Posts Tagged ‘printers’

Will HP Bring the Spark Back Into 3D Printing?

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

It isn’t uncommon among new technologies. After the initial excitement lulls, sales slow and enthusiasm wanes. Sometimes innovations in the product can regenerate interest in the marketplace; sometimes those innovations don’t come or just don’t make a difference. It happened to fiber optic cables (everyone uses Ethernet for network connectivity instead), the Laserdisc (the predecessor to DVDs, which didn’t come along for another 20 years), and the QR code (developed in 1994, yet virtually unusable until the advent of social media just recently).


3D printing

3D printing was slated to revolutionize industries like medical science, construction, and manufacturing. What happened?


When 3D printing was first introduced, it was slated to entirely revolutionize manufacturing. No longer would design and production be centralized and reserved for the big companies; soon people would design and produce their own products at home or on the job site. Though the 3D printing industry saw gains during 2013-14, all of the gains were in a relatively small potential market: big business.

However, research completed by Gartner and Canalys points to a rapidly growing 3D printing industry in the very near future. Gartner expects the industry to double unit shipments in 2015, and again each of the next two years, culminating to a total of 2.3 million units by 2018, up from just 108,151 units sold during 2014. Canalys expects the market for printers, printing materials, and related services to expand from its current $2.5 billion to $16.2 billion by 2018.

One of the factors driving greater acceptance and adoption of 3D printing in the mass market is the introduction of a machine developed and marketed by 2D printing giant and legend, Hewlett-Packard. What is the industry lacking, and what can HP bring to the table?

What’s Hindering the Excitement Over 3D Printing?


3D printing

HP entering the 3D printing scene may mean that it isn’t scrapped like fiber optics and the Laserdisc player.


3D printers are expensive. These machines aren’t easy or intuitive to operate. The process is extremely slow, taking anywhere from a few hours to a few days to produce a useful product (if, indeed, the product is actually useful post-production). Some people even question the safety of these machines, given that many of the common materials used are potentially explosive, the printers run at dangerously high temperatures, and operation can possibly adversely affect indoor air quality. In all, consumer adoption of 3D printing has been significantly slower than anticipated.

What Does 3D Printing Need to Bring Back the Market Enthusiasm?

Though a few 3D printers are available for less than $1,000, it’s hard to get a feature-packed machine for reasonable money. Combining lower costs with higher-end features would definitely spark sales and regenerate excitement over the potential of 3D printers. Making the software more intuitive and user-friendly would also help. With the right software and features, computer aided design could be within the grasp of even casual users.

Another factor that could drive mass adoption is printer heads capable of working with more than a single group of materials. Currently, printer heads are limited to a single group, such as polymers. With printers capable of working with other materials, such as wood, metals, and glass, more people would be willing to invest in the technology.

Additionally, 3D printers need to get faster and more accurate. Few users are willing to wait days to produce an item that’s inevitably inferior to its mass-produced counterpart. Expiring and soon-to-be expiring patents are also driving the market for 3D printing. The open source future of 3D printing means costs will go down as speed and printing quality rises.

What Can HP Bring to the Equation?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, HP showcased its new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer, a joint venture with Intel. Intel provided the Core i7 processor, to which HP added the printer, a culmination of more than three decades of research and development on 2D printers. The result is a surprisingly fast 3D printer, which is also stunningly more affordable.

The Multi Jet Fusion demonstrated ten times the speed of 3D printers currently on the market, at a price half that of the competitors. A company which has consistently shown its ability to generate revenue growth of 60 percent year-over-year shouldn’t have any difficulty catapulting the acceptance and sales of a red-hot commodity like 3D printers.

What else can HP bring to the table? Its marketing skills have the potential to spread awareness and longing for 3D printers, since HP is already a household name. Competitors like Stratasys, 3D Systems, ExOne, and voxeljet are primarily known by CAD pros, not by the average consumer. However, as other mainstream companies such as General Electric (GE) and 3M enter the 3D printing landscape, product awareness and acceptance could finally become widespread.

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD.

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Expert Interview with James Woodcock on Trends to Watch in 3D Printing

January 6, 2015 Leave a comment

3D printingWhile James Woodcock, Group Editor and Conference Director at TCT + Personalize, is passionate about the possibilities of 3D printing, he wants to make sure the hype surrounding the technology isn’t overblown. It sets everyone up for a fall, he says.

“Consumers expecting to be able to ‘make anything’ at home will be sorely disappointed when they realize the limitations of the technology at every level,” James says.

Like any manufacturing process, 3D printing has limitations, and many of those limitations are at the consumer end of the spectrum, he says. And because the mainstream coverage is read by all, it can lead to some potential industrial users to have the same inflated expectations.

“The key is making the most of the truly incredible things people are really doing with 3D printing right now,” he says.

James recently checked in with us to discuss the most exciting aspects of the technology and how CAD workstations are evolving to make the most of it. Read on:

Tell us about TCT …
TCT encompasses a portfolio of communications products: the printed magazine established in 1992, the TCT Show established in 1995 and a host of digital products including tablet apps, website, social media, etc. People are often surprised that as a brand, TCT has been involved in “3D printing” since 1992. Back then it was almost always called rapid prototyping or rapid manufacturing, but the developments in the technologies and applications has led to that being somewhat redundant – although rapid prototyping is still the major use of 3D printing.

