In 2019 a great many things happened in the world of 3D printing, and I’ve gathered together the most notable 3D printing events for you.
How were these selected? I picked them! Based on the nearly 1400 stories we published this year it was possible to identify the stories that represented the most important events affecting 3D printing this year. Let’s dig in.
Chemical Companies Take Over
For many years the materials supplies for the 3D printing community were served by smaller players working closely with the newborn industry. However, in 2019 virtually all the big players in the chemical industry have now set up operations specifically to service 3D printing, resulting in new partnerships, many new materials, and more. One such chemical giant, BASF, even bought a 3D print service.
Production Parts Are Now Normal
For years 3D printing was only used for prototyping due to the general crappiness of the materials and print quality. But in 2019 the notion of using 3D printing for production end-use parts became a normal part of the discussion.
In 2019 several instances of HP’s MJF products succeeding in various manufacturing scenarios were seen. This is a big step for HP, who previously were seen as a late-starter with an unproven 3D printing process. No one is saying that now.
The Largest 3D Printing Companies Are New
For decades the largest 3D printing companies were the initial two, 3D Systems and Stratasys. However, new techniques and investment have likely made new champions among the many companies in the space: Carbon and Desktop Metal both now have probable valuations higher than the original two.
Large 3D Prints Are Feasible And Profitable
In 2019 we saw many instances of companies working towards and achieving massively large 3D prints. Thermwood produces huge objects. The University of Maine 3D printed an entire boat. Maritime ship services are 3D printing huge parts on demand. And Aurora Labs is nearly at their goal of 3D printing one tonne of metal per day with their new process.
Radically New 3D Printing Tech Appears
As successful as the larger players in 3D printing may be, they should all be wary of several new entrants that could pose an existential threat to their operations in the future. One company has developed a microwave-based metal 3D printing process that could be 10X less expensive, for example. Research has developed a resin process to 3D print 100X faster than today’s devices. And there’s many more like this.
Digital Inventory Enabled by 3D Printing Is Real
The hype over the concept of 3D printed digital inventory is now reality, as Stratasys announced a system for the rail industry. There’s also several companies working on the issue from the software and data side, too.
LulzBot Collapses. And Revives
Construction 3D Printing Scams Reach Breaking Point
I’ve had it with questionable reporting and marketing by many construction 3D printer manufacturers, who continue to propose, again, that they’ve “3D printed a house in 24 hours”. This simply doesn’t happen, and one honest player in the construction space calls them out.
The New Thing: Electric 3D Printing
Adrian Bowyer is now working on an incredible new near-instant 3D printing concept called “Electric 3D Printing”. It’s only basic applied research at this point, but I include it on the list because the last big project Bowyer worked on was, um, RepRap. And we know where that led!
Increased Focus On 3D Printing Safety
In 2019 I noticed multiple companies increasing their safety consciousness by adhering to standards, including filtration features, using bio-compatible or zero emission materials. This is only the start.
Loss Of A 3D Print Leader
In August we lost Rene Gurka, the CEO of BigRep, who almost singlehandedly invented the concept of large-format 3D printing, which is now a profitable business for many players.
The Acceptance of High Temperature 3D Printing
Two years ago high temperature 3D printing in materials like PEEK and ULTEM was a bit of a mystery for many, but now with so many offerings in that space it could now be considered a normal variation of 3D printing. One company has even combined high temperature capability with continuous carbon fiber.
The Partial Resurrection of MakerBot
MakerBot has had many troubles over the
years as it transitioned from an open source, DIY-focused 3D printer manufacturer to what it is today. In 2019 it became entirely clear they are a totally different company with a terrific 3D printer product. It’s just for a different market than everyone expects.
The Collapse of MAKE
MAKE, the media company that first widely promoted the idea that anyone could be a maker, shut down operations. It was a signal that the long-anticipated consumer boom in 3D printing was never really going to happen. But then MAKE was slightly revived.
STL Finally Going Away
Everyone hates the dreaded STL file format, which is very prone to errors. Several alternative have been proposed, but in 2019 one of them, 3MF, seems to have taken hold as it now appears as an option in most of the major commercial and open source 3D modeling and 3D printing software packages.