3D printed parts for a car

http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/71751824/the-car-of-the-future-to-use-3d-printed-parts

Car parts could use 3D printing techniques in the future, according to BMW

The car of the future to use 3D printed parts

Car companies will soon make use of 3D printing to manufacture parts, bringing benefits in cost and strength that will improve the affordability and driving character of future vehicles, according to BMW’s head of lightweight design Florian Schek.

While most vehicle manufacturers use the advanced technology during the development and design phase to quickly create prototype parts or models, Schek believes it won’t be long before the technology is transferred into end-consumer production techniques.

He admitted that it is likely to be used on low-volume speciality vehicles first as the time needed to mass-produce parts by 3D printing is not as quick as conventional methods such as casting and forging for metals, or as affordable as plastics. But he said the rapid advances in the technology will ensure its future application is viable.

“We have that already in prototyping,” he told Drive.

“But there is definitely a future for it in mainstream production. It will come.

“I think it will take some time in high-volume production, but it is not that far away for specialist models like the i8. We can do some very interesting things with 3D printing that we cannot do with other methods and it is quite exciting about the benefits, both in terms of design and structure.”

Schek said the benefits of 3D printing structural elements – including major components such as shock absorber towers – could see improvements in weight reductions and rigidity, as the printing process could create components more intricately.

“With 3D printing we can see advantages in being able to build parts with strength where it is needed and not in places where it isn’t, and this will help improve decreasing weight. We can design the part according to the forces that are running through it, this will be a big step forward for some areas,” he told Drive during the launch of the all-new BMW 7-Series, which uses different materials in its skeleton – including steel, aluminium and carbon fibre – to reduce weight and increase overall strength.

“I can also see it eventually improving time to production in some circumstances too, because some components currently need to go through many processes to be ready for assembly whereas with 3D printing it is designed to be a finished product.”

stuff.co.nz

by ANDREW MACLEAN | 06:00, September 6 2015

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3D printed hands for free

http://time.com/4016974/3d-printed-hands-e-nable/

See How Kids Are Getting 3D-printed Hands for Free

A global network of almost 6,000 volunteers is making it happen.

With standard prosthetic hands costing anywhere from several thousand to a hundred thousand dollars, convincing insurance companies to buy new hands and arms for growing kids every couple of months is an impossible task.

After watching a YouTube video about 3D-printed prosthetics, RIT professor Jon Schull had an idea. With one YouTube comment, he harnessed an online community of volunteers and problem-solvers to work toward one goal—providing free, 3D-printable prosthetics to kids in need.

Two years later, Schull has taken his idea and turned it into a global network of almost 6,000 volunteers. To date, the e-NABLE network has printed over 1,500 devices in 50 countries, and the network continues to grow at a rapid pace.

e-NABLE’s wrist and elbow actuated prosthetics cost only $30-$50 apiece, and require up to three days worth of printer time and assembly. Schull’s volunteers are matched with a child in need, and provide the customized, completed hand or arm at no cost to the child’s family. e-NABLE’s network is currently working on making the devices available in other countries, as well as printing the hands with different skin tones and with different materials that will make the hands look more similar to the human hand.

While e-NABLE’s volunteers are spawning new variations of hands and arms faster than he can keep up with, Schull hopes to be able to expand his model to help solve new problems. He sees heads-up displays, text-to speech translators, and even gene printing in e-NABLE’s future.

“I believe we… have proven that there are probably hundreds of thousands of digital humanitarians ready willing and able to lend a metaphorical hand for the global good,” Schull said. “And so the…goal is to figure out what iceberg this is the emerging tip of.”

time.com

by Julia Lull | Aug. 31, 2015

3D printing in architecture

http://gizmodo.com/this-bizarre-concrete-beam-is-the-smartest-use-of-3d-pr-1723340656

This Bizarre Concrete Beam Is the Smartest Use of 3D Printing In Architecture Yet 

This Bizarre Concrete Beam Is the Smartest Use of 3D Printing In Architecture Yet

I’m going to put this as gently as possible: 3D printing entire buildings, right down to the fixtures, doesn’t make a ton of sense yet.

