After two or three years of conducting the neverending 3D printing hype train it seems like 3D Systems is finally getting back down to business and focusing on what they have always done well, selling commercial 3D printing and 3D design products to businesses. I’ve noticed that lately they seem to be shifting their focus away from the mercurial and finicky desktop 3D printer market back to the industrial and commercial market. It is a subtle change to be sure, but their advertising efforts certainly seem to be using a lot less flash these days. Their upcoming appearance at this year’s Euromold is a prime example of a shift in their targeted audience.
Gone are the 3D printed guitars, art contests and Cube displays that had been typical of 3DS booths at trade shows, this year their focus is squarely on their manufacturing capabilities. 3D Systems will be showcasing an entire range of their digital manufacturing tools at Euromold 2015, including their various 3D design and 3D printing software suites, their Quickparts cloud-based manufacturing service and the capabilities of their top-of-the-line 3D printers. Essentially, they are showing off their entire industrial 3D printing workflow to a business-heavy crowd, and their message is a simple one: If you need to do that, we have a solution for it.
“From the engineer’s desktop to the design lab to the shop floor, our digital thread for manufacturing enables our customers to work seamlessly and be much more productive. We are excited to demonstrate how our comprehensive portfolio of products and services can lead to shorter delivery times, higher quality parts and greater cost efficiencies,” said Vice President, Co-COO and CFO of Software Products at 3DS, Ilan Erez.
Euromold visitors will be given a look at several new products as well as a few significant breakthroughs this year. 3D Systems will be showing off the newest version of their popular CNC machining software GibbsCAM 2015. The latest version will be incorporating 3D Systems’ new Universal Kinematic Machine (UKM) engine which broadens the variety of machines the software can run, and simplifies the CNC programming process. They will also be featuring mold making optimization software CimatronE as well as Geomagic Design X 2016 scan-to-3D software which will include new scan-to-CAD pathways and new surface tooling options.
One of 3D Systems’ most advanced printers, the multi-material composite ProJet 5500X, will also be taking center stage at 3D Systems’ booth. They will be showing off the printer’s versatility and its ability to print entire objects with both rigid and flexible parts in a single print. Because the 5500X is capable of blending and mixing multiple varieties of composite materials to achieve an entire range of textures and finishes it is an ideal machine for prototyping and creating a proof of concept. Combining flexible and rigid materials together means that it can create a virtually limitless amount of textures that can be used to produce prototypes that are extremely close, if not identical, to the eventual finished product. The 5500X can also blend variations of clear, gray and black together into virtually any shade.
Don’t worry, 3D Systems hasn’t completely abandoned the desktop market, the CubePro will be another of their products being highlighted at the show. But despite being classified as a personal 3D printer it it is pretty clear that the Pro has aspirations well beyond the desk. With its large print volume of 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches (275 x 265 x 240 mm) and three printing heads it isn’t fooling anyone. Most desktop 3D printers can’t print with up to three different materials, including support materials and even the notoriously difficult Nylon. The CubePro is clearly a bridge 3D printer meant to ease small businesses into larger industrial machines as their reliance on 3D printing grows.
As buying trends have started to shift in the last year, many companies looking to experiment with 3D printing applications have been looking to smaller companies to get started rather than take on extensive leases and contracts with larger printer manufacturers. It seems to me that 3D Systems is setting themselves up as the next step for those companies just trying out the technology, and frankly it makes a lot of sense. Businesses buying inexpensive starter 3D printers are going to learn pretty quickly that those machines aren’t going to be especially reliable for long-term usage. Say what you will about 3D Systems, and everyone has an opinion about them, they do know how to market their products to the right people at the right time.
Euromold 2015 will be held this year in Düsseldorf, Germany from September 22nd to the 25th. You can find 3D Systems in Hall 15 and stand A69. Let us know if you are attending in the Euromold Forum on 3DPB.com.
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