When will the 3D printer become as ubiquitous as say the common inkjet printer? When will we be able to simply print out a new pair of shoes or a new part for our car from the comfort of our home? According to Vincent Laithier, of the Candian based company Axis Prototypes, the market for 3D printing will literally double in size in the next four years, primarily from home printers. However, home printing only stands at about a measly 6 percent of the market share, where consumer products still have a corner on the technology with 24 percent of demand.
Big companies like Boeing Co. are currently using selective laser printing for short runs of parts while toy companies like Mega Bloks use the technology to create prototypes which it shows to retail buyers to help close pre-book orders before the actual toys are molded. And just yesterday, US based company 3D Systems, which made Forbe’s 2012 list of fastest growing companies with a 242% increase of units sold, is going to make those tasks even easier with their newest generation of professional series 3D printers which offer cutting edge components like smart phone connectivity and high resolution printing.
3D Systems’ next generation ProJet 3500 HDMax and CPXMax professional series 3D printers offer higher resolution prints, promise greater productivity, and remote tablet controls for the production of functional plastic parts and investment casting wax patterns for product design and manufacturing applications. This cuts down weeks of delivery time due to outsourcing and slashes costs and set up fees for prototypes proposed by manufactures making life and production a whole lot easier. The ProJet 3500 Max printers offer 3D Systems patented “Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM) print technology” which includes a production-grade printhead, advanced material management, a platform for higher definition printing, touchscreen controls, and remote tablet and smartphone connectivity. It also comes with an extensive range of VisiJet print materials for a whole host of applications that include the manufacturing of jewelry and personalized medical devices.
Where most 3D printers are industrial sized behemoths tasked for large commercial grade projects, this technology is destined to get smaller and smaller. Currently 3D Systems printers cost between a quarter to half a million dollars, but I’m sure if you bought stock in the company now, in 4 years you might be able to afford one – if you want one for home use. Or you can go with a company like Cubify, which ships (next day) a home use 3D printing kit for $1,299. And a quick word to the manufacturing industry: don’t be stubborn and miss the boat like they did in the in the transition between analogue and digital or Blockbuster versus Netflix; the times they are a-changin. If you would like to see how 3D Systems new line of high resolution 3D printers work head on down to EuroMold in Frankfurt, Germany where they will be on display from November 27-30, 2012.