Formnext 2016 was big, busy, and full of news from some of the biggest names in 3D printing today. But that’s not all that trade shows such as this are good for; they’re also full of promise for the names that will be rising in prominence in 3D printing tomorrow. Going through areas of the exhibit hall dedicated to startups and smaller companies is almost a walk through a crystal ball, as it allows us to see glimpses into the news that is yet to come. While significant floor space was dedicated to the likes of HP’s traveling Voxel Vision auditorium and XJet’s large metal 3D printer, some of the most interesting areas were those rows of smaller booths. Located next to 3devo’s booth was that of another Dutch company, new to me but not to the industry.
Opiliones 3D has been around since 2014, and has already built more than 150 3D printers for their customers. According to the company:
Our customers appreciate working with our 3D Printers because of their unique features:
- Big building envelope
- Simple handling
- Low maintenance
- High proces reliability
- High movement precision
- Excellent relation Price/Quality
- Available in XL building envelope Diam. 1100 x 1200 mm high
As the company’s pamphlet notes: “It’s time to go Bigger!” And they mean it. Offering the 1L and 2L models of 3D printer, along with the scaled-down 1M and 2M models, the delta-style 3D printers offer a large build volume alongside a story of innovation.
I spoke with Opiliones 3D Co-Founder and Director Peter Sluiter at formnext, and he was kind enough to fill me in on Opiliones 3D’s history and vision, such as how the streamlined delta machines from the company are simple by design, and how the company is working to get into the educational market.
“We’ve been around since 2014; in FDM, that’s old,” he told me. “Our open delta machine teaches children that simple is difficult — we teach them it’s worth the effort to make it simple.”
Opiliones 3D takes cooperation to heart as well, having designed their first 30 machines alongside their community — free of cost to those working with them. The company began with a four-person team working in development, but taking this approach immediately created a 30-person R&D department for them with valuable feedback on every aspect of performance. Several of these initial customers, Sluiter explained, now work as trainers for the company, offering their expertise to new customers. For €450, new customers receive a year of service and support, including installation, from these original customers.
“Unique is not enough anymore,” Sluiter said emphatically. “The ‘three Ms’ must be right for a company to succeed: man, machine, material.”
And now that the company feels it is getting those key Ms into place, it is continuing its exploration and development. This attention to every detail sits at the heart of Opiliones 3D’s operations — and printers. Looking closely at the machine they had on the show floor in Frankfurt, I noticed, and Sluiter confirmed, that nearly every plastic component on the 3D printer had been 3D printed — the only pieces that hadn’t been 3D printed are the small plastic caps at the ends of each structural tube, as these were more cost-effective (at 1/10th of a cent each) to order in bulk. The 3D printers additionally highlight a feature designed to save prints from total failure, with a 2mm correction setting that can hold off on where a defect is detected. Since so many total failures occur hours into long prints, rather than more conveniently at the beginning, having a safeguard in place to prevent losing the entirety of a print job, and have the opportunity to go back to the design file to fix it, offers users one less heart attack that can go into the operation process. The company is constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance the user experience, going back to those three Ms, with the right team (collaborators included), machines, and materials (they can now print with four materials, five with the flex head, using any that are well-suited to the open conditions on a big delta 3D printer).
“Visitors come now looking for a solution. A few years ago, I was a missionary explaining FDM. Not now, now they look to see if our machine is the solution they are looking for,” Sluiter told me of the changes he has seen recently in the industry and customer base for 3D printing.
Opiliones 3D will be coming out with an exciting new 3D printer within the next 2-3 months. While they are not yet ready to publicly announce the new offering, Sluiter gave me a preview — and I have to say, I’m excited to see this one reach full launch. The company is working with a partner to develop their newest offering, again highlighting their focus on collaborative spirit.
“We are inventors, always trying the next thing,” Sluiter told me, noting his excitement for “next level 3D printing.”
We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out on this Dutch company as they continue to go bigger with their innovations.[All photos taken by Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com at formnext]
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