If there’s a place where 3D printing makes absolute sense, it’s manufacturing. Think about it: manufacturing is exactly what a 3D printer does. And while we’re all fascinated with the potential this technology can bring to homes, there are companies in the manufacturing industry who are looking to leverage 3D printing to transform the way products are made at a large scale.
Here are a few of the companies we’re keeping an eye on.
The typical object that comes out of a 3D printer isn’t something built to stand the test of time. Velo3D does away with plastic and instead focuses on metal additive manufacturing (MAM), an industry the company claims will be “worth over $10 billion dollars by 2020.” Vevo3D is currently backed by a number of top venture capital firms, so the future looks pretty bright.
This company loves to use the proper term — “ophthalmic lenses” — but you may understand what Luxexcel specializes in if we simply say “lenses for your eyeglasses.” What sets Luxexcel apart from other eyeglass manufacturers is the fact that the company utilizes a 3D printing — and a process the company itself developed — to make lenses. This enables Luxexcel to create a lens made specifically for one individual’s eye, rather than the not-quite-perfect lenses someone pops into your frames prior to you receiving them. The company’s process also allows for specially coated lenses, occupational lenses, and passive foils
When a new technology comes along, there’s always one company looking to push it to its limits and expand its reach. For 3D printing, you could probably consider Stratasys as that company. Stratasys is the name behind brands like MakerBot, GrabCAD, and SolidScape, and puts a large focus on creating 3D printing solutions for a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing. When it comes to innovating in the 3D printing space, the proof is in the pudding: Stratasys has registered over 1,200 patents and has more still pending. And you can see how the company has pushed 3D printing in manufacturing to help companies 3D print custom tools and roll out more efficient production processes.
The concept of 3D printing in manufacturing sounds great. But what if you’re just starting out and can’t afford your own industrial equipment? Or what if you do the math and find it’s cheaper to just outsource the work to someone else? In steps 3D Hubs, with a website designed to help you set up a job, find a local 3D printing service to handle it, and get your parts in an average turnaround time of 48 hours. For companies that need quickly-produced parts and want the added benefit of being able to shop for the best price, 3D Hubs will sound like a godsend.
Not unlike 3D Hubs, Fictiv is all about helping businesses get their 3D printed parts manufactured and received as quickly as possible. But while 3D Hubs touts a 48 hour turnaround time, Fictiv claims an even faster delivery window: 24 hours. The entire process seems pretty straightforward: upload a CAD file, choose the manufacturing process you want, and then pay. Fictiv has worked to handle 3D printing jobs for some pretty well-known companies, including Williams-Sonoma, Synapse, Whistle, and more.
With that name, you’d be right to expect something big. BigRep builds “large-scale industrial 3D printers,” with products such as the BigRep One (a human-sized machine with a one cubic meter capacity) and the BigRep Studio, which would look more at home in an office environment. If you’re looking to print big things, BigRep and its 3D printers will have you covered. The company even sells its own branded filament in a variety of material types and colors, so you should be able to get your large-scale design looking exactly how you want it.
“Small-batch manufacturing with high-volume 3D printing.” That’s the aim of Voodoo Manufacturing, a company built around serving both those with smaller orders and customers who want high-volume units. Voodoo Manufacturing enables companies to do a trial run of a 3D printed product and, should the prototype be good to go, scale up and order up to 20,000 units right away. Not only that, Voodoo also offers its own 3D design services. If you have a simple napkin sketch of a product you’d like to 3D print, the company can put a designer on the job to create a 3D model, print the product for you, and get a real-life object in your hands.
3D printers are landing in homes and classrooms at a rapid pace. New Matter is seizing on that opportunity with its MOD-t, a 3D printer made for those who are getting into self-manufacturing for the first time. The MOD-t is made to be incredibly user-friendly and, at $269, is relatively inexpensive. Getting more people interested in and experienced with 3D printing will only help the manufacturing industry going forward, and New Matter seems to be doing its part.
The words “industrial-class” and “desktop” usually aren’t found all that close to one another, but with the Rize One, that’s not the case. Rize offers this device as a more space-friendly option for those who still want industrial-grade 3D printed parts without having to use a giant machine to get them. With customers and NASA and Ford on the wagon, Rize must be doing something right.