3D printing company Photocentric is embarking on new ways to introduce their technology to markets all over the world, well on its way to developing new technologies in various applications, including LCD screen-based digital imaging and looking to maximize mass manufacturing with their printers. Most of it is about transformation, making industries more competitive, creating cost-effective functional parts, and introducing their printers in locations where the 3D printing revolution has yet to take off.
Founded back in 2002 in the UK, the chemical manufacturer firm specializes in visible light photopolymerization, develops the Liquid Crystal range of 3D printers and even commercialized the first 3D printer based on an LCD screen three years ago. The latter design uses LCD screens to cure the resin, the material that hardens into the chosen printed shape.
Photocentric’s technology has already garnered over 40 distributors and partners all over the world, bringing their goal closer to breaking the existing manufacturing models and allowing new designs free of tooling constraints.
In Latin America, the company is developing a strong relationship with the Brazilian market and is gaining ground in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay–pretty much every country in the Southern cone. Nevertheless, it is a difficult market altogether to penetrate, many countries in the region currently lack the infrastructure and resources required to further develop their industries, delaying the implementation of a wide range of technologies, particularly 3D printing. But a more competitive climate is gradually spreading as quite a few firms start to adapt to changes and embrace the advantages. In order to understand the complexity of the 3D printing market in Latin America, 3DPrint.com spoke to Lea Vasconcelos Williams, Photocentric Export Sales Manager for the region.
“Latin America represents close to 10 percent of the global population so it is definitely a promising market for any industry, including 3D printing,” suggested Vasconcelos. “Still, there are quite a few challenges considering that the economies of the region are mostly based on traditional sectors, such as agriculture, textiles, minerals, and mining; this means very few countries are running to adopt new technologies, while others are clouded by political and economic uncertainties.”
“But even within a scenario which includes a lack of growth and economic slowdown, I can see that Latin America has been steadily developing new options for using 3D printing in its industries. Of course, this development could have been bigger, faster and better, but given the general [daunting] situation in the region, it is still a breakthrough,” Vasconcelos went on.
According to the specialist, the regional sectors that have incorporated additive manufacturing in their industrial processes and have achieved greater performance are automotive, medical, dental and aerospace industries, with increasing demand and serious advances for sector-specific products within the jewelry, footwear and education segments.
Nonetheless, Vasconcelos considers that “there are also many new developments for the military and maritime industries that could change the sector completely.”
“The dental industry is by far the one that receives more investment and is constantly looking for new products, new developments, more and more research and biocompatible materials able to supply an effervescent and multibillion dollar market. 3D technologies will become the main production method for all dental solutions in just few years and LCD printing is already playing a very important role in this transformation,” she said.
The automotive industry is also a big sector for 3D printing, as the world’s vehicle assembly and auto parts production activities have been migrating to countries outside the traditional automotive markets, among them, Latin America’s largest vehicles producers, Brazil and Mexico, with an annual production of approximately 4.3 million vehicles in 2018.
Photocentric’s presence in Brazil gained further acceptability after the company’s machines were exhibited by local distributors 3DProcer and Sethi3D at South America’s largest 3D printing event, Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, which took place last June in São Paulo.
“I believe the Brazilian market is getting ready to introduce 3D printing in its manufacturing process. But it’s not without some challenges, the country is still walking slowly compared to other emerging markets, mainly due to the few companies willing or with enough resources to invest in advanced technologies. Additionally, many regional companies are mostly interested in geting a faster return on their investment, and some are afraid to purchase AM technology due to the lack of specialists in the country,” continued Vasconcelos.
“In the past, the prototyping phase of projects was heavily based on external suppliers or exclusively done by research teams and universities, it used to take weeks, even months to deliver an object. Prices were also very high price and the prototype quality was low, making mass production of the product unfeasible.”
Vasconcelos also highlighted that the current Brazilian government has recently implemented a series of tax exemptions for 3D printers, consumables, and accessories, making the entire importing process less expensive and opening a considerable door for new technologies in 3D printing.
Photocentric believes that building upmarket expertise is the key to a smoother transition from traditional methods to a wider, faster, cheaper, modern and better-controlled process using 3D printing for series applications. Accrediting new distributors, opening up partnerships with specific companies for each sector of the market, offering training sessions, even information in local languages, participation in trade shows (like Inside 3D Printing Brazil) together with local brand ambassadors chosen by the company to replicate the best practices in 3D printing, are just a few of the examples of what the company is currently doing to further increase its participation in the Latin American market, particularly in Brazil.
“Brazil is a giant in many aspects with the capacity to grow even during harsh periods of recession. Along with Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, it has become one of the main 3D printing markets in Latin America and in a few years it will be comparable to other bigger and older markets in Europe, the United States and Asia.”
As for the LCD printing process created by Photocentric, Vasconcelos announced that it offers unlimited possibilities, with a cost-effective price not only for the hardware but also for the resins, and friendly user experience that could help the industry sector in Brazil, which is looking to modernize its production processes, improve quality and cut costs.
“Adding the Photocentric LCD printing technology is the way to get those results without compromising the company`s budget because the use of screens in 3D printing has reduced significantly the cost of the printers and accessories, making the printing process faster without losing accuracy and quality.”
Photocentric has distributors positioned across the world. In Argentina, Printalot is the only company that commercializes the 3D printers and has enabled authentically original and artistic work from one of the best goldsmiths in the country, Quimbaya Orfebreria. After acquiring Photocentric machines, the company managed to scale up their production by 400%, reduce manufacturing times by 80 percent, and introduce complex designs into their line of jewelry. Quimbaya was even asked to 3D print a collection of Game of Thrones spoons for HBO Spain’s launch of the last season of the famous shown. The spoons were printed with the Daylight Violet Cast on LC Precision 1.5 in silver and then handpainted.
While 3D printing is slowly but steadily gaining ground in Latin America, Photocentric could have a major impact on the region, helping industries like engineering, medical, dental, modeling, and even education reduce costs and turn design concepts into tangible prototypes or end-user functional parts. As industry demands increase, needs evolve and new applications come to light, and official distributors become great allies for the firm as they search to evolve and grow into the landscape of 3D applications.[Images: Photocentric]
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