3D Systems is already a big name for providing and developing rapid prototyping services, and its recent strategy reveal proves that the company can take 3D printing much farther than it is now. The company’s CEO and President Vyomesh Joshi unveiled a new strategy, some new partnerships, solutions and an update in their management team. This face lift of an announcement was made in order to provide their customers not just rapid prototyping services, but full-fledged production with 3D printing. The official announcement was made by Joshi at this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show-IMTS.
Even though there was, and is a lot of hype surrounding 3D printing and rapid prototyping services, most experts believe that the market of 3D printers has failed to live up to the expectations of end users. The bold claims like ‘a 3D printer for every home’ were made back in 2014, but are currently a more realizable dream today than yesterday. Many large companies are in fact, pulling out from the consumer market. 3D Systems itself let its Cube 3D printer sort of die out at the end of last year. Hence many of those companies are strengthening the efforts of cracking the industrial market.
Some huge changes have been made over at 3D Systems so that the company can combat the problems of the rapid prototyping industry. One of the major turning points was appointing Vyomesh Voshi the new CEO and President of the company in April. He is all set to present an outline of his vision for 3D Systems, which happens to be a change in direction from rapid prototyping services. It was once seen as the only thing possible to accomplish with 3D printing, but now 3D Systems is moving quickly towards consumer level production. As part of this grand plan, 3D Systems has announced launch of their direct metal 3D printing software 3DXpert, made a partnership with software firm PTC and many more.
This launch event by 3D Systems was held on the opening day of the IMTS- 2016, McCormick Place, Chicago. At a press release, Joshi stated that the original application for 3D printing was rapid prototyping, which will continue being an important part of 3D Systems services. However, the company believes that they possess the necessary assets and technology to make production with 3D printing possible, in turn making profitable growth for the company. Joshi is also to explain how 3D Systems’ ecosystem of additive manufacturing is able to provide digitization, simulation, design, inspection, manufacturing and management while they shift from rapid prototyping services to production at end user level using 3D printing. The company aspires to become the go-to company for 3D printing systems which are production ready.
Partnership with PTC
One of the major directions in the business for them is their collaborative approach. They have announced their new partnership with US software company PTC that specializes in 2D and 3D design technologies. The CEO and President of PTC Jim Heppelmann will be joining Joshi on the stage of IMTS in order to explain the joint working principle of the two companies. They will integrate the 3D Sprint SDK of 3D Systems into Creo- PTC’s flagship CAD platform. Creo users will be provided with direct CAD to printer feature and an entire set of management tools for 3D printing.
The partnership with 3D Systems, according to Heppelmann, will enable their users to reap the benefits of the power of 3D printing to work seamlessly from 3D design to physical printing. He adds that the integration of 3D Sprint SDK into their Creo platform is only the beginning of what will be possible due to the partnership. They can accomplish a lot more in the value chain of digital manufacturing.
Modular Stereolithography Production System
Another major portion of the latest announcement by 3D Systems is the involvement of a demonstration of the Stereolithography production system (SLA) of the company. It gives the ability of directly printing plastic parts at the factory floor to manufacturers with minimal human assistance. With the ability to print at a speed that is fifty times faster than traditional systems and integrating with coating, finishing and other secondary processes, their SLA module has the potential to become a feasible alternative to methods like injection molding.
The Figure 4 SLA production system by the company can now include in line and automatic inspection of parts for manufacturing in closed loop. The system can also provide detailed, real time reports with positive or negative feedback when it is carrying out part measurement and inspection. It provides users with instant confidence in compliance of produced parts while allowing highly diversified manufacturing.
Joshi expects that the switch from rapid prototyping services to 3D production will take 2 to 3 years, only time can tell if the changes made by the company would be enough to have a major effect in the use of 3D printing within its potential and existing consumer base. Yet with large corporations like GE making huge investments in additive manufacturing for production lines, industrial level rapid prototyping going ahead of end user level printing by leaps and bounds; it all suggests that 3D Systems is heading towards the right path.
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