What excites you about 3D printing?
The most exciting thing about 3D printing today is the possibility for tomorrow. 3D printing really covers dozens of technologies processing hundreds of materials for thousands of applications. The rate of development is increasing all the time, and the last five years have seen arguably more activity in the industry than the preceding 25. 3D printing is often touted as the “third industrial revolution,” but really it is the breakdown of barriers between digital and physical workspaces that is facilitating the current sea change in the way we make things. Computing is still very much at the heart of this “revolution” through CAD and communication, with 3D printing representing one of the routes to realizing the digital world.

What do you think are the long-term implications of 3D printing as more businesses and consumers begin using the technology?
Professional and consumer 3D printing are at once very distinct and in the same breath inseparable – it all depends on the definitions used. If “consumer” 3D printing is defined simply as someone using a 3D printer in their bedroom, garage, shed or even kitchen, we have some way to go before we reach a critical mass – if indeed we ever will. Access to capabilities of 3D printing is, in my opinion, more likely to be through services that do the 3D printing on professional machines, for consumers. This depends on a huge part to the next generation of “digital natives” and their exposure to 3D design and print throughout their education.

In a business setting, things are more established, but we’re only starting to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential applications. The rate of technological development really means that anything is still possible, given time.

What are the biggest headlines or most exiting innovations in your industry today?
In the last month or so, the big news has probably been HP entering the market with its new technology platform. The entry of such an established player will certainly have an effect, but no one can quite predict what that will be yet! Exciting innovations are mostly at the low-cost end of the industry, where innovation is always less inhibited, and in the development of applications. Medical, aerospace and automotive continue to push the boundaries and drive the technology forward.

What do you think are the most useful tools for someone designing for 3D printing?
As for designing for any manufacturing process: a realistic knowledge of the end output device. Designing for 3D printing really means designing with one of a number of production technologies in mind, and the capabilities vary wildly. The usual overhangs and wall thickness/feature size limitations apply broadly across the board, but designing a part that will be made in titanium on a SLM machine vs. a part made in PLA on a desktop FDM machine are like chalk and cheese.

How should CAD workstations evolve to accommodate the proliferation of 3D printing?
CAD vendors are really starting to take the wheel when it comes to 3D printing – Autodesk and their Spark platform and Ember 3D printer being a great example, SolidWorks and their work with 3D printing integration another. I think the changes will happen as a matter of course as 3D printing becomes an increasingly viable output method for digital files. Maybe free up a little room nearby (not too nearby, 3D printers can drive you mad with their noise) and get a cheap 3D printer to play with – who knows where it may lead.

What are some of your favorite 3D printers and accessories?
For contractual reasons, I don’t have favorites… but accessories like the AstroPrint project are really interesting!

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MakerBot Desktop 3.4 Released

December 19, 2014 1 comment

The fifth generation of MakerBot Replicator 3D Pprinters is now more functional, convenient, and accurate thanks to the new software and firmware packages released just last month. This desktop software package was developed in response to customer feedback. MakerBot is still working on some additional features, but didn’t want to hold up the release date for those items.

Currently, MakerBot Desktop is compatible with Mac OS, Windows 7, and Windows 8. A version compatible with Windows 8.1 is nearing the final stages of development. When upgrading to version 3.4, it’s important to also upgrade the printer firmware to version 1.5. Here are the most notable changes you’ll want to take advantage of.

Improvements to the MakerBot Print Functions

MakerBot has made improvements to enhance print quality while reducing print time. The new desktop software improves how the three gantry motors work together during the print process for better speed, acceleration, and handling of curves and edges.

Developers also improved how the printers calibrate the z-axis offset. Using the Device Preferences panel, you can now adjust where the build plate is in relation to the Smart Extruder. This improves the print quality of rafts and initial layers. According to MakerBot, some issues like clicking during printing can mean that the build plate is too close to or too far away from the Smart Extruder. Adjusting the z-axis can often eliminate this problem.

Improvements in Networking Capabilities

Corporations have complained about the non-trivial process for using MakerBot software over sizeable networks. Desktop 3.4 solves many of these issues by allowing for assignment of static IP addresses. This makes it much easier for companies depending on larger networks to set up and use the MakerBot software.

Another convenience feature is that MakerBot has eliminated the need to manually confirm jobs on the printer. It works as long as the computer and printer are sharing the same Wi-Fi network. This feature will be especially useful for workers who aren’t working in the same room as the printer resides.

New Features for the Onboard Camera

The onboard camera, designed for print monitoring and easy sharing to MakerBot Thingiverse and social networks, can now be used for more useful tasks, including the ability to verify that the build plate is clean before printing. Version 3.4 also allows users to share an object via Thingiverse while it’s still sitting on the build plate.

MakerBot Desktop
Version 3.4 also allows for more precise printing.

Tips for Improving the Performance of Your MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer

Upon releasing MakerBot Desktop 3.4, developers issued some helpful tips to help users make the most out of their Replicator 3D printers.

  • First, make sure to keep the software and firmware updated regularly, as developers are constantly tweaking the product for better functionality and easier use. However, it is recommended that you do not upgrade to firmware version 1.5 until you’ve upgraded the computer to Desktop 3.4. MakerBot is working on an Auto Update feature for version 3.4, but it is not yet ready for release.
  • If you want to achieve a more accurate starting point for the z-axis, try the updated Assisted Leveling procedure. This cuts down the process for finding the z-axis starting point to two steps, and achieves greater accuracy.

Visit more information about 3D printing and other CAD-related software and hardware technologies.

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