manufacturing: The development of CAD programs has increased the functionality and provided ease of use for new users. Through these applications, successful designers and engineers are creating geometries optimized for additive manufacturing. The future of CAD is in algorithm-based design that is able to iterate using tradition CAD and 3D-scanned data with programs such as SolidThinking’s Inspire that optimize topology for strength, economic material usage, and weight of printed parts. Another example is Materialise Magics, which optimizes data preparation for 3D printing intended for casting applications.
  • The Reinvention of Supply Chains: As Additive manufacturing is being perfected by organizations looking at the possibility of emailing CAD files versus shipping parts across the globe. While that reality is here, the advance of this prospect waits for the resolution of other issues on this list. Local Motors is a business whose model is built around four microfactories creating automobiles from locally sourced components. The capacity to accommodate the demand for individual vehicles through localized production is an example of the way the future supply chain is headed.

Delivering on Additive Manufacturing's $12 Trillion Promise

An example of the quality of SL prints

  • Regulations and Standards: One of the obstacles to the adoption of additive manufacturing is the uncertainty regarding 3D printing materials. There are currently few certifications for 3D printing materials due to the expense of certifying proprietary materials and the absence of regulatory groups. Typically 3D printer materials are referred to as “ABS-like,” as opposed to being actually ABS or any specific material. This lack of definition can lead to unexpected parts failure if produced without significant testing. Companies such as 3D Systems, Envisiontec, StrataSys and Somos are leading the industry with medical-grade and aerospace-approved materials. In order for manufacturing to embrace additive manufacturing, the industry needs to provide better materials information and a standardized rating system of material properties from the additive material suppliers.

There are a couple basic points to look at when choosing a 3D printer or a new 3D printing material:

  • Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT): which is the temperature at which a material deforms under a specific load. The importance of the number is a reflection on the functionality of the 3D printed part; such as whether the part will be functional under the hood of an automobile. Carbon- or silica-filled materials have a high HDT while PLA has a low HDT which makes easier to be printed on an FFF printer.
  • Tensile Modulus is the measurement of stresses that a material can take along an axis and return to its original shape or the measurement of the stiffness or brittleness of a solid material. Rubber is an example of a material with a low tensile modulus and glass or ceramics have a high tensile modulus.
    • Flexural Strength: is depicted in the graphic below. The “F” arrow is the force at the fracture point when factoring the length and width of the material. Flexural Strength is the stress a material can tolerate before yielding. ABS has a flexural strength of 75 MPa compared to StrataSys’ Nylon12 PA flexural strength of 47 MPa.

Delivering on Additive Manufacturing's $12 Trillion Promise

While Additive Manufacturing is experiencing one technology breakthrough after another, the prospect of one 3D printer being replaced by the fleet of 3D printers will take the combination of 3D printer reliability, along with material functionality, to provide a dependable and predictable manufacturing process. As the industry awaits the roll out of HP’s, Desktop Metals’, and Carbon3D’s new printers, time will show if they are pushing the envelope of dependability and functionality. While open-source 3D printers provide more functionality by being able to print multiple materials, there may an additional benefit: the competition which open-source provides can only result in more user-friendly operations and more reliable 3D printers.

Fred Kaplan is a 3D printing material specialist, who has worked with SLA, SLS, FDM, ColorJet, ADAM, DLP, LOM, FFF, MultiJet, Polyjet, and SDL 3D printers. Specializing in matching the best technology to a particular 3D printing application, he has also worked with many brands of 3D scanners and many CAD packages.

Prior to his work in additive manufacturing, Fred received a Los Angeles-area Emmy and other awards for documentary filmmaking.

The Obsidian is the latest 3D printer with a below $100 price tag that is raising funds through Kickstarter. It will be assemble-free, available in two colors and promises a printing quality comparable to printers with a higher price tag. Focusing on user experience, the Obsidian claims to make “3D printing easy and accessible to everyone, from students to design professionals” and uses a video to proof it.

Despite the failure of multiple cheap 3D printer fundraising campaigns in the past, this project has already exceeded its $100.000 goal significantly. Find more information and the link to the Kickstarter campaign here if you are interested in joining the nearly 3000 existing backers of the Obsidian.