Although the future of 3D printing continues to look bright, what is still needed is a new file format for 3D print data. Being very mindful of that fact, Autodesk, HP, Siemens, Stratasys, 3D Systems, and some others have come together to form the 3MF Consortium that espouses to get behind a truly ubiquitous file format for 3D printing. It’s really an industry partnership working toward the goal of finding a better, universally applicable 3D printing file format known as the 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF)—a file format originally developed by Microsoft, also a member of the Consortium.
The consortium admits that there is a problem that the 3D manufacturing must resolve – the current file formats used for 3D printing are in serious need of an upgrade. I totally agree.
Typically, data is passed from computer to 3D printer in STL (stereolithography) or OBJ (object) files, common 3D printing file formats. The 3MF Consortium, which now includes the research wing of General Electric, say STL and OBJ are outdated and clunky file formats with interoperability issues when used by some of the newer 3D printers, as well as contribute to 3D printing failures.
3MF Consortium Introduction
Thus, one of the driving forces behind 3MF, an XML-based open format, this new file type could contain information on the texture of a 3D print, the color of the print, and other complex characteristics. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is—the Additive Manufacturing File Format (AMF), which has been around since 2011, solves many of the issues STL files have, and 3MF and AMF are in many respects pretty similar file formats, but let’s take a closer look.
The pressing need for engineers of virtually all disciplines has become increasingly urgent as relatively few students view and pursue engineering as a career. Business seems more attractive to many, and yeah, there’s always psychology (the “new” liberal arts degree) that has a lot of sellers, but relatively few buyers, at least at the BA/BS level.
Yes, engineering education and engineers are vital for keeping our technological world moving ahead, but who keeps the underlying machinery, tools, and software moving at all? Technicians.
Whether you recognize them, or not, there are technicians in just about every field and industry. For example, automotive mechanics, machinists, cosmetologists, electricians, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) — the list is about endless. If it’s “technical,” the odds are extremely good that there is a technician involved somewhere in the chain, and that may include many links in the chain.
So, what exactly is a technician?
Technicians can be classified as either highly skilled or semi-skilled workers, and are usually an integral part of a larger process. They work in a variety of fields, and they usually have a job title with the designation “technician” following the particular category of work. For example, an engineering technician is a highly skilled, highly educated occupation requiring several years of post high school training in a formal apprenticeship and probably college (usually two year) for further education.
Experienced technicians in a specific domain typically have at least an intermediate understanding of theory and expert proficiency in technique. Because of this practical knowledge, technicians are generally better versed in technique compared to average laymen and even general professionals in that field of technology, namely engineers, for whom theory often trumps practice.
An independent consulting firm and industry source that we know quite well, Wohlers Associates, Inc., recently released the Wohlers Report 2015, the company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. According to the Report, in 2014, interest in 3D printing reached an unprecedented level and exceeded the $4 billion milestone. The phenomenal attention to AM began in 2012, was sudden, and has continued to proliferate since then.
Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. Over the 20 years of its publication, many have referred to the report as the “bible” of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company (and industry).
Wohlers Report 2015
As it has from the beginning, Wohlers Report 2015 covers virtually every aspect of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, underlying technologies, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents significant developments that have occurred in the past year, R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, industry, and summarizes the worldwide state of the industry. This edition marks the Report’s 20th consecutive year of publication
The market for additive manufacturing, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.2% to $4.1 billion in 2014, according to Wohlers Report 2015. The industry expanded by more than $1 billion in 2014, with 49 manufacturers producing and selling industrial-grade AM machines. The CAGR over the past three years (2012–2014) was 33.8%.
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