I spend every day immersed in news about 3D printing, so obviously I’m aware of the fact that there are a lot of 3D printers out there. I’m also aware that that statement is an understatement. However, when I began looking back at the new 3D printers that were introduced and/or released in 2016, I was struck all over again – there are a LOT of 3D printers out there. The sheer number that made their debut in 2016 alone is staggering. I wish I could list them all, but I might crash the website, so I’ll have to settle for pointing out some of the highlights of the year’s offerings.
Besides the massive number of printers that were released, another thing that really hit me was the huge variety. 3D printers are diversifying in ways that have never been seen before. We saw giant 3D printers and tiny 3D printers, bioprinters and jewelry printers, printers for kids and printers for professionals. New trends have become apparent, and new companies have emerged. It’s all incredibly exciting, in my opinion – let’s take a look!
The Big Names
There are a few 3D printers that really stand out this year simply because they come from such respected, well-known companies. Stratasys introduced the next-gen Fortus 900mc last month and the multi-material J750 in the spring, while Markforged bookended the year with two new releases, the Mark Two and the Onyx series. Always-reliable Ultimaker brought out the Ultimaker 2+ and 2Extended+ at the beginning of January, then wowed everyone with the Ultimaker 3 in October. XYZprinting released so many new printers that I could dedicate an entire article to them alone, and MakerBot brought out two new machines amid a plethora of announcements in September.
WASP, as always, remained steady in their development of new (usually very big) 3D printers, and LulzBot brought out the eagerly anticipated TAZ 6 3D printer. Roboze got everyone’s attention with the multi-material One+400, and again when they revamped it to be a fully industrial machine, and Mcor generated excitement when they introduced their first desktop paper-based printer (which was later reengineered ahead of launch). 3D Systems made big headlines a couple of times, with the releases of the ProX DMP 320 and the ProJet MJP 2500 series. Prusa introduced the constantly-evolving i3 MK2 kit, and last month we saw the release of the Small Area Additive Manufacturing machine, the diminutive counterpart to the famous BAAM.
Other notable offerings came from Airwolf 3D, from German RepRap and from ZYYX. Then there were the really big announcements, the ones that truly shook up the 3D printing world. It’s hard to believe that Carbon’s revolutionary M1 printer made its debut only this year, as it’s been talked about so much. In what may have been the biggest story of the year, HP unveiled their Multi Jet Fusion system, marking their grand entrance into the 3D printing industry.
A lot of excitement came from Kickstarter and Indiegogo this year, as up-and-coming new companies broke into the industry with innovative and often low-cost machines. The Metal Delta from Blue Eagle Labs raised more than four times its funding goal, and the RoVa4D brought in an incredible $216,288 after setting a modest goal of $25,000. The LOCOOP Y was 50% funded within one day, finishing its Indiegogo campaign with 113% of its goal, and the Robo R2/C2 campaign was fully funded within three hours, bringing in a whopping $382,207 before it drew to a close.
One of the biggest stories in crowdfunding this year was the SLASH SLA 3D printer, raising over 1,000% of its Kickstarter goal. Also making a very respectable run was the Yeehaw 3D printer for kids, which finished out at 285% of its Indiegogo funding goal. And speaking of printers for kids…
Think of the Children
We saw a lot of 3D printers designed especially for kids and classrooms this year. Another Kickstarter success was the MiniToy, an inexpensive, brightly-colored 3D printer for young children. XYZprinting’s miniMaker was the first release in their “STEM toy” category, and Dremel unveiled their classroom-optimized 3D40-EDU. YSoft also introduced a new educational offering. For very young children, there was the $25 Qixel 3D Maker. And, while not designated as a printer for kids, I have to mention the PancakeBot, because it’s a 3D printer that prints pancakes – in any shape you choose. That’s a printer for the kid in all of us.
Introducing New Materials
This year saw some new machines that were designed to print with materials that have been very rare or even unprecedented in 3D printing. Silicone was a big one, with Sterne Elastomere unveiling a new silicone 3D printer this fall, following in the footsteps of Wacker Chemie‘s first-ever industrial silicone 3D printer announced over the summer.
While jewelry and dental 3D printers aren’t new, they saw quite a surge this year as SLA technology has started to become more affordable and accessible. Dental 3D printing also broke into FFF 3D printing for the first time with the r.Pod. The MiiCraft 125 made its debut, and EnvisionTEC introduced their latest jewelry printer in the Micro Plus.
One of the most interesting trends I noticed this year was the increase in hybrid 3D printers – machines that contain a wealth of other capabilities beyond 3D printing. The multi-function 3D printer really became popular with ZMorph and their multitool machines, and they didn’t disappoint this year, introducing the ZMorph 2.0 SX in April. Optomec brought out a whole new hybrid series last month, and Winbo burst into the spotlight with the multifunctional Super Helper 3-in-1. Millebot unveiled their massive 3D printer/CNC mill built into a cargo container, and Mitsui Seiki introduced the CNC/3D printer hybrid Vertex 55X-H. Perhaps the smallest, least expensive hybrid was the Trinus, another Kickstarter success.
I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface on all of the new 3D printers that were released this year. The above is just a small sampling of the amazing and innovative machines that were introduced to the world in 2016, and again, I wish I could highlight them all. I can only imagine what 2017 is going to bring, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming. Have a wonderful New Year, and if one of your resolutions is to introduce yourself to a 3D printer for the first time, hopefully you’ve found a good starting point in the coverage we’ve provided. What printers stood out to you this year? Let us know in the 2016 3D Printers forum at 3DPB.com.