3D Print Companies Fabricating Tomorrow
Will your next pair of high-performance running shoes be printed rather than pieced together? Could your next home be built with a 3D-print head instead in addition to hammer and nails? Those are just two exciting possibilities in a world increasingly fabricated by 3D printers.
These seven companies are on the leading edge of technology that is making 3D-printing a household word… and making houses too!
Companies Driving Innovation in 3D Printing
In truth, there are hundreds of 3D-printing companies pushing additive manufacturing into the mainstream. We’ve sampled a cross section of them to provide an overview of the technology and what is being produced.
Scott Crump developed fused deposition modeling, or FDM, in the 1980s and both patented the technology and trademarked the name and abbreviation (hence, the process is also called fused filament fabrication, or FFF). Later, Crump and his wife, Lisa, launched Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) in Minnesota, US. Stratasys is a leading manufacturer of 3D printers like the Production Series, Dental Series and Fortus Series for producing tools that must be both tough and crafted with tight tolerances. The company also provides rapid prototyping and print services for those that can’t make the investment in their own 3D printer.
This Stratasys competitor is a leader in the on-demand manufacturing industry. An area in which 3D Systems really shines is the field of healthcare solutions. The company prints models used in surgical simulation and planning. It also fabricates prosthetics with a custom fit for every patient and tools tailored to specific surgical techniques.
Autodesk is the leading producer of the types of computer-aided design (CAD) software that drives all 3D printers. The company makes software for architecture, engineering, product design, media and entertainment including AutoCAD Map 3D and AutoCAD Plant 3D. Recently, Autodesk has entered the hardware side of the equation with 3D printers like the Project Escher with five print heads that speed print time dramatically while offering much larger print capabilities.
Based in Manchester, UK, Tamicare has developed patented technology for 3D textile printing. Its top product is Cosyflex, a 3D additive manufacturing process that uses liquid polymers and textile fibers to create fabrics. One exciting development is the production of 3D printed shoes that, according to Tamicare CTO Ehud Giloh, reduces the number of manufacturing steps from more than 100 to just three. “This allows companies to produce in one location what previously required a complex global supply chain,” says Giloh.
This German company makes the list because of the large items BigRep 3D printers produce and the outstanding quality and precision they exhibit. The BigRep machines have a build volume of one cubic meter, so large parts can be printed in a single build rather than in several smaller pieces that must be fused together. Printers such as the Studio, Tech and One each have specific setups and throughputs to provide custom printing at the speed and definition required. This company is a leader in moving to large-volume 3D printing instead of the prototyping and low-volume runs that have characterized the industry. Lastly, BigRep produces a proprietary high-temperature filament for additive fabrication processes. Check out the company’s videos to see why it is on this list.
This Chinese company is printing houses with high speed – a 400 square meter, 2-story home takes about six weeks—and beautiful design. A HuaShang Tengda home is cost-effective when compared with traditional home construction too. The process involves the mechanical construction of a frame and piping. The home’s walls are then printed over the frame using standard Class C30 concrete to produce a durable and attractive exterior. Windows and doors are set, and the roof is added to complete the project.
Another 3D print company with a house-building dream is WASP, or World’s Advanced Saving Project. While also providing more conventional 3D printing products, this Italian company’s big goal is to build “zero-mile” homes. These will be homes built on site with 3D print technology using sustainable, locally sourced materials. The printers will be portable and driven by solar power to have less impact on the environment.
Did we say seven innovative 3D print companies? That’s all the scope of this post allows for, but there are many others worthy of exploration including these known for the niche they are filling:
- Made in Space: Zero-gravity 3D printing for the space industry
- Food Ink: Printing food at restaurants in the Netherlands and UK
- 3D Slash: Leading the way to cloud-based 3D modelling software for small businesses, entrepreneurs and 3D hobbyists
- Doob Group: Combining innovative technology with the selfie fad in its “Dooblicator” printers
Seven Centuries of Printing Innovation
The industry is experiencing growth that is as rapid and remarkable as any in its seven centuries. Johannes Gutenberg was a visionary, as evidenced by his 15th Century printing press. Visionaries just as bright and forward-thinking continue to set the pace and craft the change that is printing an exciting new world.