GoProto announced a new service dedicated to flexible 3D prints, which they call “3DElastoPrint”.
The San Diego-based manufacturing service has been around for over 20 years providing a variety of manufacturing services to industry. Currently they offer services in machining, finishing, casting, sheet metal, tooling, and rapid prototyping. They also offer 3D modeling services if required, filling out a broad set of capabilities for clients.
Their Additive services have long included several different 3D printing processes, including FDM (Stratasys), Direct Metal Laser Melting, SLA (3D Systems), and MJF (HP).
Now they’ve announced a new service, 3DElastoPrint, that is dedicated to the production of flexible parts. They explain:
“3DElastoPrint is enabled by an elastomeric TPA, co-branded by Evonik and HP — a flexible, high-performance, thermoplastic elastomer optimized specifically for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printer.”
“Evonik and HP’s just released TPA material is flexible and lightweight, distinguished by its very low density of 1.01 g/cm³ and a Shore A hardness of 90. This high-performance material is excellently suited for prototypes as well as end-used products that call for high extensibility and energy return, such as sports equipment, automobile components, and end-of-arm tooling.”
This will surely be a service of interest to many in industry, as the need for low-volume or one-off flexible parts is certainly there. Machines requiring replacement hoses, gaskets and fittings would be able to produce them easily using this service.
GoProto suggests potential uses could include: sporting equipment, ducting & bellows, end of arm tooling, and more.
This seems pretty straightforward and no doubt useful, but it does strike me as being a bit different from what I’ve seen in the past from manufacturing services.
Typically a manufacturing service will simply say they offer this-or-that equipment or this-or-that material, and clients are encouraged to make use of them. This new service seems different as it is apparently based around not only a specific machine but a specific material.
And it has its own brand name, too.
While GoProto certainly has a tight partnership with HP, it seems that partnership is so strong GoProto has made a 3D print service specifically for the HP material. That I have not seen before.
Could it be that HP and Evonik’s new TPA material — announced among a series of HP 3D printing introductions yesterday — is so useful it demands its own branded service? Apparently that’s the case here.
Perhaps GoProto will add other flexible materials to the 3DElastoPrint service in the future, as HP adds to their materials portfolio.
I’m wondering if this is the start of a trend among manufacturing services? As we head into the future there will continue to be announcements of increasingly powerful 3D print materials. Does this suggest that GoProto and other manufacturers will create new branded services for them as well?
The AM service market could get quite crowded if this is the case, as there could be other manufacturing services using the same HP/Evonik material that may brand their flexible service with another name. Maybe someone will use “Flexy3DServ” or similar, and there are a lot of manufacturing services that could do this.
In any case, things could get pretty confusing if this unfolds.