Is additive manufacturing really used for manufacturing? Stratasys Fortus 3D 380MC and 450MC take on direct digital manufacturing
3D printing is critical for many design teams. Rapid-prototypes allow teams to make decisions faster and find problems sooner. Today, products like the Fortus 380MC and 450MC are taking their place on the production floor as additive manufacturing moves into real manufacturing.
Stratasys is the leader in rapid prototyping. Their PolyJet technology leads the market with multi-color and multi-material capabilities. Manufacturing uses for 3D printing have other demands. The Fortus 380mc and Fortus 450mc are two new products designed specifically to meet manufacturing requirements.
November 2014, I had the good fortune to spend time with Andy Middleton. His outlook on the additive manufacturing market in Europe is bullish - to say the least. The business in Europe has grown 40% year on year and some countries like the UK have had explosive growth of more than 60%.
Where has the growth come from? Mr. Middleton explains the drivers of his market.
Stratasys is the global leader in additive manufacturing with 55% of the industrial market and 35% of the desktop market
Prototyping customers have embraced color and multi-material rapid prototyping. Stratasys delivers this capability with its Connex triple-jetting technology. Now with the Objet 30 Prime, desktop 3D printing also can benefit from multi-material prototypes. This technology is a key factor in Stratasys' lead in rapid prototyping.
Growth in Service Bureaux also exploded. This was a factor in the UK growth year-on-year. It is likely to remain an important factor for years to come as Stratasys will build their own eco-system to accommodate customer needs for diverse 3D printing capabilities. While many customer can purchase one or two models of 3D printers for their primary needs, most customers need a range of printing capabilities. Service bureaux meet this demand and will grow with this demand for the foreseeable future.
The UK 3D printing market grew 70% for Stratasys this last year
Then we have direct digital manufacturing. Over the years I have watched as 3D printing has remained firmly entrenched in rapid prototyping. I asked industry experts how and when they could see 3D printing expand significantly in manufacturing. Mr. Middleton acknowledged his own surprise at the rate with which manufacturing applications for 3D printing are exploding. And the Stratasys products benefiting from this growth are the Fortus family.
The Fortus line grew 120% in Europe. It's high performance plastics work well for DDM of jigs and fixtures for manufacturing lines. The jigs and fixtures are customized for the manufacturing process at hand and these parts previously had been designed and then milled. Often made of metals, the parts are now replaced by lighter, more versatile plastics from DDM on a Fortus 3D printer.
New models like the Fortus 380mc and the Fortus 450mc are faster, more reliable, easier to use, and have a larger print envelope
One example cited by Andy Middleton is the logo for the rear of one customer's automotive production line. The fixture which was previously milled from a metal alloy has been replaced by a 3D printed part from a Fortus system. And Stratasys walks-the-walk. In their own 3D printer production facilities, the company has over 800 jigs and fixtures in the manufacturing process - and they are 3D printed.
The demand continues to grow and Stratasys has revamped the Fortus product line. The new Fortus models print 20% faster than previous models. The new line has also increased the build envelope as the Fortus 360mc and 400mc have been replaced with the Fortus 380mc and 450mc, respectively . And manufacturing customers require extremely high levels of reliability. So Stratasys has made the products more reliable and currently deliver Fortus 3D printers with a mean time between failure (MTBF) rate of less than one per year. Another need on the manufacturing floor is ease of use. The latest models are equipped with a new touch-display for managing print jobs more easily.
Bigger, faster, better is a great product strategy when a market is beginning to take off. For the next few years, it looks like the Fortus line will be on the right path for a fast-moving direct digital manufacturing market.