It’s an exciting vision of the future, of course, but it’s also a myopic one—we’re forcing an emerging technology to fit into the mold of our existing world. While plenty of companies have demonstrated it can be done, that doesn’t mean it should be done. A group of Italian engineers and researchers want to prove that 3D printing individual structural unit makes more financial and environmental sense. The group, called WASProject, originally set out to design a printer that could produce full homes. “WASP was born with the dream of printing houses with 100% natural materials,” the company writes today. “But wisdom teaches that extremism is never a good thing.”

This Bizarre Concrete Beam Is the Smartest Use of 3D Printing In Architecture Yet 

Now, WASProject focuses on printing specific pieces of buildings and bridges—the structural beams—that usually require the most heavy and CO2-producing concrete. “Concrete is bad for the planet,” the group explains. “A ton of cement generates a ton of Co2.”

The group’s designs get rid of any redundant materials in a beam. With smart software modeling, they say they’re able to cut down on the amount of CO2 produced by a structural beam by 50 percent. The product of their research was unveiled today, and they describe it as “the world’s first 3D printed reinforced beam,” though other groups have certainly been pursuing similar ideas.

The fact that it’s lighter and less expensive isn’t the most important thing about the design—it’s the fact that is uses less concrete. Concrete is the most-used artificial material on Earth, aGizmodo’s Maddie Stone wrote yesterday, and it’s now a $100 billion market. In countries that are developing cities very rapidly, it’s the singular building block: One popular stat, for example, holds that China has used more concrete in the past three years than the US did in the entire 20th century. And unfortunately, making the stuff contributes to as much as 7 percent of global CO2 emissions.

While printing full houses also has the potential to cut back on waste, by using construction refuse for “ink,” for example, the technology is still too nascent to be used widely anytime soon, or in any structure besides simplistic one-story homes. WASP’s beam, on the other hand, is already being stress-tested at the University of Naples’ engineering lab. One day, it could be integrated into conventional structures and skyscrapers, without the architects or developers needing to design a fully printed building.

It’s still a long ways from being adopted by the industry—this is still just an experiment. But it’s far less of a pipe dream than a full 3D-printed house. You might be waiting on that for a while.

gizmodo.com

by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan | 8/11/15 11:00am

Drugs of the future

http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/3d-printing-drugs-spritam-aprecia-pharmaceuticals.html

spritam

Could 3D Printers Manufacture the Drugs of the Future?

You can now use 3D printing to create items using a wide range of filaments, and not just plastics. Metals, edibles, bio and construction materials are just some of the examples that are being developed for 3D printing.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Spritam, an epilepsy medication made using 3D printers.

This makes Spritam the first 3D printed product approved by the FDA for use inside the human body.

The company that developed it, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, used powder-liquid three-dimensional printing (3DP) technology, which was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1980s as a rapid-prototyping technique. Rapid prototyping is the same technique used in 3D printing.

According to the company, this specific process was expanded into tissue engineering and pharmaceutical use from 1993 to 2003.

After acquiring exclusive license to MIT’s 3DP process, Aprecia developed the ZipDose Technology platform. The medication delivery process allows high doses of up to 1,000 mg to rapidly disintegrate on contact with liquid. This is achieved by breaking the bonds that were created during the 3DP process.

If you advance the technology a decade or more, having the medication you need printed at home is not that implausible. While big-pharma may have something to say about it, new business opportunities will be created that will be able to monetize the technology.

As impressive as that sounds, there are many more medical applications in the pipeline.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a website with an extensive database of 3D printing applications in the medical field. This includes the NIH 3D Print Exchange special collection for prosthetics, which lets you print next generation prosthetics at a fraction of the cost of the ones now being sold in the marketplace.

