It wasn’t all that long ago that manufacturing machines, such as 3D printers and CNC mills were relegated to the factory floor because of their size and tendency to need or produce undesirable compounds, such as coolants, smoke, chips, solvents, etc. Today, however, there are a number of desktop 3D printers and milling machines available. Until relatively recently, though, one of the major manufacturing processes that hadn’t appeared on the desktop was injection molding. That’s about to change with the advent of the APSX-PIM desktop plastic molding machine from Advanced Production Systems (APSX).
Injection molding machines are known for being large and expensive machines that require significant infrastructure, steep learning curve, and high maintenance. For these and other reasons most individual makers and small businesses don’t have access to an injection molding machine, so APSX decided to make one that could be used by organizations with budget and space constraints.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest developments in the MCAD world in the past few years has been 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). Until relatively recently, though, the cost of the 3D printing machines was cost prohibitive for all but large companies. To a large extent, costs have been plummeting, but there are machines that cost more than a million dollars. However, that is changing with the advent of relatively low-cost desktop 3D printers.
3D printers sound cool, and to a large extent they are. But, before running out to buy one, there are a few things to keep in mind. Currently, a machine will set you back $500 to $5,000, plus $40 to $100 for a roll of plastic filament (think Weed Wacker) for producing parts. Also keep in mind that producing one small object could take hours, and end up costing much more than buying it. Don’t forget, too, that you need some technical know-how to make it all work, including how to create a solid model with a CAD tool. As I have maintained for some time, with all the online 3D printing services that are available, why buy when you can rent. Check out my blog post on this sentiment from last year entitled, “3D Printing Goes Retail: Why Buy When You Can Rent?”
That’s why I have said that the first low-cost devices were more fun than functional, and appealed to DIYers, hobbyists, and early adopters. All that is changing as the technology matures, prices come down, more materials become available, and part quality vastly improves.
As exciting as the 3D printing/additive manufacturing (AM) space has been the past several, especially the last couple, its unbridled enthusiasm and expectations couldn’t be expected to go on forever, and they’re not. Stratasys reported less than anticipated financials for Q1 2015.
All was not doom and gloom for Stratasys, however, as the financials also include the following:
Announced that Stratasys AM technologies were selected by Airbus for producing 3D printed flight parts for use in the first-of-type A350 XWB aircraft.
Announced organizational changes, including the creation of the Stratasys Strategic Consulting Division to help support customer development.
Completed the organizational integration of Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies and RedEye Services to form Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (SDM).
Initiated a reorganization within MakerBot. This involved a sizable layoff of MakerBot employees and the closing of MakerBot retail stores. This reorganization was done to make MakerBot a better “fit” within Stratasys.
The company sold 7,536 3D printing and additive manufacturing systems during the quarter.
Stratasys Presents a 3D Printed Aircraft Interior at EuroMold 2014
Fred Fischer, Director of PolyJet and FDM Applications at Stratasys, presents an aircraft interior 3D printed using a unique combination additive manufacturing technologies. The presentation was filmed at Stratasys’ aerospace-themed booth at EuroMold 2014 in Frankfurt.
With what seems like forever, we have witnessed the ongoing and perpetual consolidation of the CAD industry as companies continue to get swallowed up by others. Some of the acquisitions have been successful and some, well, not so much. We’ve witnessed CAD companies acquiring CAD companies, simulation companies acquiring CAD companies, and other types of technical software and service companies acquiring CAD companies. With all the attention seemingly focused on the CAD side, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there also has been a significant consolidation through acquisition on the CAM side, as well the past several years. Let’s take a quick look at a few of these acquisitions as the CAM circle continues to get smaller.
As impressive as it is, last month we gave 3D printing a bit of a dressing down based on personal experience. The blog post was a reality check and a look at the technology not through rose-colored glasses. That’s not to say, though, that 3D printing is still one of the biggest innovations on the manufacturing front, if not the biggest, in recent memory.
Even with the major advances that have transpired in 3D printing, there are still a number of skeptics who view the technology as little more than a promotional stunt or gimmick.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 took place this week. It’s an annual tech festival that began in 1967 that today attracts more than 160,000 attendees checking out about 3,500 exhibitors. Over the years, some of the more significant technologies first released at CES have included:
1970 – VCR
1981 – CD player
1985 – Nintendo Entertainment System
1998 – High-definition TV
2000 – Satellite radio
2003 – Blu-Ray DVDs
2015 – 3D Printing(?)
We didn’t attend CES this year, but we have been monitoring the activities in a pavilion dedicated to innovative technologies, including 3D printing.
This week Deloitte University Press announced the launch of a massive open online course (MOOC) on the business implications of additive manufacturing (AM). Entitled, “3D Opportunity: The Course on Additive Manufacturing for Business Leaders,” it is the first course of its kind to be offered by a large professional services firm and is designed to help educate the market on the business drivers behind additive manufacturing/3D printing.
3D opportunity: Deloitte’s MOOC on additive manufacturing (3D Printing) for business