A study in contrasts — CES had the most number of 3D printing technology providers ever and the two biggest players had dramatically different exhibits.
Stratasys and its MakerBot subsidiary dramatically downsized its exhibit space this year, so much so that it was possible for attendees in the crowded convention center aisles to miss it. MakerBot’s new Smart Extruder+ made finding the booth worthwhile. The result of Stratasys’ engineers collaborating with MakerBot staff, the new extruder made its debut after lengthy quality assurance trials and with an extended warranty. The collaboration between their respective organizations that has been nurtured by Stratasys’ CBO Josh Claman and MakerBot’s CEO Jonathan Jaglom bodes well for both product lines.
3D Systems had a booth on a par with past years in terms of size and use cases (including truly compelling medical device examples) but without the evangelism that former CEO Avi Reichental brought to the show. That was okay, actually, because 3D printing is a 30-year-old industry that is no longer acting as a newborn child. One of 3D Systems’ most interesting displays was a riff on “Figure 4,” one of inventor, founder and current board member Chuck Hull’s patent application drawings.
The big 3D printer — or, more appropriately, 3D printing press, in the corner of 3D Systems truly stood out — who would think that a $500,000 selective laser sintering press that prints titanium would debut at CES? CMO Cathy Lewis told me her strategy was to leverage the fact a significant number of CES’ attendees and exhibitors are people in marketing, product design and manufacturing who would benefit from seeing the potential of metal 3D printing in viable production quantities.
3D Systems’ ProX DMP 320
(Clearly the printer and skull are different scales! The skull was 3D printed in one pass with the plate seen on the left polished afterward.)
Photos source: Pete Basiliere
My take on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is that:
- Material extrusion printer manufacturers continue to proliferate worldwide while continuing their race to the bottom with prices below $500 on some of the devices.
- The growing number of low cost, consumer-oriented 3D printer manufactures ratifies 3D Systems’ decision to move out of the consumer market and MakerBot’s focus on the education and desktop engineering/creative markets.
- As a consumer, the decision on which printer to buy is more complicated but the time is right for many people to buy a 3D printer, especially if you have children in school or university.
- Shipments of SLA printers will continue to accelerate as we forecast, driven by the growing number of 3D printer manufacturers, lower prices and wider range of photopolymer resins.
While I visited with every exhibitor, in alphabetical order here are short synopses of eight more 3D printer manufacturers that you’ll find interesting:
Mcor Technologies – Paper is the last material that most people associate with 3D printing. And there are only two major sheet lamination 3D printer manufacturers: Fabrisonic’s million dollar 3D printers employ ultrasonic welding of metal films and Mcor’s paper laminating printers. Mcor unveiled its new, smaller format, roll-to-sheet 3D printer, the $9,000 ARKe. The smaller format will appeal to marketing, creative and engineering personnel who are looking for realistic prototypes, especially of product packaging. The combination of paper and glue to create models make the Arke especially attractive to schools and universities.
Mcor Technologies’ ARKe
Photo source: Pete Basiliere
Photocentric — Leveraging the company’s 13-year history as a photopolymer resin provider, Photocentric unveiled its daylight photopolymer Liquid Crystal Mini and Liquid Crystal printers. The devices are SLA printers priced at a remarkably low 375L and 599L, respectively. The company got its start in 3D printer manufacturing less than three years ago after it was awarded a U.K. government grant. The light source is an LCD screen emitting pure daylight, without any UV. The sample parts had very high detail. Water and soap are all that is needed to clean the uncured resin from the parts, which will make Photocentric’s printers appealing to prosumers and schools as well as enterprises.
Polaroid — Way outside of the 3D printer zone and in with the likes of Canon, LG, Panasonic, Ricoh and Samsung, the first Polaroid printer was unveiled. Built by brand licensor Environmental Business Products, the ModelSmart 250S has been designed for the education market although could find a place in many homes. Completely enclosed and with emergency shut-off if the cover is opened while a print is underway, Polaroid’s 3D printer also has a unique bidirectional filament cartridge. While the downside for many buyers will be the requirement to use only Polaroid filament, the upside is that the chip enables users to know how much material is left and whether that is enough to start the next job.
Polaroid ModelSmart 250S
Photo source: Pete Basiliere
Raise 3D — With sales in China and other parts of Asia already, Raise 3D conducted a Kickstarter campaign to introduce itself and its three material extrusion printers to the USA market. 348 “backers” paid in over $445,000. Its largest printer, the N2 Plus, costs $3,200 (pre-production discounts of 25% are available at this time). Time will tell whether the orders are fulfilled as promised, of course, and if Raise3D has enough resources to continue ramping up production and developing its go-to-market strategy at a profit.
Robo 3D — Coming off a very strong quarter for unit shipments, Robo 3D’s exhibit was a good size and crammed with their unique A-frame printers and more. While an initial broad brush approach to sales resulted in printers sold in 96 countries, Robo 3D has decided to focus on the U.S. market and especially the education vertical. The printers, including its latest release, the R1 +Plus, are also well-suited to desktop engineering. Robo 3D is developing very interesting customizable, ready-to-make kits that anyone can use with any 3D printer as part of its drive to grow consumer-market 3D printer sales.
Voxel8 — The company had an impressive debut at CES last year, followed by recognition as a Gartner Cool Vendor and millions of investor dollars. Voxel8’s unique dual-material printer has improved as a result of beta testing by a diverse range of enterprise users with features such as laser leveling and alignment. Silver trace widths of 0.25 mm and plastic trace widths of 0.5 mm mean integrated circuits such as thin quad flat packs (TQFP) can be produced. The $9,000 printer has a backlog into the second quarter of this year. Looking ahead, Voxel8 may extend its product line into different build volumes and/or by enabling its technology to be integrated into production lines. If the latter, we could see a ramp-up in the use of customized sensors in the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) products.
Voxel8 3D Electronics Printer Sample
Photo source: Pete Basiliere
Weistek — With 3 years of development behind it, Shenzhen Weistek Co. brought its material extrusion printer that is capable of an amazing 450 mm/second (17.7”/sec) extrusion speed. The Ideawerk Speed will costs $1,300. The company has sold printers in Europe, China, the U.S., Brazil and India. Weistek also had a cool-looking 3D printer it is developing for use by young children that may be priced at $350.
XYZprinting — Last alphabetically but certainly not least, XYZprinting had one of the largest exhibits within the 3D print section of CES. Don’t rule this company out — a wholly-owned subsidiary of New Kinpo Group, XYZprinting has been on a steady, rapid product development pace. Its products range from a new $299 consumer-oriented material extrusion printer through enterprise-class extrusion printers to SLA and binder jetting units to an “All-in-One” device with scan, print and laser cutting capabilities. The company is aggressively expanding its presence in marketing channels across in many regions. XYZprinting has the resources and the will to be a significant multi-technology provider in the consumer and enterprise markets.
Check out my follow-up post from CES, Thinking About 3D Printing – Insights from Carbon3D, HP and Voxel8
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