3Diligent at MD&M West 2019; Panel Discussion About Metal vs. Plastic 3D Printing

Next Tuesday, I will be heading to Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West to speak in a panel about the key differences and benefits of 3D printing in metal versus plastics.

Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West is billed as:

Where serious professionals find the technologies, education, and connections to stay ahead in the global medical manufacturing community. In addition to more than 1,900 cutting-edge suppliers showcasing the latest solutions in contract manufacturing, manufacturing equipment, automation, R&D, medical device components, materials, plastics, and more, MD&M West hosts the largest three-day medtech conference in North America.

Our panel discussion, entitled “The Key Differences & Benefits in Printing with Metal vs. Plastics” takes place on Tuesday, February 5 from 9:15 AM- 10:00 AM in hall 208B. The session is billed as follows:

As the use of 3D printers in manufacturing gets more mainstream, the question remains: what is the best material for your application? This panel will drill down into the different types of materials currently being used in AM — such as steel, aluminum, titanium, nitinol, carbon fiber, PLA, ABS, PVA — and explain the key differences and benefits in printing with them. Discussion topics include lightweighting, merging multiple parts into fewer components, reducing tooling costs, producing less waste, and greater design freedom.

We hope you’ll come join the conversation!


Koch Disruptive Technologies Invests $160M in Desktop Metal; Signals Impending Arrival of Mass Production Metal Additive

So the big news today is that Desktop Metal has secured more financing. Koch Disruptive Technologies led a round of 160 million USD, which brings total funding funding since 2015 to 438 million USD. The implications of this are various. Over the course of this blog post we will unpack them.

Desktop Metal Funding Will Support Production System Coming to Market

The first key implication is tactical. Desktop Metal, a company that has developed metal 3D Printing technologies, is now preparing to push its products into market in a meaningful way. The first product, it's Studio System, leverages an extrusion technology, similar to the plastic extrusion tech popularized by brands like MakerBot. The key difference is that the input material here is largely composed of metal. Once deposited onto the build tray in the desired shape, the metal is then fired in a furnace to remove any non metallic particles and sinter the remaining parts. This technology was introduced last year and its launch was partially marred by various patent battles between Desktop Metal's founder and the founder of Markforged, another metal 3D Printing OEM with extrusion 3D Printing technologies.

In our opinion, however, this round focuses less on the Studio System and more on the binder jetting system that will supposedly enter the market in 2020. The binder jetting system should operate at decidedly faster speeds in the extrusion ecosystem for large production runs. This process involves dispensing an adhesive into a bed of metal powder to construct shapes and then moving these "green parts" into a furnace for the final sintering step. In summation, we can all assume that the funding speaks to Desktop Metal's desire to fund both the manufacturing of its Production System and also its Studio System.

Interested in binder jetting and extrusion technologies? See the multitude of other 3D Printing options that could help your business.

Koch Investment Signals Bright Future for Metal Additive in Industrial Products

The second key take away from this announcement is its strategic implication for the entire metal 3D Printing market. The core expectation around Koch Disruptive Industries' investment is a rising faith in the legitimacy behind the Production System and binder jetting's ability to produce large-scale production runs in metal. Koch, a company in-the-know when it comes to industrial fabrication, has clearly come out to support this tech in a big way. This signals not only an important step in advancing adoption of metal additive beyond the well-established niche of medical and aerospace markets, but rather a broader penetration of more price-sensitive and volume-dependent industrial markets. In the same breath, it signals a shot across the bow to Hewlett-Packard who has made significant investments in promoting its own binder jetting technology. These two companies have been teasing their offerings repeatedly at trade shows over the last few years with HP offering parts built on their system today via select partners in a limited capacity. Strategically we recognize that metal 3D Printing for mass-market fabrication is seemingly an inevitability with both HP and Desktop Metal, not to mention the other players that have introduced production-grade metal binder jetting systems.