The next evolution in the field of medicine is printing complex living tissues. Also known as bio-printing, the potential applications in regenerative medicine is incredible.

In conjunction with stem cell research, printing human organs is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Currently different body parts have been printed, and the days of long transplant waiting lists will eventually become a thing of the past.

It’s important to remember that a lot more goes into the creation of a medication or other medical break-through than just being able to “print” drugs. Other costs include intensive research and development and then exhaustive testing.

So there’s no reason to believe 3D printing alone will allow smaller drug firms to more effectively compete with huge pharmaceutical firms. But the break through will certainly create more opportunities in the medical industry for companies of all sizes.

Outside of medicine, 3D printing has been used to print cars, clothes and even guns, which goes to prove the only limitation of this technology is your imagination.

Many of the technologies we use today were developed many years ago, but they take some time before they are ready for the marketplace.

3D printing is one great example. It was invented in 1984, but its full potential is just now being realized.

In 2012, The Economist labeled this technology as, “The Third Industrial Revolution,” and that sentiment has been echoed by many since then. This has generated unrealistic expectations, even though it is evolving at an impressive rate.

smallbiztrends.com

by Michael Guta | Aug 10, 2015

3D printed circular saw

http://3dprint.com/86755/tiny-3d-printed-circular-saw/

sawani

Man 3D Prints the World’s Smallest Working Circular Saw And It’s Amazing!

“Honey, I shrunk the power tools!”

Perhaps you remember a story that we broke back in March, concerning a New Zealand man, named Lance Abernethy, who 3D printed the world’s smallest working power drill. Lance’s creation garnered him the attention of the international media, and apparently enticed him to continue his efforts of creating even more miniature working power tools.

Now Abernethy has revealed his latest creation, perhaps even more impressive than his previous. He has unveiled a miniature 3D printed circular saw, which he 3D printed on his Ultimaker 2 machine, after designing the individual parts using a software called Onshape. The parts were printed in PLA at a layer height of 21-40 microns and shell thickness of 0.5mm. The printing process took less than 1 hour to complete in total.

sawfeatured2

The miniature saw is printed in 4 pieces, including 2 halves for the main housing, a saw guard, plus a blade holder, just like your typical full size circular saw would have. It is powered by the same hearing aid battery that powers his miniature drill, and it has a button on the handle that turns it on.

“The saw was just a natural progression from the drill,” Abernethy tells 3DPrint.com. “I would like to be able to make a whole set of power tools just like my Makita set I have. I’m not sure how many I will get around to making though.”

SAMSUNG CSC

While the saw operates like an actual full size circular saw, Abernethy says that it can not cut through anything at this point in time. Although he plans to iterate upon the design and create one that actually can cut in the near future.

“I also printed little brief cases for them to go in as you can see in the video (below),” Abernethy explained. “I actually made this a few months ago and will start making more stuff soon, once I get back into 3d printing. I will eventually get around to making something with parts people can easily buy and print, and then do a tutorial on how to make it.”

saw8

It should be interesting to see just what Abernethy comes up with next. Obviously this won’t be the last we see of him or his extremely minute creations. What do you think about the world’s smallest working circular power saw? What tools would you like to see 3D printed next? Discuss in the 3D Printed Circular Saw forum thread on 3DPB.com.

3dprint.com

by  | AUGUST 4, 2015

3D printed models for kids’ operations

http://www.engadget.com/2015/08/01/boston-childrens-hospital-3d-printing/

Surgeons practice on 3D-printed models for kids’ operations

Surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital started using 3D-printed copies of patients’ affected body parts to prepare for procedures last year. Now, that move has helped save the lives of four children aged two months to 16 years old who suffered from life-threatening blood vessel malformation in their brains. Their condition gave ride to distinctive anatomies that one of the hospital’s neurosurgeon, Edward Smith, said were really tricky to operate on. So, the doctors used a combination of 3D printing and synthetic resins to conjure up copies of the kids’ deformed vessels, along with nearby normal counterparts and surrounding brain anatomy. That gave them the chance to practice extensively beforehand and reduce possible complications on the operating table.

