3D Printing Expo Puts a Changing Business World on Display

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-04-04 Print this article Print

At the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo in New York from April 2 to 4, there was no shortage of evidence that the desktop 3D printing market is growing as swiftly as the enthusiasm around it, that prices are dropping and that truly anything can be 3D-printed. There were printers of every size, printing in materials from sandstone to aluminum dust. Exhibited items ranged from cheap tchotchkes to an "Iron Man"-like suit and a Ford Torino. The newly affordable technology is giving new outlets to creative processes, enabling companies large and small to iterate faster and so drive cost savings and time to market, and introducing solutions where few existed. (Scientists are now printing working organs for transplant.) But, perhaps, the most exciting takeaway from the show is that the technology is encouraging a new way of thinking, learning and problem solving in the world's next generation of innovators. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) uses MakerBot desktop printers to help develop its space rovers, but also to inspire the teenagers in its summer internship program. "The next generation of space explorers are kids that grew up playing video games," said JPL Associate CTO Gabriel Rangel. "We're demonstrating how today's toys can become tomorrow's tools."

  • 3D Printing Expo Puts a Changing Business World on Display

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - 3D Printing Expo Puts a Changing Business World on Display
  • 3D Printing Is No Fad

    The Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo is a Javits Center-sized reminder that the market is growing fast. Research firm Canalys, calling the market "still in its infancy" in a March 31 report, projected that the market will grow from 2013's $2.5 billion to $16.2 billion by 2018. (That figure includes 3D printer sales and associated materials and services.)
    2 - 3D Printing Is No Fad
  • 3D Systems' Jazz Display

    Attendees on the show floor were treated to a jazz performance outside the 3D Systems booth. The drum kit and keyboard were 3D-printed.
    3 - 3D Systems' Jazz Display
  • No Vertical Untouched

    It's hard to imagine a vertical market this technology won't impact. While 3D Systems displayed these rubber-soled shoes, Magnetic Visions showed off options for high heels.
    4 - No Vertical Untouched
  • Giving Form to Animation

    Animators are enjoying the ability to create physical models of their on-screen creations. This model, too, is from 3D Systems.
    5 - Giving Form to Animation
  • 3D Systems' Lineup

    The 3D Systems' portfolio includes home desktop models (starting at $1,299), professional models (ideal for prototyping and more), and production models capable of creating master patterns and real end-use parts. Its Cube 3 (pictured here and in detail, printing a large chess piece) is coming this quarter, can print directly from a mobile device and prints at speeds up to "two times faster than other printers," according to the company.
    6 - 3D Systems' Lineup
  • MakerBot's Competition

    Brooklyn-based MakerBot has popularized the desktop category, and it now has plenty of competition. Afinia makes a $1,599, 11-pound desktop printer that it markets as the simplest to use out of the box. On its site, it welcomes comparisons to MakerBot (Afinia's one-year warranty vs. MakerBot's for 14 days) and Cubify (which has a 90-day warranty and no extended warranty option).
    7 - MakerBot's Competition
  • Custom Manufacturing

    Solid Concepts offers 3D printing, rapid prototyping, tooling and injection-molding services. It can develop a customer's concept, from prototype to finished product. The life-sized action hero, Zoomer, was its own idea.
    8 - Custom Manufacturing
  • Keeping It Simple

    At the other end of the spectrum is XYZ Printing, which makes da Vinci 3D printers that start (for a single-nozzle print head) at $499. This dual-nozzle model is $649 and offers a print layer resolution between 100 and 400 microns.
    9 - Keeping It Simple
  • For the DIY Set

    Tinkerine makes wood-framed 3D printers that can come as a kit (for extra savings—and maybe extra fun) or preassembled. The do-it-yourself Litto prints at a resolution of 100 microns and is $999.
    10 - For the DIY Set
  • It's in the Details

    Form Labs printed out a magnifying glass holder to show off the detailing its Form 1 printer is capable of. (It can achieve a thickness of just 25 microns.) The roughly 3- by 2-inch plastic holder took 2 hours and 45 minutes to print. While many desktop printers use a plastic filament, which gets heated, the Form 1 uses liquid resin, which hardens. The Form 1 will begin shipping in June, priced at $3,299.
    11 - It's in the Details
  • Printing as a Service

    Sculpteo says it helps people and businesses to "buy, sell and 3D print ideas as solid objects." This little guy is made of a "fine mineral powder" that's as hard and as brittle as porcelain but has a sandy, grainy surface—ideal for ornaments, according to the company. It also prints in wax, sterling silver, aluminum dust and plastic.
    12 - Printing as a Service
  • Supporting the Arts

    The show included artist Ioan Florea's 1971 Ford Torino. Florea's process includes using a 3D printer to create plastic molds to shape liquid metal into sculptures. (He's also created a metal cover for a 200-year-old covered wagon.)
    13 - Supporting the Arts
  • Have Printer, Will Work

    Kurt Wendt, a freelance prototyper who goes by the name The Bot Guy, exhibited one of his creations.
    14 - Have Printer, Will Work
  • WhiteClouds Displays Its Offerings

    Utah-based WhiteClouds will create and print just about anything for customers. It prints in rubber, resin, plastic, sandstone and other materials.
    15 - WhiteClouds Displays Its Offerings
  • Cimquest Sells Services, Printers

    Cimquest offers printing services but also sells a range of printers, from desktop units to models like this one from Dimension 3D Printers. It's designed to print large items (like bicycle parts), and its price starts at around $24,900.
    16 - Cimquest Sells Services, Printers
  • PP3DP Lower-Price 3D Printers

    PP3DP, from the Beijing TierTime Technology Co., makes inexpensive printers (starting below $900) for prototyping. Its goal, it said, is to "build a factory for anyone, anywhere, any time."
    17 - PP3DP Lower-Price 3D Printers

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