March 17, 2017

Rapid Pro 2017

Last week, myself and some other members of our Eindhoven office took a short trip to Veldhoven for Rapid Pro 2017. 3D printing is an area we like to keep up to date with here at VanBerlo. Especially since we have worked recently on products for that market such as the high precision DLP printer for atum3D and Ultimaker printers. Here is a roundup of some of the enlightening discoveries that we made from the developing 3D printer world.

Primarily, we noticed that 3D printing is fast becoming even more consumer and end user friendly, this is a transition that we have been involved by helping to create the atum3D and Ultimaker printers. Where there are still big, industrial additive manufacturing machines available (but which are maturing and becoming more operator friendly), there are also a growing number of smaller and sleeker models that wouldn't look out of place in a trendy office or even at home! This indicates that 3D printing is becoming less niche, and more a general consumer leap. However, the same couldn't be said for 3D metal printing. Despite the fair showing how metal printing is growing fast, and the printers on show are becoming more capable of creating far smoother and accurate designs than before; metal printing is still very much an industrial practice. An example would be the award winning MetalFAB1.

We also observed some really interesting developments in regard to what can be printed. One groundbreaking discovery we made was a 3D printer that could recycle plastics and use them to print filament! This showed a potential to create a real difference in the market in relation to the cost of filament, sustainability and the means of obtaining the filament. DLP printers, which print with resin instead of filament are also showing up more in the professional printing world in a smaller, table top form than before. They were a rather small part of the market before. The DLP Station 4 that we helped atum3D to create was on show, and you can read more about that innovative creation here. DLP's have the advantage of a greater speed and resolution, but we are seeing constant development from more traditional means. For example, we saw some amazing and intricate examples of 3D milling, which aside from being more affordable to the average consumer, can also work with a broader range of materials.

A change that is occurring across the board, is that the quality of 3D printing is certainly maturing. The smoother and more accurate designs in metal printing are the most significant examples of this, but overall the capabilities of the printers such as the visual quality and complexity of the designs are ever developing. User interface and aesthetic are also improving significantly. These qualities, along with lower price tags and smaller models suggest that not too long from now, 3D printing is well on the way to become a pursuit that is practiced more and more recreationally at home, as well as professionally at work.

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