Is 2017 the Year for Rapid Prototyping Ceramics and Metal?



It is due to the amazing innovation in the sector of rapid prototyping and 3D printing that the world is seeing something new almost every day. The latest technologies and products are making the news every now and then, and rapid prototyping is taking up a huge chunk of these reports. Industrially, rapid prototyping is an excellent choice for manufacturing of customized products that the clients can test out and give inputs about during production. Very soon, the process of assembly line manufacturing of goods is going to come to an end, and rapid prototyping will take that place.

At present, industries such as automobile, industrial, medical and aerospace are being greatly benefitted due to the different innovations in rapid prototyping. The technology has enabled these industries to prepare sensitive parts with complex geometries at lessened time and prices. However, there are very few products and goods that could be manufactured for the general masses using 3D printing. Even the manufacturers of shoes and fashion products have kept 3D printed products exclusive to the most technologically enthusiastic and financially willing clients. Hence, the news of manufacture of ceramics with rapid prototyping may not come as a surprise to many as they automatically assume that these products would not reach the shelves of the masses anytime soon. Yet, that day can come sooner than we have anticipated. 3D printed ceramics are going to hit the markets very soon if the companies that are manufacturing them can finally have their way. Two such companies are Ability3D and Formalabs, which work with 3D printed metal and ceramic products. Their innovation can give the world something new to look forward to! Hence we can easily say that 3D printed metals and ceramics might finally launch in 2017.

As we have all seen, 3D printing was advertised as a revolutionary idea that would bring drastic changes to how the world manufactures its goods a few years ago. Today, it is quite possible to have your own factory at your home, much like how most Kickstarter projects and independent hobbyists are working with their innovative initiatives. Many doubt whether they would like to spend hundreds and thousands on machines that are only good enough for printing out cute plastic toys, deeming it unnecessary for regular households to have a 3D printer. However, that situation has drastically changed. Today, home based 3D printers too are creating practical and effective items, such as prosthetic limbs.


Initiative of Formlabs

CES 2017 saw the amazing rapid prototyping innovations of many companies and startups that show a great deal of promise. For instance, Formlabs showed up at CES showing off their new experimental resin which can allow people to produce ceramic objects with ordinary 3D printing technology. Inside the resin, the ceramic particles are suspended that prints out just as the plastic materials currently being used for rapid prototyping. After the print job is done, the new creation is to be put in an oven so that it may harden like an ordinary ceramic piece. This finished product is now suitable for glazing and then it can be used like any other ceramic product. This technology by Formlabs is only at its demo stage, however, the company is hopeful that they can develop the material for consumption in the mass market later this year.


Print Metal with Ability3D

A Holy Grail concept for many rapid prototyping industries happens to be metal 3D printing or rapid prototyping. Many different firms want to craft their tools, devices and parts directly out of the 3D printer ready to be used in sophisticated devices. Metal 3D printing allows them just that, making it possible today. The process of sintering is both time consuming and costly, making it out of reach for independent hobbyists. However, if the costs are analyzed, sintering is perfect for heavy industries if they want to create customized parts. Based in Florida, Ability3D is a rapid prototyping startup that wants to bring a positive change in favor of independent hobbyists with their metal rapid prototyping 3D printer. The amazing thing is, this printer variant is in fact, designed for home use. Hobbyists can easily set it up in their garage or workshop and get metal printing.

The 3D printing unit can be set up just as a similar regular device is configured; however, the head of the printer has been exchanged for a MIG welder placed on a moving plate. It accepts regular welding wires for MIG, allowing it to create products out of stainless steel, steel, and aluminum. However, the one innovation that the company takes pride in is their addition of a trimming bit so that printed objects can be cleaned up. For example, a block of solid aluminum was demonstrated that was printed across four layers and was polished.

Founders of the company are Ben Willard, who is a 3D printer technician and his wife Nicholl Hyatt, a marketing professional. According to Hyatt, Willard became tired of waiting for the release of a metal 3D printer by reputed company MakerBot. This worked as a motivation for him to work on his own 3D printer that can work with metal. He wants to launch his creation on Kickstarter by March 2017, to be priced at $3,000.

Many might opine that this hefty price tag is a bit too much for independent 3D printing enthusiasts to handle; however, considering how much potential this device has, it just might become a big hit among them. Hyatt further adds that she has had a lot of interest derived from the fans of classic cars who want to create replacement parts for their vintage cars, which can become very hard to find or are unavailable altogether. She believes that humanity is close to the day when rapid prototyping becomes worth much more to us than it is currently.


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