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3D Printing

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Start-up Raises $23 Million to 3D Print Sports Cars

Posted February 11, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Divergent 3D says additive manufacturing will reduce the cost of building vehicles while lowering the weight and reducing fuel consumption. The company has closed its Series A funding after raising $23 million that it will use to promote the commercialization of 3D printed sports cars.

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9 comments; last comment on 02/13/2017
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New 3D Technology Breaks the Size Barrier

Posted October 20, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Does size matter? If you're talking about 3D printing, it used to. Precision printing meant a fixed platen and a limited range of motion for the deposition tool. Less precise printers have been developed to create large objects from clay, concrete, and other building materials, but their extended range of motion comes with drawbacks. One way to overcome this is to print horizontally, as a new tool promises to do (see video). Add lateral movement to the object along with a five-axis arm, and 3D printing just took on a whole new dimension.

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The Death of 3D Printing Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted September 21, 2016 3:14 PM by HUSH

Did you get the memo? Perhaps you read the obit. 3D printing is dead. Over. Done with. Kaputski.

This past summer there were many articles criticizing 3D printing’s struggle to stay relevant. Stratasys and 3D Systems, two of the leading 3D printing companies, saw their stock surge 333% and 800% between 2011 and 2013, respectively. But since 2014, the two companies have seen their combined stock cash valuations plummet from $14 billion to less than $3 billion. The former has instituted layoffs and shifted manufacturing to China, while the latter has stopped selling its consumer-oriented printer. Some believe it would be in the best interests if Stratasys and 3D Systems were to merge, to consolidate technologies, efforts and products. Meanwhile, the industry becomes more muddled each year with startups that feel like they have a unique offering to additive manufacturing (AM).

Many of the critics also point out that 3D printing hasn’t become a ubiquitous as predicted; 3D printers aren’t easy to use; and instances of makers fabricating actually useful components are rare.

So because 3D printing lacks the cohesive focus and applications of more mature technologies, that makes it dead?

Almost definitely not. Last week, General Electric purchased separate AM companies, Arcam AB and SLM Solutions Group AG, for a total of $1.4 billion. When the deals are complete, GE will move from one of the world’s largest metal printing customers, to one of the world’s premier 3D printing suppliers. GE believes it can milk $1 billion in AM revenue from these two companies by 2020 (a 600% increase), while also saving between $5 and $10 billion on its own AM expenditures. And although the industry is amidst significant upheaval and uncertainty, it still grew by 26% on 2015.

So the so-called death of 3D printing can be attributed to two likely causes. The first, is (sigh) media hype. As quickly as journalists and news sources were ready to make 3D printing the king of manufacturing in 2013, they are just as ready to execute it today.

Gartner is a technology research and advisory company that details technological innovations, but also the societal or cultural changes around them. In 2015 they released the graph on right, depicting the 3D Printing Hype Cycle. Right now, we’re on our way out of the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ and onto ‘Plateau of Productivity.’ Right now 3D printing is immensely popular in the medical field for creating custom hearing aids, knee replacements, insoles, artificial limbs and so much more.

As hype grew around 3D printers just three years ago, so did imaginations and investments. Yet 3D printing innovations happened less quickly than what was expected, so hype died, and the narrative turned from all the possibilities of AM to all the shortcomings of AM.

The second cause is there is still not much consumer appetite. A few years ago it seemed that 3D printing was so disruptive to traditional supply chains and manufacturing that almost everyone would own one, much the way 2D printers proliferated. Instead, DIY 3D printer owners are mostly just fabricating dust-collecting knick-knacks. There hasn’t been that ‘killer app’ moment yet, where a 3D printer produces something so clever or original, that people are compelled to buy one. On top of that, producing an original design or replicating a broken one has a considerable knowledge barrier—your average Wal-Mart shopper likely doesn’t know how to set up a 3D printer, let alone begin scanning parts or fixing a broken part in CAD.

Considering the difficult business that is consumer-oriented 3D printers, there aren’t many companies willing to invest in new consumer-level products—not when even $200 3D printers can have trouble selling. This is why companies such as GE still see a light at the end of the AM tunnel, but to the general public it seems like nothing but a dead end.

6 comments; last comment on 09/27/2016
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Stretch Your 2D Designs into Another Dimension

Posted June 26, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Remember those tests where you mentally folded a printed flat shape to pick the matching 3D object? The folks at Disney are using the same idea to create cheap, full-color objects using a combination of 3D printing and thermoforming. Called computational thermoforming, the technology forms a 2D printed plastic sheet over a 3D model. The trick is to reverse calculate a "pre-formed" image that, when stretched over the model (watch), lines up perfectly with the final contours. A single calibration object sets up the algorithms for virtually any subject.

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Think Big with Robot-mounted 3D Printer

Posted April 16, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Typically, 3D printers operate within a workspace defined by the build plate and print-head guide rails. Printed objects generally measure a few inches, but a really big printer may produce parts several feet in size. How to build bigger? One solution combines additive manufacturing with mobile robots. Engineering360 explains how "Addibots" not only expand the traditional workspace of 3D printers, they expand the possibilities of additive manufacturing itself. Two videos offer application examples.

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1 comments; last comment on 04/17/2016
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