3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush

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3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush

Postby chrisww » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:37 am

Although I have been lurking as a guest here for a while, I would like to thank the members of this forum for the all the inspiration and ideas that they have provided me with in the last few months. Even though I have been writing about more non technical issues, this has still been a very interesting site for background reading.
I have been experimenting like crazy with new products, mainly in the 1/6 and the 28mm scales, and am looking forward to getting a new Delta bot later in the year.

Here is a short excerpt from the Niche Markets chapter of the second section 'Financial Implications and Opportunities”
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B1UKZC6

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When Apple first released the iPad, few outside the Sci-Fi community knew what a tablet was, let alone what it could be used for. The first tablets may not have been very impressive in terms of features but they were extremely easy to use. They made it so intuitive that anybody could find a use for them in their everyday lives. The 3D printing industry is currently going through this same stage; the market is quickly filling up with simplified, user-friendly versions of highly complex industrial machines, and people are looking for ways to make the technology relevant to their lives. We hope that this section of the book helps somewhat in finding some important breakthroughs.

Begin by looking for small niches rather than huge global markets. Remember that a 3D printer can print just one or a few customized items at a time. Without needing huge investments in retooling and production line changes, the market with the best potential is the small run, quick turn, custom fabrication market where you might only print a hundred, or a dozen, or perhaps even just a single piece. These products generally have such a high margin that the size of the market is far less important. Try not to dream of economies of scale, and instead seek to fill the voids that economies of scale create.

Look for markets that match your capabilities. Currently, if you have a basic printer, you can print small items with a relatively high degree of detail, but not in multiple materials or with very complex internals. This is not to say that these drawbacks will not quickly be overcome, it is simply re-stating the abilities of the current generation of machines. Smaller items are generally better. More detail means a longer print time, but that level of detail could actually be a selling point with some items. Spare parts are often small and limited in availability, which presents a perfect opportunity that is covered in more detail in a later chapter. As the pet market continues to grow, it is obvious that smaller animals need smaller items. We might not be able to print high-end equestrian supplies just yet, but we can still cater to household pets of various miniature descriptions. Highly customized short print runs could be very desirable in the right circumstances, as are additions and extensions to existing products. Here is a detailed look at some of these possibilities.




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Re: 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush

Postby SystemsGuy » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:18 am

You hopped on to the DeltaMaker Kickstart?
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Re: 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush

Postby chrisww » Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:27 am

SystemsGuy wrote:You hopped on to the DeltaMaker Kickstart?


I wrote about that one a little in the ebook.

In the meantime, new designs are coming thick and fast. The Rostock, for instance, has moved away from the box shape typical of most 3D printers. Initially developed by Johann Rocholl, it differs in that it uses three arms that are attached to three vertical axes, each independently driven by stepper motors. Often known as a Delta because of its triangular shape, not only is this a sexier printer in terms of looks, but it has a much faster Z axis movement than the threaded rods of a traditional 3D printer designs. These severely limit the speeds to about 200-400 mm/min speeds, but with a Delta, speeds of up to 40000 mm per minute are quite feasible. The extruder pump attaches to the frame, not the extruder head, allowing for much improved speed and accuracy, in fact the mass of the end effector with two hotends is less than 150g. It uses six diagonal rods with universal joints, and all of these are fully printable. Other advantages include being able to use the tilt of the extruder to produce smoother layers and super round circles. Unlike most other 3D printers, the Rostock can also be re-purposed as a "pick and place" circuit-board assembler, because the arms are not restricted to horizontal movement. Apart from this high-speed positioning, a delta has significantly fewer parts (fewer than 200 not including washers, nuts and SMD-mounted electronics), and therefore a much lighter and simpler set up. These massive improvements have the 3D printer community very excited. One commentator on Hackaday put it best when he wrote “Sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my brain melting and flowing out my ear holes!!”

A small team from PartDaddy, an engineering company that makes machine parts in Goshen, Indiana is working on the Rostock Max, an open-source 3D printer based on Johann's original prototype. Their design is being funded as a Kickstarter project, and they have quickly raised $21,567, well in excess of their original $10,000 goal. A complete kit in lasercut wood is available for $949, while $1,500 buys a fully assembled acrylic version. Innovations will include UltiMachine's new electronics board, the RAMBo, with the ability to run two extruders, a heated bed, and up to 5 stepper motors, all located within a lower wrap piece around the bottom hiding the electronics. It features a new linear motion design which uses t-slot aluminium extrusion as not only the structural member, but also the linear bearing surface. The machine has an approximate build volume of 10" in diameter and 13" in height although it is only set up for 1.75mm filament only at the moment. In recognition of Johann's original inspirational design the company is going to donate $5 for every kit purchased through this campaign. In addition they will also be donating $2 from every kit sold to the developer of the REPETIER software developer (Marcus Littwin of Germany), and to the developer of the super fast slicing/gcode generation software known as SLIC3R (Alessandro Ranellucci of Italy).


For myself, I was lucky enough to meet one of the very first reprappers while I was on my travels last year. He swore me to secrecy about his new design, but I am hoping to get one from him when I get back. I am sorry but I cannot say more than that at the moment.

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