Thursday, January 3, 2013

Additive Manufacturing Pioneers

Emma's "magic arms" 3D printed via Stratasys
Emma's "magic arms" were 3D printed.
In my last post of 2012, I made the observation that I would be following additive manufacturing, sometimes called 3D printing, closely in 2013. In that post, I noted that the technique had reached an inflection point where it would change manufacturing, distribution and marketing radically. Here are some of the most important companies in the industry.

  • Stratasys Ltd. manufactures 3D printers that that use the Fusion Deposition Modeling method of extruding molten plastic in layers to build a part. In 2012, Stratasys merged with Objet Ltd. which builds machines that use a PolyJet process. The PolyJet process employs an ink jetting process to apply photo photopolymers in fine layers. Each layer is cured simultaneously with ultraviolet light.
  • 3D Systems makes a variety of different 3D printers for personal and professional use. These machines can be used for manufacturing prototypes or final parts. The company was founded by Chuck Hull who invented Stereolithography, the original 3D printing technology. In early 2012, 3D Systems acquired Z Corporation which supplies machines that can build full color models.
  • Arcam AB is a Swedish company that provides a unique technology for the production of metal parts. Electron Beam Melting builds parts layer-by-layer from metal powder melted by a powerful electron beam. The technology is used primarily in the medical, aerospace and defense industries.
  • Mcor prints photo-realistic 3D parts from paper. This is the printer that Staples is market testing in some of their stores in the Netherlands and Belgium.
  • Renishaw is a UK based company with core skills in measurement, motion control, spectroscopy and precision machining. Their product line includes additive manufacturing technologies encompassing laser melting, vacuum casting and injection molding.
  • ExOne calls their additive manufacturing process Digital Part Materialization and their machines are used for 3D printing of sand and metal materials.
  • The NovoGen MMX Bioprinter™ from Organovo takes primary or other human cells and shapes them into 3D tissue for biological research. This technology was developed by a team led by Professor Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
  • Makerbot is a rapidly growing manufacturer of desktop personalized printers. The printers are used by engineers, designers, researchers and people who just like to make things.
  • Shapeways is a 3D printing marketplace and community where individuals can make, buy and sell their own products. They 3D print everything on-demand which means that every order is customized and personalized.
  • Cubify is a website from 3D Systems to encourage you to "express yourself in 3D!" You can look for something unique that has been 3D printed or design and print your own creations from scratch. If you want to print at home, the site encourages you to purchase a Cube 3D printer which is "plug-and-play easy and looks pretty nice on a worktable."
  • Sculpteo offers a 3D printing service which is open to professionals or consumers. They can print from your 3D design or their community platform gives you access to 3D designers allowing you to share models, upload your own 3D designs and make them real through 3D printing.
  • i.materialise believes that people have an inherent need to express themselves and provides 3D printing services for demanding designers and inventors. 
  • Ponoko claims to be "the world's easiest making system" and offers both 2D laser cutting and 3D printer services.
  • To make a file for additive manufacturing, you will need software. Autodesk, Inc., is a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.

These are the companies that will change our world over the next decade. Are there any I should have included but missed?

You might also be interested in:

3D Printing Crosses an Inflection Point

Focus for 2013

To Think Different, Read Different

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.