Smith said the models allowed them to “view [the formations] from different angles, practice the operation with real instruments and get tactile feedback.” It was especially beneficial for three of the four patients, as they had arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) — their arteries and veins were all tangled up – that required the surgeons to cut blood vessels as quickly as possible, and in a certain sequence. Thanks to their preparations, the surgeons managed to fix the kids’ distorted blood vessels and cut surgery time by 30 minutes each. Smith and his colleague Darren Orbach now plan to use 3D printing to train younger doctors and for even trickier cases in the future.

engadget.com

by Mariella Moon | August 1st 2015 At 3:33am

A group of Harvard scientists have built a 3D printer!

http://qz.com/462322/a-group-of-harvard-scientists-have-built-a-3d-printer-thats-actually-useful/

A group of Harvard scientists have built a 3D printer that’s actually useful

Despite all the fanfare, 3D printing has yet to hit its stride. Up until now, its best uses have been in designing, prototyping, and making creepy copies of yourself. This tends to stem from the fact that you can generally only print with one material at a time, and in most cases, it’s faster to use traditional manufacturing methods than 3D printing. But Voxel8 wants to change that: Its printer can print circuits right into other objects.

“3D printing fails when it’s asked to do the same thing that a traditional manufacturing process already does,” co-founder Dan Oliver told Quartz. He said the company was born out of Harvard’s material science lab and the research of Professor Jennifer Lewis. Oliver said the name Voxel8 is a combination of “voxel”—which is a pixel with volume—and a play on the word “pixelate,” meaning to digitize an image. And that’s basically what its printer will let you do: make physical objects with digital elements.

Voxel8’s first printer comes with two printing heads—one prints standard 3D printer plastic, and the other spits out its proprietary material that’s electrically conductive. Oliver said it has the consistency of peanut butter and allows you to print circuits right into an object. The company used its printer to build a working quadcopter drone in one sitting. Oliver said that it’s possible to print a computer’s motherboard with the Voxel8: “We’re there, we can do that.”

Oliver said the company is already working on ways to incorporate other materials—like epoxies, silicone, and ceramics—into its 3D printer. The printing heads on its first printer are interchangeable, so in the near future, you’ll be able to print yourself some batteries, a web-connected cereal bowl, or even a pair of shoes loaded with sensors, if you felt so inclined.

“People will use this to make things we haven’t even thought of,” Oliver said. But Voxel8’s process is still quite slow: It took an hour and a half for the company to print its drone, so it’s not going to replace traditional manufacturing processes any time soon. However, Oliver envisions useful applications in the short term in medical and wearable technology, where more custom-fit, ergonomic devices would be more useful than one-size-fits all devices on the market.

On July 24, Voxel8 announced it had secured $12 million in funding to help bring its printer to market and develop its technology. The company showed off its printer at this year’s CES show, and it’s available now for pre-order for $9,000. Oliver said it will ship before the end of the year, and the funding will help guarantee that. Oliver views the company’s first printer as a developer’s model—similar to Facebook’s Oculus Rift shipping a version of its VR headset for researchers before fine-tuning its first consumer model. The company plans to use part of the funding to develop a higher performance version for a wider audience.

qz.com

by Mike Murphy | July 24, 2015

3D printing – the future of global food?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/is-3-d-printing-the-future-of-global-food/article24981139/

Is 3D printing the future of global food?

A few weeks ago, Londoners were able to eat at the world’s first 3D-printed pop-up restaurant. In early June, a German-based company introduced the word’s first plug-and-play food printer, which may be ready for shipping as early as next year. With the cost to produce this technology dropping, making it increasingly accessible, 3D printing could fundamentally change our relationship with food.

Simply put, the process uses ingredients to generate three-dimensional meals by placing layers of compounded food on top of each other. Since 2012, the food industry has used this technology to produce products, including candy, chocolate, pizza, noodles and even crackers. Despite its relative novelty, many companies are recognizing its potential – and recognizing how 3D food printing can revolutionize our global food systems.

