While it was a somewhat challenging year for the entire industry, 2016 will probably be remembered as the year when 3D printing finally moved away from prototyping as most 3D printer manufacturers came to the realization that the future is digital production. This realization was driven by giant companies like HP, GE and others, investing significant resources toward this new objective, with this reflecting on all other players, including low-cost filament-based system manufacturers. Our list of the top applications for 2016 can but reflect this trend.
HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 official presentation
At an exclusive event in Barcelona in May HP presented the final version of its production capable 3D printer and post processing station. The machine is expected to be up to ten times faster than current SLS technology, with both system and material costs dramatically lower. The company expects multiple systems to be used in actual “farms” for real production of up to 50,000 unit batches. With the over $100 billion combined revenues of its two companies, HP has the power to make it happen.
GE acquires Concept Laser and Arcam
With a surprise announcement in September GE announced the acquisition of metal 3D printer manufacturers SLM Solutions (laster switching to Concept Laser after refusal by SLM Solution stockholders) and Arcam AB. GE has been leading the research on implementing metal 3D printing for actual production and although this goal still seems somewhat distant, the company is well on its way. The strength of its over $4 billion in revenues is likely to speed things up.
Amy Purdy’s 3D printed dress at Rio’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony
American athlete Amy Purdy stunned the world with a beautifully choreographed opening ceremony to Rio’s Paralympic Games. Wearing leg prosthetics, Purdy danced along with a robotic arm wearing a beautiful 3D printed dress by designer Danit Peleg. The dress was 3D printed in flexible plastic using a desktop BQ 3D printer.
Stratasys launches full-color polyjet 3D printer and robotic arm composite extrusion for production
Although the two events took place at different times of the year, both represent the will of the current 3D printing leader to retain its leadership role. With 6+1 color and multimaterial capabilities, the new J750 represents the top system for prototyping. With the Siemens partnership and the use of its FDM technology on a Kuka robotic arm, Stratasys is looking to expand into full industrial prodution, especially with new composite materials.
The fight for 3D printed sneaker dominance speeds up
Adidas, Nike, New Balance and even Under Armor all presented end use versions of 3D printed sneakers, as well as ongoing development projects. After several SLS based projects, Nike partnered with HP to develop the Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit track spike for sprinter Allyson Felix. Adidas answered with its Futurecraft 3D concept, a 3D printed running shoe midsole which could be tailored to the cushioning needs of an individual’s foot. New Balance has been working on 3D printed shoes since 2013, under Armour debuted 96 pairs of its UA Architech running shoes with a 3D-printed lattice structure midsole and 3D-printed upper design in March of 2016.
3D Printing Business Directory Llaunches to offer accurate information on 3D printing companies
In the beginning of the year the new 3D Printing Business Directory launched to offer, for the first time, the most complete listing of 3D printing and 3D printing related companies. With over 3,200 businesses listed, with full contact and location information, and over 75 accurately selected categories, the directory aims to be a useful tool for both 3D printing industry operators and those who are looking to begin to know the companies that make up this new segment of manufacturing.
3D Hubs raises $7 million in funding
One of the startups that best represents the future of 3D printing for production, 3D Hubs, confirmed it poised for significant growth as it collected and additional $7 million in funding, bringing the total to over $11 million. The network now tops 30 K Hubs and it fully support professional 3D printing jobs.
Methesis event brings metal 3D printing to Milan Design Week
Organized by the Replicatore.it, 3D Printing Business Directory, Autodesk, Sisma and with support from Lenovo, the Methesis event asked some of the top designers in the world of 3D printing, including Janne Kyttanen, Francis Bitonti, Danit Peleg, MHOX, Alessandro Zambelli, Igor Knezevic and many more to imagine tablewear products that could be 3D printed in metal. Using the mysint 100 3D printer from Sisma, the entire collection was prepared in less than one month and ready to be displayed at an exclusive Fuorisalone event.
CELLINK hits the stock market
Bioprinting has many faces and although it is still mostly a research tool, some companies are emerging showing that it is also rapidly becoming a business opportunity. One of these is Swedish startup CELLINK. Started by University students, the company is now set to become a major player in the market for bioinks and low cost bioprinters. As further proof, CELLINK debuted on the Swedish NASDAQ with an IPO in October.
Roboze launches desktop 3D printer for PEEK and high performance materials
The paradox of the 3D printing industry is that much innovation is still coming from the smaller companies. One of these is Roboze, which made headlines for launching and delivering to some of the top 3D printing adopters (Airbus, Elbit and more) its new Roboze One +400 system, the only desktop system capable of consistently 3D print using high temperature materials such as PEEK, PEI and more.