With the new year, new thoughts of 3D printing come to mind.
Our team observes the industry from several dimensions and we are often surprised with developments, but also disappointed that some features we’d like to see never seem to appear. Today we’re listing some developments we hope will happen sometime in 2019.
Kerry: Cheap Color
There just aren’t very many full-color 3D printing solutions on the market today. Yes, you could buy a Stratasys J750 that would produce incredible photorealistic objects, but for almost everyone that machine and its materials are unaffordable. Other options, such as Mimaki’s amazing equipment, or even Mcor’s paper-powered 3D printer do offer full color solutions, but they still carry large price tags.
I’d like to see a new 3D printing process emerge that can offer the ability to 3D print full-color photorealistic objects at far lower prices. This capability could open up a great many new applications as more people would be able to tinker with the tool to find great new uses.
Kerry: Powerful Ceramics
Ceramics are an underserved market in 3D printing. In particular resin-based 3D printers should be able to deliver a very wide variety of ceramic solutions, but so far there are very few vendors offering ceramic resins. I’d like to see a great deal more developments in this area, which could enable some very interesting industrial uses if new ceramic materials could be 3D printed at large scales.
Sarah: More Hybrid Processes
3D printing and CNC. Multi-material. More hybrid functionality is undeniably part of the future of additive manufacturing. Several machines on the market today feature built-in adaptability, whether that’s combining additive and subtractive into one footprint (e.g., milling to precision during a 3D printing process) or enabling the 3D printing of different materials on the same machine or even during the same build (e.g., XJet’s Carmel system that can print with either ceramic or metal materials, Aerosint’s work toward multi-powder SLS). I’d expect to see more of this, expanding the toolbox of functional 3D printing.
Kerry: Amazon Framework
3D printing spare parts is almost a lost cause because the OEMs keep the 3D models hidden, preventing users from printing their own spares. But what if someone like Amazon, Wal-Mart or anyone could develop an online framework that permitted manufacturers to truly offer their 3D models for spare parts securely to the public? Perhaps it would take such an initiative by a big player to legitimize the concept and open up spare part 3D printing.
Sarah: 3D Printed Consumer Products
“3D printing” and “consumer” aren’t often heard together these days, thanks in large part to the bottoming out of the hype around 2015. But 3D printing is being used to make products consumers use, and we should expect to see more of this. Especially with serial production in the spotlight in 2018, and successful product launches — think Carbon’s work with adidas for the Futurecraft 4D shoe with a 3D printed midsole, and Formlabs’ work with Gillette for a 3D printed razor handle — consumers are getting hands-on with professional 3D printing. Even if they don’t know it. 3D printing is going to come further into the mainstream, even if not in the way we may have thought half a decade ago.
Kerry: Construction Improvements
3D printed construction is still at its initial stages and really needs a few more building blocks to get it going. I’d like to see effective solutions for not only building basic walls, but solutions to robotically incorporate other non-3D printed elements like HVAC, electrical, windows, etc into a 3D printed construction project. That and some powerful software dedicated to 3D printed construction that could make it all happen easily.
Kerry: Default 3MF usage
Please let 2019 be the year that STL finally begins to fade away. In spite of the presence of 3MF, an alternative and actually functional standard format, most people in 3D printing still stick with the old STL standard. I’m hoping this will begin to change and that STL will swiftly exit as a legacy protocol.
Sarah: Don’t Fear The Boring
Going back to “3D printing is a tool”, it’s okay that tools can be a bit boring. Additive manufacturing is increasingly focusing on manufacturing — and when’s the last time manufacturing was perceived as exciting? I haven’t put much thought into how my desk or my chair were made, but I care that they work; make things that work. Even when they’re boring things. As additive manufacturing comes more into serial production, a lot of the things that are mass manufactured today aren’t exciting: ooh, more screws and hinges. They’re not exciting when they’re conventionally made, and I’m excited for when that goes too for 3D printing. When it just works.
Kerry: Less Wild West
In the heady days of 2009-2015 3D printing had a bit of a boom as startup companies quickly built machines to address a seemingly huge market. That didn’t work out, but the actions of those days seems to have permeated many of the manufacturers that survived to this day. Today we see little attention paid to safety matters on many desktop 3D printers. We see machines made with inferior components or poor testing.
The days of the Wild West of 3D printing should be over by now. Perhaps they will be by the time 2019 ends.
Sarah: Cut The Hype
If the Wild West days are ending (please) and things are moving toward the mundane, let’s calm down on hyping up 3D printing. It doesn’t need the hype anymore. Every major trade show sees more participants remarking on how well-informed visitors to booths are; questions aren’t “what is 3D printing?” anymore, but “how does your process work?” People know much more about this technology than ever before, and the industry isn’t naïve.
My personal inbox pet peeve is a simple phrase: “World’s First”. In 2019, let’s leave that phrase out unless it’s definitely not just true (!), but relevant. Announcing news? The press release doesn’t need to be a fluffy novel about how great everything is; let the tech and the achievement speak for itself. If it can’t, why are you announcing it?
Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to a 2019 filled with advances as 3D printing continues to mature.
What do you hope to see this year?