Desktop Metal Valuation Growth Implies Progress But Still a Good Bit of Work to Do

That brings us to the financial and market implications of this announcement. As we alluded to previously, there are a handful of binder jetting OEM's already in the market. Some of these operate from a service or design standpoint. Others sell machines. Clearly the impending entry of Desktop Metal's Production System will add another competitor to the market. It bears mentioning that Desktop Metal was late in shipment of its Studio System, and it may stand to reason that the Koch investment ties to their experience bringing industrial products to market. Additionally, the valuation's increase of 50% over the last fundraiser two years ago may not necessarily be the kind of valuation uptick that you might expect from a story like this. You can point to companies like Uber that watched far more meteoric rises in valuation. This makes sense given that Desktop Metal is still getting its footing with the Studio System and the Production System.

In Summation

There are a number of key takeaways from this announcement. The biggest being that production metal 3D Printing for the industry - not just aerospace and medical - is rapidly becoming a reality. While the true impact of this investment will not be felt until 2020 or beyond, we are nonetheless seeing the gradual maturation of the metal 3D Printing industry.

2019: 3D Printing Trends

It's that special time of year when we start taking stock of what happened in the past year and begin looking ahead to what 3D Printing trends may likely happen in the future. With that, let’s look ahead to 2019 in the world of 3D Printing and additive manufacturing...

Production 3D Printing Headlines

The first thing that we think 2019 will be known for in the additive industry are  plastic production 3D Printing headlines.  Leading the way in "buzziness" are global multinational enterprise HP and Silicon Valley-funded Carbon, which garnered many headlines for their efforts introducing faster next-gen polymer printers. This in turn raised the efforts already underway by incumbent polymer 3D Printing OEMs (or lit a fire under them, depending on your perspective), driving companies like 3D Systems and Envisiontec to emphasize their abilities when it comes to production.


Metal Extrusion Heats Up

The second topic that we expect to find in 2019 is a continued heating up of the Metal Extrusion 3D Printing market. In 2018, there was a lot of legal infighting between leaders in the space, which likely slowed market penetration by these technologies. We expect these technologies to gain increased adoption in 2019.  While much of the air about emerging metal 3D Printing technologies is consumed by binder jetting, we still expect these technologies to gain traction, especially around tooling and prototyping work.

An Expanding Universe of Metal Technologies

The third focal point for 2019 is the continued proliferation of technologies in the metal 3D Printing market, which you can read about in-depth in our 2019 State of Metal 3D Printing Report. The fundamental issue at hand is that metal printing is still lacking on various levels as it relates to delivering production parts, particularly speed and cost.  Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) technologies have garnered many headlines in recent years, particularly with programs in the aerospace and medical sectors. We can point to GE's successes, both with fuel injection nozzles and sensor housings, as great reference points that reflect the broader trend within the aerospace industry.  We can also point to successes in the medical industry around implants, particularly in Europe and other overseas markets. These 3D Printing trends within powder bed will continue to emerge, although the technology remains too pricey to displace traditional technologies for all but the most complex and/or low volume metal parts in the market. With that in mind, expect further advancements in the speed of powder bed fusion but also the continued emergence of new metal printing technologies.  These emerging metal technologies are not as likely to battle powder bed fusion head on for highly complex and precise geometries so much as they attempt to steal market share from casting and metal injection molding technologies.  


Continued Material Expansion

3d printing materials, additive manufacturing materials, additive manufacturing material library, 3d printing material library

The fifth and final focal point for 2019 we would want to highlight is the continued expansion of material options. As we mentioned, production is the buzzword in the additive manufacturing industry right now. Obviously, the material science underlying some new resins have facilitated the arrival of production polymer applications for Carbon and the Futurecraft shoes we mentioned earlier. We expect that continued exploration of thermoset resin and thermoplastics will be pushed by players in the polymer market to open doors to specific market niches. With that being said, the opportunity seems even more rich within the metals market for custom alloys.  Given the relative expense and weight of plastic parts to metal ones, the benefits of utilizing additive to eliminate weight and improve performance for metal 3D Printing are significant.  Taken a step further, the stresses inherent in printing metal relative to plastic are greater.  As a result, the opportunity to explore new alloys better suited to this process and/or the opportunity to introduce new metals into the additive universe through new processes is great.  We anticipate 2019 heralding the meaningful arrival of some new alloys in market.

Honorable Mention: Design Software

A final area that we see prominently impacting the additive manufacturing industry in 2019 is advancement in 3D Printing-related software, especially generative design and simulation.

