The photopolymer sector is probably the one that is undergoing the most changes. It is at the same time the most mature and also the one that is evolving the fastest into different vertical markets. Photopolymers are finding applications for prototyping as we as – more and more often – for end use products. Materials (and multi-material) possibilities are endless and we may be just beginning to scratch the surface, with nanocomposite ceramics and pure ceramics presenting new and amazing possibilities for photopolymerization processes.
The photopolymer based 3D printer market is also one of the most fought over as the recent copyright infringement lawsuit from EnvsionTEC to Formlabs clearly demonstrates. Although Formlabs’ European boos Michael Sorkin clearly told us that the company is well prepared to face the lawsuit this time around, as it continues to sell more units than any other company.
Beside SLA leader 3D Systems and multi-material multicolor jetting leader Stratasys, four players are emerging and standing out above all others for their unique characteristics. Among these EnvisionTEC is clearly the leader in terms of high-end systems and materials. Even more than EOS, the company has now taken a much more proactive approach to communication, which is fundamental to convey the impressive production possibilities of its systems.
Italy based DWS is competitive in terms of materials quality and selection and it is also reaching out to the prosumer public with the sub €5,000 XFab production lines now fully operational. On this turf it faces off with Formlabs. Carbon is now entering the market by promoting a production-ready high speed system. At the same time the regularly under-estimated Sharebot was the only company on the show floor with both an ultra high speed continuous DLP system (the Voyager WARP) and a low cost (sub €40,000) SLS system fully operational at their booth.
Photopolymer material developer Royal DSM is looking at this evolving scenario with a keen interest for its Somos brand of resins, while one other trend not to underestimate is ceramics 3D printing by stereolithography. Netherlands based Admatec, presented its new system for pure ceramics AM manufacturing (using a technological approach similar to that developed by Lithoz and 3DCeram). The results were impressive and have potentially disruptive applications both in the prototyping and medical segments.