On average, I spend around one hour every day just keeping up on industry news and trends. With 431 3D printing companies at last count and rising, my feed receives around 26 new stories every morning, sporting product announcements, company launches, customer cases and the like. We tend not to let it impact our day-to-day too much: we are in the business of building the future, not reacting to current events. That said, I get a kick out of following and learning from the adventures, and sometimes, misadventures of our peers and partners. From time to time I also share additive manufacturing snapshots of things that pique my interest with our staff, and now also with you.
With September coming online and both businesses and schools getting back to it, we’ve seen quite a few product launches in recent days. In a play for the hobbyist market, Robo3D did another Kickstarter, having recently been acquired by Falcon Minerals (ASX:FCN); targeting industry, MAKEiT3D released the Pro-L; and in a play for education and desktop professionals, Makerbot released its new line of “Replicator+” 3D printers. Still fighting the reliability hit Makerbot’s branding took for - let’s face it - every product after the Replicator 2, they have certainly spent a lot of time improving quality-- 380,000 hours in fact, according to their marketing department. They are also clearly shifting towards the professional and education markets, and have expanded their material range with a “tough” PLA filament as an alternative to ABS. Why they don’t just recommend PET like we have been is a bit strange, but I expect they have good reasons.
On the other hand, iMaterialise released a survey of the most popular 3D scanners. Unfortunately, their criteria was popularity - how well the scanners work and for what purpose is an entirely different matter.
As for funding, Carbon announced Series C funding of $81 million, bringing their total raise to about $222 million. Among Carbon’s new investors are GE Ventures, BMW, Nikon and JSR, who are apparently adding their dollars to help with internationalization. I’m still not convinced it’s good value for money, but quantity has its own quality as they say. On the opposite side of the spectrum, French 3D printer kit maker Dagoma raised €3M in funding, also for international expansion, making their €299 DIY printer kits something we will likely see more of. As a side note, you could get 475 Dagoma printer kits for one Carbon M1 printer. Not that I would of course - designing for industrial 24/7 use is a very different application. That’s why we built the Series 1 Pro. It’s a shameless plug I know, but it’s also true.
Another interesting article from Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" over at Fabbaloo, recently looked at the downsides to buying expensive equipment that then is no longer supported. Apparently, Chicago makerspace Pumping Station: One, have an older ZCorp ZBuilder Ultra, for which they’re seeking drivers. Introduced in 2010, ZBuilder software drivers are hard to find these days, so if you have one be sure to ping them. Keeping hardware and software current and accessible is something we take very seriously at Type A Machines. We are strong proponents of the Repair Manifesto and have built a modular design with upgrades in mind. As new technology becomes available, we try to make it backwards compatible whenever practicable and safe.
In other news, Austin-based Lehrmitt Design Studios launched a beautiful portfolio of surface skins. People new to 3D printing often complain about the layer line artifacts. Most plastic parts today are smooth injection molded parts. However, this really shows what 3D printing does best: complex geometries. We did complex geometries with a knurling pattern a while back, but Lehrmitt Design Studios have taken it to a whole other level, and I expect we will see more on surface designs in the future.
Our next-door neighbor Sculpteo expanded their production offering to also include laser cutting. 3D printers are only a small part of the factory of the future, and this move sets Sculpteo on the path towards further differentiation and product-on-demand solutions.
On the research and development side of things, I note with interest that XtreeE successfully printed a concrete load bearing structural element last week. Although not yet cost effective, I expect organic shapes to be an increasingly popular architectural element. Gaudi would have completed his magnum opus a lot earlier if he’d had a 3D printer. Speaking of interesting but not (yet) cost effective, The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry (FPI) and the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Materials (VIAM) have teamed up to design a drone that will be powered by VIAM’s 3D printed gas turbine engine.
Finally, several works of art have popped up recently, perhaps the most eye-catching being this full-sized Nissan wire frame sculpture printed using 3Doodler pens. That’s 8.5 miles of filament or 800 hours of work, though Andrew (our Chief Technology Officer) and I suspect it’s likely more than that: Assuming an average extrusion speed of 250mm/minute, that’s approximately 848 hours of non-stop extrusion or for an 8 hour no-break work day, about 21 weeks worth of work for a single person. Assuming an hourly wage of around $15/hour, that’s $12,720, or to put it in context: Would you tell people that you spent $12k for a plastic sculpture of a car nobody ever desired, or would you rather drive past in your ‘bitchin’ 1981 El Camino.
The 1981 Chevrolet El Camino - the coolest car you can buy for less than $12k
...and that’s it: plenty of other stories but these, in particular, caught my attention.