Generative design, as you may be aware, is technology that allows for designers to enter design parameters, and then the software algorithmically develops designs based on those parameters.  Empowered by 3D Printing, these software packages can explore geometries that are fundamentally more complex and organic than conventional design would typically create.  In theory, such designs allow for higher levels of performance and reductions in material usage.  In practice, industry is still a little ways away from such software making a noticeable impact on the broader scene.  More on this in a future blog post.

Another 3D Printing trend that also stands to positively impact advancement of additive in 2019 is simulation software.  A close cousin of generative design, simulation software allows for companies to identify optimal performance characteristics in parts, but perhaps more importantly for the 3D Printing industry, identify whether a part will be printable on a first pass.  As this technology evolves, the opportunity for additive to continue its takeoff grows, making the technology and its benefits more accessible to designers who don't have a career's worth of experience designing parts for additive manufacturing.

It promises to be an exciting and eventful 2019 in the world of 3D Printing.  We look forward to sharing it with you!

3Diligent’s New 2019 State of Metal 3D Printing Report Documents Growth of Metal 3D Printing and New Processes

Document Explores Metal 3D Printing Trends and Catalogs Existing and Emerging Processes Providing Readers with a Comprehensive Guide for Metal 3D Printing Projects

El Segundo, Calif. – January 7, 20193Diligent announced today it has released its 2019 State of Metal 3D Printing Report, which provides a comprehensive source of information on current trends in metal 3D Printing and existing and emerging metal printing processes for the product designer or business that is considering a metal 3D Printing project.

The report documents the enthusiasm and growth of metal 3D Printing as evidenced by several high-profile projects from Fortune 500 companies. However, the report notes that metal 3D Printing has not yet fully experienced a transformative speed breakthrough in the same way as polymer printers.  The report highlights a number of technologies that may represent candidates for this breakthrough in metal printing efficiency.

The report also presents data from 3Diligent projects to provide additional context for the advancement of metal 3D Printing.  According to research conducted by 3Diligent of 3D Printing project requests in 2018, 45 percent requested metal printing processes, while 45 percent specified polymer and balance left the decision to 3Diligent and its network of fabricators to suggest an optimal process. This represents dramatic growth in metal printing demand since 2015, when just 14 percent of 3D Printing project requests were for metal processes.

The 24-page report also provides a summary of the various existing and emerging metal 3D Printing processes, including tradeoffs and applications for each, including:

  • Powder Bed Fusion – Laser Melting and Electron Beam Melting
  • Binder Jetting – Sand Print-to-Cast, Full Sinter and Infiltrated
  • Directed Energy Deposition
  • Sheet Lamination
  • Material Jetting
  • Extrusion
  • Cold Spray
  • Stir Welding
  • Print-to-Plating
  • Hybrid Systems – Additive with Milling

“Metal 3D Printing is continuing to experience rapid growth, both in volume and variety.   Understanding the various technologies available can be overwhelming,” said Cullen Hilkene, 3Diligent CEO. “We’ve published this report in hopes that it can help readers make better informed decisions with their metal 3D Printing projects, whether it be making capital investments or identifying manufacturing partners.”

For more information on 3Diligent, its capabilities, and to download the 2019 State of Metal 3D Printing Report, visit https://www.3diligent.com/resources/white-papers/metal-3d-printing-review-2019/.

 About 3Diligent

3Diligent is an innovative rapid manufacturing services provider offering CAD/CAM-based fabrication services such as 3D Printing, CNC machining, casting, and injection molding.  3Diligent launched in 2014 to provide businesses deterred by the cost and obsolescence risk of 3D printer ownership a single source for faster, more convenient, and more affordable additive manufacturing services.  It has since evolved to offer additional digital manufacturing services to support its customers from prototype through production stages.  3Diligent uses data science to analyze customer requests for quote (RFQs) and identify optimal solutions across its network of qualified providers.  3Diligent’s next-generation approach to rapid manufacturing allows customers to simplify their procurement and service providers to get more out of their capital investments. 3Diligent counts companies from Fortune 500 enterprises to startups among its customers.  For more information, visit http://www.3Diligent.com/.