Phil Gyford


Sunday 22 August 2004

PreviousIndexNext Euro Foo Camp: Simon Wardley - 3D Printing

Wardley and his two Canon colleagues aren’t working in this (I think) but have been interested in this for a few years. This stuff is all so close now…

Used in making shoes, tank parts, medical applications (building models of bones etc). They can print out fragments of calcium phosphate to repair a broken bone.

Many different methods, mostly using inkjet technology, all of which build up different levels. Takes in the order of hours, or even days for large objects, depending on the “height” of the object. After printing with the powder the objects need some kind of processing — eg, vacuuming and treating with resin.

The machines were large, but a desktop version is expected to be launched this year. Machines cost around $19,000. Early machines were hundreds of thousands to several million and were mainframe kind of size.

1987 to 21st century - rapid prototyping concept models. 21st century onwards, finished products are being printed.

Machines which can build other machines impact the traditional manufacturing model, eg nanotechnology… eventually 3D printers could print other 3D printers (half-remembered story about a wood lathe which you weren’t allowed to make another wood lathing machine with). Disurptive technology. The industry is currently worth around $270 million.

Three markets:

  • Commercial prototyping. ZCorp has 32% market share. Use HP printer heads.
  • Rapid manufacturing. Cost effective for short product runs (less than 6,000 - Loughborough University). You can “print” in metals, plastics, ceramics and polymers. Xerox has a patent for inkjet printing electronic circuits. Allows for mass customisation. In Sweden they already “print” hearing aids customised to the patient’s ear.
  • Consumer 3D printing. Printing in the home. Cuts away the bulk of the traditional process of manufacturing and distribution. Home products is a $1 trillion market (extrapolated from a $350 billion US Market, US Economic overview 2003). Currently an unexploited market.

The software side (Cis a market worth $3.7 million. Consumables, $0.5 billion. Machine sales: 1,200 this year. Patent growth.


How do you get the designers in touch with the home consumers — cutting out the other middlemen in the traditional manufacturing process?

When you buy a design, are you buying the right to create one object, or the right to use that design perpetually?

Printing custom Lego pieces?

Initially there may be a big market in 3D scanning — to provide models — but as the chain from design to manufacture collapses the scanning may not be as popular.

Rumour that Hewlett-Packard are working on a sub-$1,000 printer for 2005-6. An Israeli group were going to announce a home printer this [or was it last?] year, but they didn’t. Home printers should be here within three years.

Is there any crossover between light-emitting polymers (which are also printed) and 3D printing?

Compare inkjet printing fifteen years ago to its state now [printers as impulse buys near the checkouts of supermarkets?]


There is a site online that allows you to print your custom made shapes I don't know how good it is this though.

Posted by ludwig on 7 September 2004, 6:15 pm | Link

Anybody can give me adresses of Israeli manufacturer of prototyping machine for jewellery applications?

Posted by Davide on 3 November 2004, 9:27 pm | Link

I don't know an Israli company for it, but 3d Systems has one for jewlery that's quite good. My company has the larger one of theirs and its very nice. They seem to have good international support so you might be able to get one in Israel.…

Posted by Kira Santucci on 11 January 2005, 4:55 pm | Link

The israli company is Objet, but for jewelery there is another hi-res machine by Envisiontec which I have seen good quality output from.

Posted by Philip on 9 March 2005, 3:35 pm | Link

We are interested in marketting of 3d printing machine in Pakistan.
Please send us detail information for our evaluation and prospect to Plastic industry in Pakistan.
Thank you,

Sales Engineer
Intercom Trade Services Pvt.Ltd.

Posted by muhammad yousuf on 29 December 2005, 6:06 am | Link

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.