In particular, 3D printing could radically alter food production practices by enabling companies to manage resources more responsibly and reduce waste across the food continuum – whether you are a processor, a distributor or a consumer with leftovers. Indeed, many well-known agribusiness corporations have already dedicated a great deal of time and research on 3D systems. There is a potential benefit to consumer health, as well. For example, PepsiCo recently announced that it is using 3D printing to develop a healthier potato chip.

Beyond manufacturing, 3D printing could also boost culinary creativity by allowing renowned chefs to create shapes and forms that were previously thought impossible. Some have argued that it can give the food-service industry the ability to customize products based on individual nutritional needs.

Given the demographic challenges we face in coming decades, this can become a key benefit. In Germany, many nursing homes already produce a pureed 3D-printed food product called smoothfoods to residents who have difficulty ingesting food, or even chewing them. Regular smoothies have been on the menu, but haven’t proved as popular. Elderly residents eating smoothfoods can receive all the nutrients they require while enjoying an aesthetically pleasing meal. As a result, they can live healthier, higher quality lives.

More significantly, some experts believe 3D printing could effectively address global food security challenges. Ingredients such as algae, duckweed and grass could be imbedded into familiar dishes. A recent study in Holland added milled mealworm to a shortbread cookie recipe through 3D printing – most would agree that a cookie-shaped food product is much more appetizing than the look and feel of a worm. By using insects and other protein sources, the growing need for protein the globe is currently experiencing, which adds increased pressure to beef and pork prices, could be mitigated.

3D food printing does still face major obstacles. The technology remains expensive and complex. The engineering required to produce food is much more sophisticated than producing objects with metal and plastic. Food scientists acknowledge how difficult it is to effectively make edible meals in 3D food printing – ingredients in food interact in many complex ways, particularly with meats. At this point, 3D food printers are not known to produce great tasting food, and still do not have the overwhelming endorsement of the culinary world.

However, the technology is improving at an incredible pace, allowing us to believe that very soon, anything might be possible.

The concept of 3D printed food is foreign to many of us, and may challenge our collective appreciation of where food comes from, and how it is produced. Let’s face it – when it comes to food, we are all traditionalists to some extent, protective of our food heritage. Printing food is a drastic departure from the art of cooking as a way of celebrating nature’s bounty.

But the reality is that in just a few years, we will have more than nine billion people to feed. One way to responsibly address global food security challenges is to consider technology as a primary source for sustainable solutions. Treating alternatives to established food production systems as mere fads may not be the best approach.

After all, the future of the dinner table may be as different, and as simple as “Press print and eat.”

theglobeandmail.com

by SYLVAIN CHARLEBOIS | Jun. 17, 2015 10:39AM EDT

3D printed eggs used to study the art of deception among birds

http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/6777/20150528/scientists-use-3d-printed-eggs-to-study-the-art-of-deception-among-birds.htm

Scientists Use 3D Printed Eggs to Study the Art of Deception among Birds

3D printing has already established itself within the scientific community. It’s been used to produce tools aboard the International Space Station, replicate body parts for surgical procedures, and now it’s found a new niche among biologists studying bird behavior. It turns out, 3D printers produce mighty fine eggs.

Animal behaviorists at Hunter College of the City University of New York are using 3D printers to produce eggs used in experiments that examine nesting behavior among birds. They’re particularly interested in brood parasites – birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, for the behavior of such birds offers insight into the evolutionary arms race between species.

Successful brood parasites are well-adapted to their deceptive practice, laying eggs that resemble those whose nests they target for takeover. But the foster birds have evolved means of detecting such eggs, based on their size, shape, color, and pattern, and will cast them out of the nests when the interlopers are identified.

