3D Systems: A Look at 3D Printing’s Progress, 1996-Present

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Although there has been an incredible amount of progress made within the 3D printing space these last few years, it’s often hard to remember that 3D printing has actually been around for over 30 years. It was only the last four to five years that the phrase “3D print” has become relatively common within media and tech circles, and that consumer-level machines actually became affordable, but many of those working in the manufacturing space have been aware of the technology for quite a while.

Viper si2 SLA system

Viper si2 SLA system – circa 2002

I thought it would be fun to take a step back and enter the internet’s time machine, Archive.org. What Archive.org does is archive websites dating back as far as the 1990s. I can spend literally hours examining how some of the most popular companies’ websites have developed over the years, if they even had a website back then. I thought it would be fun to hop in our time machines and go back a decade or two to look at how one of the largest 3D printing companies’ site has progressed, and what machines were being sold over the past 19 years. Below you will see what 3D Systems’ website looked like over the last 19 years. Click the thumbnail next to each date to enlarge the image:

w-96-1Dec. 1996: At this point there was absolutely no mention of the phrase “3D printing” on the main page of the company’s website. The site has a very interesting logo which you can see in the image to the left, and they direct the user’s attention towards news, their showroom, and an information library. Overall, it is rather unimpressive, but just about every website online in 1996 was unimpressive from today’s standards.  You could tell though, that the company did not heavily rely on their website, like they do today, for providing information to prospective clients.

Oct. 1999: Fast forward three years and the website has improved a bit. Now they are directly touting their Thermojet printers, which they claim, “Produce impressive models in hours, not weeks. The ThermoJet printer is fully networkable; with the click of a button, everyone in your office can create 3-D models from their desktops. You can even print to WAN-connected ThermoJet printers in other locations around the world for ‘3-D faxing’ capability!”

w02

Aug. 2002: For about three years the general layout of 3D Systems’ website remained relatively unchanged. That’s until 2002 when a makeover took place. The latest edition of their site points out their 2002 2nd quarter earnings where the company reported revenue of $28.8 million and a net loss of $6.0 million. The company now blatantly makes it known that they offer SLS, SLA, and Thermojetting machines. These machines include their ‘new’ Viper si2 SLA system, and their ‘highly sophisticated’ SLA 7000 printer. Check out the Viper si2 SLA system at the top right.

w-07-1Feb. 2007: In a span of five years from 2002 until 2007 the site didn’t change very much, but the machines they offer seem to have. They are now promoting their Sinterstation Pro SLS Systems on the main page, and also draw the user’s attention towards the 3D Systems World Conference. There is finally a mention within the main page of the phrase ‘3D Printers’ which links to a page offering their InVision 3D Printer series. This includes the SR, HR, LD, DP, and Finisher machines.

w-10Feb. 2010: Fast forward another three years to 2010, and the main layout of the site is still somewhat the same. The company is now pointing out their recent acquisition of the key assets of Desktop Factory, as well as their new blog. Additionally they are now offering a 3D printing service called 3D proparts, in which they offer printed parts as large as 60 inches. It is interesting to note that this is only a few months after 3D Systems rolled out their first sub-$10,000 3D printer.

2012Feb. 2012: In 2012 the site was completely redesigned, and actually looks something like a page we would find today. Images scroll across the screen showing various 3D printing applications, and a recent announcement that 3D Systems has acquired Z Corporation stands out on the right hand side. It is interesting to note that the company seems to be offering third party desktop machines now, from companies such as Botmill, RapMan, and others.

preCurrent: The current website for 3D Systems is a conglomerate of information, mainly targeted towards the manufacturing sector. The company proudly displays various case studies, and now offers an entire lineup of well over a dozen machines, from their desktop Cube line of printers to their expensive selective laser sintering machines used for the fabrication of end-use metal parts.

In just 19 years we have seen a tremendous amount of progress from the company as well as the industry in general. As further competition enters, the rate of progress should only increase. I wonder what we will be saying about 3D Systems’ current website and offerings in another 19 years. I can’t wait until 2034 so we can find out!

Let’s hear your thoughts on this story, and how the market and 3D Systems has progressed since 1996. Discuss in the 3D Systems’ Website 96-Present forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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