Think it, make it … 3D printing is ready to transform manufacturing and supply chains … Who are the most innovative companies?

February 23, 2022

Imagine if anything could be made on demand – to order, in seconds, at home?

Clothing. Maybe you will subscribe to the Prada design platform, which gives you access to thousands of clothing designs. Click to select the one you like, tweak it a little to add some personal flair, and then press print. In 30 minutes you’re trying it on. All for a flat subscription of $100 per month.

Engineering. You need a spare part for a machine. Ordering it from Taiwan could take 30 days. Instead you look up the IP code, and can immediately print one out in your factory. In minutes. Forget  global supply chain. Or standardised parts. You can make anything you want.

Healthcare. A heart transplant patient lives on the edge. Waiting for the phone call to say that somewhere, a donated organ has become available that meets your specific blood type and other needs. Instead we can just print one out, using your personal genetic code. We could live for ever?

And it goes on. 10 years ago 3D printing was a gimmick, watching the liquid plastic merge and make a simple ball. 5 years ago Icon launched huge 3D printers that could construct a new home in 24 hours for $4000. 1 year ago Singularity Sushi gave us 3D printed sushi, specifically to match your DNA.

3D printing is ready to transform our world.

Manufacturing. Supply chains. Business models. What you eat, wear, make can be endlessly personalised, made to order, on demand, by subscription.

Who are the most innovative companies currently shaping the 3D printing revolution?

3D Systems

Over 30 years ago, 3D Systems brought the innovation of 3D printing to the manufacturing industry. Chuck Hull, CTO, pioneered stereolithography and obtained a patent for the technology in 1986. Today 3DS manufactures and sells 3D printers, 3D printing materials, 3D scanners, and offers a 3D printing services, to create anything imaginable. Each application-specific solution addresses a variety of advanced applications in healthcare and industrial markets such as medical and dental, aerospace and defence, automotive, and durable goods.

Carbon

Carbon is based in Redwood City, California, manufacturing and developing 3D printers utilising its Continuous Liquid Interface Production process, with its first commercial product being the Carbon M1 printer. Carbon’s digital manufacturing platform enables repeatable production of end-use parts with industrial grade materials and exceptional surface finish. Whether you’re making one or a million. In 2017, Adidas announced the first 3D printed midsole developed using Carbon technology.

FormLabs

Formlabs was founded by three MIT students who met while taking a class called “How to Make (almost) Anything”. They also drew on their experience with MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms Fab Lab program, “We make the world’s best 3D printers so anyone can make anything.” One of the first companies to enable 3D printing for the mass market and is a leader in innovating with materials, including new ceramic and greyscale resins. These resins are capable of producing prints and have a wide range of applications across engineering, design, medicine and dental care.

Icon

Icon develops advanced construction technologies that advance humanity. Using proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, Icon seeks to transform the way home are built. In its early stages it linked up with NGO New Story, to provide fast replacement homes for those hit by natural disasters, and also to address homelessness.

Luyten

Australian 3D printing technology company established in 2020 seeking to make construction easier and more sustainable across industries. Project Meeka seeks to construct a 3D printer to build a base on the moon. The foldable 3D printer ‘Platypus Galacticus’ will use lunar regolith (a substance on the moon’s surface) to create the settlement, which could happen as early as 2030.

Mighty Buildings

Building sustainable 3D printed homes. Seeking to reimagine the building industry from factory to foundation, the construction uses award-winning Light Stone Material offering an energy efficient and near-zero waste solution, with 80% of the production process automated. “The future of cities will not only have cleaner transportation, but cleaner buildings too. Homes that don’t use steel or cement that are 50 per cent less carbon footprint,” says investor Vinod Khosla.

Organova

Founded in 2007, it specialises in 3D bioprinting, having internally developed the NovoGen Bioprinter to enable the automated fabrication of multicellular tissue. To date, its bioprinter technology is responsible for creating a range of tissues, including skeletal muscle, liver, eye, kidney and skin.

Stratasys

Created one of the first 3D printing technologies over 30 years ago.  Stratasys’ automotive clients include Honda, Volvo and Ford.Working with the top aerospace, automotive, technology and medical players. One of its most ambitious clients is Boom, seeking to recreate the age of supersonic flight. How I would have loved to have 3D printing in the days of Concorde!

Upprinting Food

Founder Elzelinde van Doleweerd  wants to reduce food waste through printing leftovers (bread, vegetables and fruits), which become new gourmet creations to be enjoyed. Her company collaborates with high-end restaurants to repurpose their waste in creative ways using extrusion technology. “Simply, a 3D printer is just like a big piping bag” she says, blending the ingredients together to create a puree, which is then printed, baked and dehydrated, giving it a crunchy texture.

 


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