“Hosts of brood parasites vary widely in how they respond to parasitic eggs, and this raises lots of cool questions about egg mimicry, the visual system of birds, the ability to count, cognitive rules about similarity, and the biomechanics of picking things up,” says Prof. Don Dearborn, chair of the Biology Department at Bates College, a brood parasitism expert who was not involved in the 3D printing study.

Biologists have been studying brood parasitic behavior for decades, but it was always a challenge to produce realistic eggs for use in their experiments. They tried a variety of materials, such as wood and plaster, but the eggs were expensive and time consuming to produce and a challenge to reproduce consistently.

And that’s where the 3D printers come in.

The scientists from Hunter College used a 3D printer to produce model eggs based on those of the Brown-headed Cowbirds, a North American brood parasite. Some eggs were painted beige to match real cowbird eggs; other were painted blue-green to match eggs of the American robin, a typical target of cowbirds. They were able to fill the model eggs with water or gel, so that the eggs retained the weight and properties of real eggs.

Their experiments were a rousing success. The robins accepted 100% of the blue-green eggs while they rejected 79% of the beige eggs. Similar results were achieved using plaster eggs, but the 3D printed eggs are more consistent and easier to produce. And since they are based on digital models, it makes for easy sharing across scientific communities, which improves the reproducibility of experiments.

“For decades, tackling these questions has meant making your own fake eggs — something we all find to be slow, inexact, and frustrating,” says Dearborn. “This study uses 3D printing for a more nuanced and repeatable egg-making process, which in turn will allow more refined experiments on host-parasite coevolution. I’m also hopeful that this method can be extended to making thin-shelled, puncturable eggs, which would overcome another one of the constraints on these kinds of behavioral experiments.”

“3D printing technology is not just in our future – it has already revolutionized medical and basic sciences,” says Mark Hauber, an animal behaviorist at Hunter College and the study’s senior author. “Now it steps out into the world of wild birds, allowing standardized egg rejection experiments to be conducted throughout the world.”

sciencetimes.com

by May 28, 2015 11:29 PM EDT

3D printed future – did you think about it ?

https://hbr.org/2015/05/the-time-to-think-about-the-3d-printed-future-is-now

MAY15_06_28731679_horz_b

The Time to Think About the 3D Printed Future Is Now

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, is likely to revolutionize business in the next several years. Often dismissed in the popular mindset as a tool for home-based “makers” of toys and trinkets, the technology is gaining momentum in large-scale industry. Already it has moved well beyond prototyping and, as I explain in a new HBR article, it will increasingly be used to produce high-volume parts and products in several industries.

Since I prepared that article, new developments have only strengthened the case for a 3-D future – and heightened the urgency for management teams to adjust their strategies. Impressive next-generation technologies are overcoming the last generation’s drawbacks while adding new capabilities. This progress will speed up adoption and propel more experimentation and practical application. What was a niche technique is morphing into a broad-based movement driven by multiple technologies and many kinds of companies.

Many of the new developments have to do with broadening the science underpinning additive manufacturing. Early generations drew from physics and engineering. The new technologies are expanding the playbook into chemistry.Continuous light interface production, or CLIP, uses chemical reactions to better control the transformation of liquids into solids. Instead of slowly putting down a layer of material and then curing it, CLIP creates a monolithic product in what is essentially a continuous process. CLIP greatly speeds up production and boosts the material strength of the final product by cutting down on the problems created by layers. The inventors, who publicly announced this new approach in March, say they were inspired by the film “Terminator 2”  – specifically the scene where a robot reshapes itself after having melted into a puddle.

Another promising development is multi-jet fusion. This technology starts with a plastic or metal powder, but instead of solidifying the powder with a laser, it uses chemicals sprayed from 30,000 tiny nozzles at a rate of 350 million dots per second. These chemicals speed the shaping and hardening of the powder by a UV lamp. But importantly, in the future, the chemicals can also change the powdered material’s properties – adding color, elasticity, bacteria-resistance, hardness, and texture to the final product. And because the high-tech nozzles spray so quickly and precisely, the curing takes only a tenth of the time of existing 3D processes. Typical of next generation advances, it integrates a number of techniques that had been used separately.

