How has the all the hype around 3D printing /additive manufacturing (3DP/AM) prototyping and manufacturing endeavors affected you? If you follow the Gartner hype curve, we are probably now in the trough of disillusionment.
Some startups are no longer around. Investors have been short-selling the public stocks. News seems to have slowed. The excitement appears to have diminished. Except for metal AM—that area is still experiencing some hype.
The situation, however, is not at all bad. While investors are making short-sided decisions on 3D printing public stocks, more companies are entering the 3DP/AM industry. Such as Trumpf, with its TruPrint 1000 laser cladding system, and Toshiba noted Todd Grimm, founder and president of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Inc. at his keynote at the AMUG 2016 Conference.
As the hype and the buzz die down, many companies and researchers in this field are busy developing improvements and new technologies. As Grimm noted, advances in technology won’t be rolling off every month or week, but they will be happening. “We can get back to sanity,” said Grimm. “This is the era where practicality reigns.”
One drawback of this trough, however, is that it may require more effort to make a business case for buying a 3DP/AM machine for your department. Conversations on just how to make your case were frequent at the AMUG Conference. “You will need lots of information to navigate the AM landscape over the next few years to create a deliberate, thought-out strategy of how this technology can work for you,” added Grimm
All the previous attention from the hype did help catalyze innovations and ideas for many, who are working on realizing them now. It will take time to finalize these ideas. But in five or so years, major introductions will emerge. “We will see better tools, more applications, more innovation, and some disruption. We will be able to do more, and do more with more types of parts,” Grimm continued.
Several companies recently have or will be introducing new additive approaches and equipment. Carbon has already introduced its first machine, the M1. Impossible Objects takes the approach of printing with carbon fiber material. Additive Industries has sold all of its beta systems. And soon, HP may introduce its much anticipated multi-jetting 3D printer.
EOS came out with its M 100 system late last year, a smaller laser sintering machine geared to those who want to try laser sintering before moving onto bigger systems.
Other innovations include 3D Systems with its SLABot system, Feature 4. By lining up several stereolithography systems and connecting them with a couple of robots, the Feature 4 is a mini 3D printing manufacturing system.
And XJet gave a presentation on its nano-particle jetting additive machine, which binds stochastic metal cut into nanoparticles in a patented liquid and jets them through standard ink-jet heads onto a build platform. The initial metal is stainless steel. But this system delivers speed and fine resolution detail.
Grimm also noted that a number of 2D printing companies are moving into 3D printing, including Canon, Richo, Fuji and Epson; not a development you would see if this industry was in trouble.
A lot of development and research that came about because of the earlier hype is delivering these imaginative processes. And more is coming. Said Grimm, between 2016 and 2026, we will see a number of new ways to additively make products side by side with traditional manufacturing. We’ve only seen the tip of what is possible in additive manufacturing.