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Five 3D printing trends for 2015

For 3D printing vendors, the New Year is not so much about new technologies, but new attitudes to what existing technology can do. Stephen Holmes picks out five of the key trends for 2015

1 Industrialisation is key

Speak to the big players in the 3D printing market and everything is about taking capacity and speed to the next level. This is no doubt caused in part by HP’s entry into the market, ruffling some feathers.

The company’s promised Multi-Jet Fusion technology arrival in 2016 is aiming to be ready for industrial purpose.

Meanwhile Stratasys has reaffirmed its Fortus line-up as its keystone for real part manufacturing with a new high strength material, Ultem 1010. Already it is being used to print components for use in the world today – whether as custom jigs for manufacture, or hidden fixtures in things like aircraft.

Whilst 3D Systems, for all its dalliances with consumer 3D printing in the last few years, has come back harder into the manufacturing market. Everything in its marketing is about process, from prepping and postproduction, to the speed and materials. Its new colour plastics process is not attempting to be office friendly; it is a fully formed production line.

On the other hand, its latest metal printer is the size of a house, but comes with an add on powder prep facility and post-print booth to get new parts printing in the machine without any delay.

Most vendors are supersizing existing machines; cramming as much into the build area as possible. An elegant example is that of relative newcomer Prodways, which is producing real parts for products like hearing aids.

It has fleshed out its Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology to create a line-up of new large format printers, with the largest offering a build area of 840 x 660 x 550mm.

Using high-power UVA LEDs, two DLP light engines moves over the build area, allowing high resolution across the large build area.

Capacity is one thing, but materials are still a sticking point, which is why the Arburg Freeformer continues to draw a lot of interest.

Producing parts using the cheap plastic granules readily available for moulding products, manufacturers get the real thing and not an expensive proxy.

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