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Observations in 3D

Jason Evanish's 3D Printing Newsletter

The pace of the 3D Printing market has not slowed. Amazing research continues at a number of prestigious universities, the RepRap community continues to push forward with a new extruder innovation and we have an IPO filing of our own (though not of the size or fanfare of Twitter's).

What you'll find in this edition:
1) The latest innovations in RepRap, research and more
2) New companies to check out
3) Some great extra reading for those looking for more to read and research

As in past editions, I *love* feedback, so whether you agree or want to counter any of my thoughts or just want to give advice on how to make this better, please feel free to reply to this newsletter anytime. Thank you to those that replied to last edition. 

Thanks,
Jason @Evanish

1) Interesting News in 3D Printing



Big Innovation in Nozzles for RepRap Printers
  • The Story: Josef Prusa is one of the leading innovators of the RepRap movement. His latest contribution is the Prusa Nozzle, which is a major breakthrough in its simplicity and materials. It can handle heat temperatures of at least 300 C and can go higher with some adaptation. It's also a single piece of the same kind of stainless steel commonly used in the food industry.
  • What this means: One of the biggest pains of any owner of a consumer 3D Printer is the nozzle. They jam. They're a pain to clean and they're not really food safe.  The Prusa Nozzle solves all those problems. The higher temperature is particularly important as it unlocks additional materials that can be used like nylon (for clothing) and polycarbonate (used in things like bullet-proof glass and the back of the iPhone 5C). 
  • Note: You can buy a Prusa Nozzle now for $105 American or 70 Euros.


USC Researchers Demonstrate a 6-Axis 3D Printer

  • The Story: While MIT's Media Lab has been all over the news for many 3D innovations like the self-assembling parts, 3D printed buildings and much more, USC has some impressive research of their own to report. The 6-Axis printer pictured above, can print at virtually any angle needed. While it's in the proof of concept stage, it reveals much of the potential of 3D Printing in the future.
  • What it means: By having any angle possible for a print, you can do two very exciting things: 
  • 1) Elimination of Supports: With current FDM style printing, you print each Z-axis layer one on top of the other to complete a print. This often requires a lot of supports to be printed if your object has any parts that are wider than the base. With a 6-axis printer, a print could be optimized to print at various angles of layers, which could eliminate the need for many of those supports.
  • 2) Printing directly onto objects: If you look at the research page for Prof. Yong Chen, you can see the proof of concept of printing onto a curved glass bottle. In the future, you could potentially print different parts of an object in different materials and leverage the 6-axis technology to deposit new materials onto each layer. Also, if you think back to the 3D printed cast from a previous edition of this newsletter, you can see a world where such a cast is directly printed on a patient. 
  • Note: As it's only a proof of concept, realize it will be a number of years (if not a decade) before you could see this in any products.

  &

AirWolf 3D Selects MatterHackers to Provide Software

  • The Story: AirWolf3D, a California-based consumer 3D Printer manufacturer has announced they will be using MatterHacker's free software, MatterControl, for all the printers they sell.  The software works on Mac & PC and focuses on customer support (there's even a phone number you can call) and easy print queue building.
  • What it means: Most 3D Printing companies have either taken it upon themselves to build their own software or have left their customers to cobble together open source options. Partnering with MatterHackers seems like a smart move by Airwolf3D so that they can focus their company on hardware innovations in the increasingly competitive 3D printer market.  
  • For MatterHackers, this is an interesting play as they also run both a physical and online store. I suspect that the software is built in response to common problems they've seen from 3D printer owners they've met in their store.

Voxeljet Files for IPO
  • The Story: While everyone in the tech world is focused on the Twitter IPO filing, 3D printing has its own with Voxeljet, a small, industrial 3D Printer manufacturer.  Their revenue is a modest $11 million, but they have a large patent portfolio (170, including applications) and an innovative build process called "continuous printing" (check the video to see more). They're also spending 20% of their budget on R&D, which is a greater proportion than some of the larger incumbents like Stratasys who spent 10% in 2012
  • What this means: With all the hype, and promise, of the 3D Printing industry right now, it seems like a good time to capitalize on it by raising public funds to re-invest in the company.  As the industrial side of 3D printing continues to grow, Voxeljet has a chance to ride that wave to their own growth. As Stratasys has been criticized for a lack of innovation over the years, a capital infusion may be just what an up-and-comer like Voxeljet needs to grab additional market share.
  • Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. Make any choices to invest based on talking to an expert and doing your own research.
  • Hat Tip: Thanks to subscriber Jonathan Placa of ProtoExchange for sending me this article.

2) This Week in Kickstarter

Kickstarter continues to be a hive of activity in the 3D Printing market. In the last edition, we featured the Peachy Printer and the ZeePro Zim. Since that time, they've both progressed:
  • Peachy Printer has raised 1,121% of their goal for a total of over $500,000. Their clever, $100 printer has inspired over 3,900 backers with 13 days still to go.
  • ZeePro Zim had a more ambitious fundraising goal relative to the Peachy, and has raised 78% of their $300,000 goal with 16 days to go. You may recall ZeePro is claiming to be the most consumer friendly printer complete with smart phone apps, a beautiful aesthetic look and the option of dual extruders.
Other printers currently on Kickstarter include:
  • Phoenix Printer has raised $74,000 to more than triple its initial $20k goal. This printer is a sub-$400 RepRap style printer focused on making more intuitive 3D Print control software.
  • gMax Printer has raised $107,000 to double it's initial $50k goal. This $1,300 printer has a large 16"x16"x9" build size as its main differentiator.
  • Lionhead Printer, Scanner and Li Modeling Software has raised $33,000 of its $60,000 goal with 11 days to go.  Their key differentiators are their design software they believe is significantly easier than other design options, 4 to 8 print heads and a built in scanner. 
  • Zeus: All in One printer just wrapped their campaign Friday and raised just a hair more than their $100k goal. Their key differentiator was to scan, copy and transmit designs between printers in an easy-to-use interface.
As you can see from this list, we are seeing about 2 printers a week hitting Kickstarter now. The majority are still reaching their goals, but at some point even this customer-rich channel is likely to reach saturation. We are also likely to see the market as a whole feel a "Kickstarter Hangover" as people wait months to receive their printers and first time hardware entrepreneurs struggle to deliver their products as promised.

3) Closing Links for Further Reading

Here's a couple other links to check out:
If you loved this newsletter, please reply and let me know, and don't be afraid to share the subscriber link with others interested in the 3D printing industry or working at a company in the industry: http://bit.ly/Observe3D
Copyright © 2013 Jason Evanish, All rights reserved.


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