If you haven’t noticed, there’s a small explosion of 3D metal printing equipment underway.
Walking through any 3D print trade show these days you will see a plethora of metal printing equipment well beyond the “usual” vendors.
Yes, the usual suspects still market their equipment quite successfully. Concept Laser, Arcam, EOS, SLM Solutions and 3D Systems have been around for many years now marketing metal 3D printing equipment.
But now there’s new entrants. Many of them. Some are from established companies like HP. But others are pure startups, like XJet. A great many are companies in related industries like CNC machines, for example. Trumpf, Sentrol, AddUp, Beam, Prodways, LSS, InssTek and many more are all competing for the burgeoning 3D metal printer market.
Why is this happening? I believe it is because a critical mass of manufacturing has come to realize the potential of 3D metal printing technology. Sure, it’s been around a while, but it often doesn’t make sense for a manufacturer unless the product designs change to take advantage of 3D printing’s unusual capabilities.
That’s the “light bulb” moment I’m hoping to see in every company: when they realize their products could be made in a completely different way that is impossible on traditional making equipment.
But eminently possible with 3D printing technology.
With a slow start, it now appears that a critical mass of industries appear to have “got it” and are beginning to include the more advanced technology in their processes. With that increase, it may in the future become a requirement to compete in some markets. In aerospace it is possible this could already be happening.
That demand is what I believe is fueling the interest in 3D metal printing equipment.
I believe this is good news for the industry; better capabilities will become more prevalent at companies and more equipment will be sold. Those sales will drive competition and ultimately more research into development of more powerful 3D printing gear.
It's good news - but for 3D printer vendors, it also means a lot of work to come.