Abe Reichental, President and Chief Executive Officer, 3D Systems Corp.
Even though these are challenging economic times, we see significant opportunities ahead. Additive fabrication has brought innovation and bottom-line savings to product development and to manufacturing. We continue to invest in technology, because we believe that market leadership comes through technology leadership.
Let’s examine the state of additive fabrication. Despite all the new developments, additive fabrication technology still remains at a fairly early stage of adoption. What will push adoption forward is new technology in new equipment at new price points that will encourage new applications.
So far, additive fabrication has been used primarily for concept modeling, for rapid prototyping, rapid tooling, and to some limited but growing rapid manufacturing applications. Primary uses include visual aids, marketing photo-shoots and concept communications for presentations. Other uses include models to determine fit and function; jigs and fixtures; patterns for metal casting; and increasingly in mass-customized rapid manufacturing applications like dental restorations, hearing aids, and jewelry.
We look at some of the barriers to adoption, and one of the major barriers is the bewildering number of technologies out there. Though they add capability, they also add to the confusion. Systems out there are relatively complex, some require expert installation, material choices are somewhat limited and niche-y, and some systems require extensive pre- and post-processing to provide a usable finished part. And total cost of ownership doesn’t always lend itself to replacement of traditional methods.
We’re working to bridge the chasm between the early adopters and the main-street adopters. What this means is more push-button systems with end-to-end connectivity.
It means more integrated material selection, with expert process optimization for greater performance. It means clearer choices for all addressable applications; it means the quest to eliminate all post-processing as we know it; and it means plug-and-play installations that fit, with more customer price and performance choices.
We put this all under the heading of redefining high definition, because we believe that the technologies that will really win are the technologies that go beyond the basics, technologies that will deliver…
• ultra-smooth surfaces finishes without sacrificing speed, fine feature detail,
• accuracy that rivals what we have come to expect from conventional subtractive technology
like CNC machining,
• a broader range of materials,
• ease of use in operation.
More specifically, we want to bring this technology into the “main street” of manufacturing and enable customers to build both small parts and large parts very accurately.
We want customers to have the ability to make durable, functional parts with tighter surface tolerances and less need for hand fitting and greater part-to-part consistency.
Ultimately, when all is said and done, deliverables should offer unmatched part quality with less and less expert operator involvement. Specifically, we mean exceptional part sidewalls, unprecedented surface smoothness, remarkable feature resolution, best-in-class edge definition, and predictability and repeatability that matches CNC machining.
3D Systems Corp.
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