Formlabs, the Massachusetts-based 3D printing original equipment manufacturer (OEM), announced the release of the Automation Ecosystem, a platform for managing fleets of 3D printers. Formlabs is debuting the new platform at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2023 in Las Vegas (January 5-8).
The Automation Ecosystem is composed of three elements: Form Auto, for removal of finished parts; Fleet Control, a suite of new features in Formlabs’ software that facilitate printer fleet management; and the High Volume Resin System, which expands resin capacity fivefold compared to the standard Formlabs’ cartridge size. According to the company, combining the Automation Ecosystem with a fleet Form 3+ or Form 3B+ printers can save customers up to 80 percent on labor costs, reduce packaging waste by up to 96 percent, and ultimately lower the cost per part by 40 percent.
Formlabs has experience with fleet management systems: in 2018, the company released the Form Cell for the now-discontinued Form 2 printer. Additionally, Formlabs recently entered into a partnership with FITTLE, the financing and hardware services arm of Xerox. Assuming that the company makes financing options available for the Automation Ecosystem that are comparable to those available for its other product lines, Formlabs’ will be offering just about the cheapest, quickest option on the market for scaling up additive manufacturing (AM) operations.
Moreover, it is clearly the exact right time in the history of the AM sector to be focusing on the concept of production cells, and Formlabs has come up with a strikingly practical package for that concept. The flexibility of being able to add as many printers as one can use profitably means that successful small and medium manufacturers can take direct control over the pace at which their enterprises increase capacity.
Finally, the launch could have its biggest impact on AM in academia and R&D, given the prevalence of Formlabs platforms in those arenas. In turn, the same way that so many students, researchers, and AM workers have learned to use 3D printers via Formlabs, much of the sector’s next generation will likely gain its first experience building print farms with the Automation Ecosystem.
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