Even more intriguing, though probably still years away, is what MIT calls 4-D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. These are objects embedded with “memory materials” that react to light or heat to form new shapes after delivery to the consumer. Imagine a piece of furniture that arrives flat, but then reshapes itself into a chair when exposed to sunlight.

And these are just the general-purpose technologies. Also emerging isxerographic micro-assembly, which promises to greatly improve computer chip manufacture by implanting components of chips with electrical charges and putting them in a highly conductive fluid. Electrical fields can then assemble these “chiplets” into full chips with greater capabilities and fewer defects than conventional chip production. Likewise in bio-printing, researchers are adding magnetic nanoparticles to living cells and then using magnetic fields to assemble the cells into artificial tumors and functioning tissues.

Big players are involved now in pushing additive manufacturing to the next level. Early phases of 3D printing involved startup companies with investments in the low seven digits. Stratasys and 3D Systems grew into industry leaders with approximately $1 billion in revenues each. Now we’re seeing much bigger stakes. Hewlett-Packard developed multi-jet fusion, leveraging its expertise in printer head technology to leapfrog the industry. CLIP comes from a startup,Carbon3D, but one with $40 million in funding from a VC group led by mainstay Sequoia Capital. MIT is investing heavily in 4-D printing. Xerox, which invented xerographic micro-assembly, had been testing the waters with an investment in startup 3D Systems. Once it saw the potential, it launched a major internal program leveraging many facets of its electronics expertise as well.

These organizations are putting their reputations as well as major capital investments on the line, and have a lot to lose if these technologies turn out to be vaporware. Carbon3D promises to release its first commercial printer by December of this year, while HP has a target date of January 2016.

The market is taking these claims seriously, as well. Both 3D Systems and Stratasys have seen their stock prices slide in recent months, in part because the market is worried about the next generation of technologies and the resources that giants like HP are putting behind them. Realizing they can’t spend like the giants, the early leaders have started shifting their R&D away from hardware and moving toward software, services, and consulting. The 3D printing ecosystem is still very much in flux.

In the midst of all this change, new strategies are required. Even if some of these new technologies fail to pan out, there’s so much activity going on, so much money and creativity now being applied, that we can safely expect the pace of additive manufacturing to pick up. That has two major implications for strategists. One is that timelines based on earlier generations of additive manufacturing may be too conservative. If the new technologies dramatically boost the speed and strength of 3D printing, then adoption rates will jump. The cost advantage of conventional “subtractive” manufacturing will disappear sooner than expected. The new capabilities to customize products will also be highly attractive. Digital platforms that coordinate 3D printing ecosystems will emerge sooner. Instead of moving incrementally to adopt 3D techniques into their organization, companies may need to pick up the pace.

Second, strategists will have to consider not only which technology to run with, but also whether to collaborate with these next generation pioneers. By partnering with, say, HP or Carbon3D, companies stand to gain earlier access. But they may also increase the risk if their chosen technology fails to meet its promise on schedule. Working with current 3D technologies, such as extrusion-, stereolithographic- and sintering-based methods has better odds but a smaller payoff. Such decisions could lead to internal strife between converts to each camp.  Companies could invest in both, but then they face the challenge of timing the switch over to the next generation, and the complexity of transitioning people and the organization from one to another, as well as the specter of writing off investments before they have been recaptured.

All of this is on top of the new level of complexity that 3D printing has brought to manufacturing generally.  What’s the proper mix of traditional “subtractive” methods with the new additive approaches. How much risk should a firm take on now, versus what’s the risk if you wait? And all of this raises the possibility of reshoring some operations, affecting established relationships with host governments and local unions.

Strategists, fasten your seat belts for a fun but bumpy ride.  Here’s where you show what you’re made of.

hbr.org

by Richard D’Aveni | MAY 06, 2015