Monday 6 February 2017

7 New 3D Printer Announcements at CES 2017

Though CES may stand for the Consumer Electronics Show, the event provides an interesting insight into the state of the industry, and some big industrial news does occur, at least from time to time. For this reason, its worth paying close attention to the space that 3D printing occupies at CES every year. You never know just what innovations may spring up in Las Vegas.

Metal X from Markforged

The unveiling of the Metal X 3D printer by Markforged may have been the biggest 3D printing news from CES 2017. For less than $100,000 it will now be possible to 3D print complex metal parts with the Metal X. The system prints metal powder within a plastic matrix to create parts that are then sintered in a furnace, revealing almost fully dense metal parts. As Markforged CEO Greg Mark pointed out in our interview with him, much of the plastic products littering CES are made with metal molds, and the Metal X may just make it possible to create custom molds on the fly and at a low cost.

The Metal X is capable of 3D printing all metal parts with closed, complex geometries. (Image courtesy of Markforged.)

Sculpteo Unveils Smart Metal 3D Printing Software

One of the biggest issues still facing metal 3D printing today is the ability to optimize support structure placement and other variables in order to ensure a proper print. 3D printing service provider Sculpteo aims to streamline this process with its Agile Metal Technology (AMT), a software suite dedicated to automating a number of elements of the metal 3D printing design and preparation process. The suite includes six modules:
  • Business Case: Marketed as a “self-learning AI,” Business Case is a tool that determines whether or not a CAD file is optimized for metal 3D printing and evaluates material choices, costs, time, possible risks and whether or not metal 3D printing is the right technology for making the part.
  • Design Optimizer: This tool suggests the optimal printing orientation, detects flaws, suggests design changes and analyzes how to handle thermal constraints.
  • Lattice Generator: As you might guess, this tool generates the optimal lattice pattern for maintaining structural integrity while reducing part weight.
  • Support Optimizer: Determines the supports necessary for a part to undergo the metal 3D printing process.
  • Post-Processor: This tool evaluates the post-processing features of a project.
  • Batch Controller: This is a tool for enabling the batch 3D printing of metal parts.

Formlabs Announces Form X

Formlabs, known for its desktop stereolithography 3D printers, announced the Form X program, which includes the company's newly released ceramic resin and an open software application program interface (API) for hacking the Form 1+ 3D printer. The ceramic resin will ultimately be released later this year, but, through Form X, it's possible to get early access to the material and produce some unique ceramic parts. Through the OpenFL API, users can also tinker with the software of their Form 1+ in order to use third-party resins, embed objects in prints, create lithophanes and etch PCBs.

An object 3D printed with Formlabs’ ceramic resin. (Image courtesy of Formlabs.)
The Boston-based start-up also demonstrated some novel applications for its technology at CES, including custom bionic limbs, a waterproof camera and a motion-sensing VR system. In the video below, you'll see how a GE engineer was able to bring down the cost of bionic limbs with 3D printing.

XYZprinting's 3D Printers by the Truckload

After its initial CES splash in 2014, XYZprinting now considers the event to be one of its most important opportunities to unveil new products. So, just like last year, the Taiwanese company brought innumerable new 3D printers to the event. Here are just a few of the newest or most important:
  • The da Vinci Nano, the company's smallest 3D printer, which will retail at just $229.95.
  • The da Vinci Junior 2.0 Mix, which uses a single, dual-feed extruder to blend two PLA filaments and 3D print ombre prints.
  • The Nobel Superfine, a digital light processing 3D printer that uses a project to print objects with details as fine as 25 microns. To be released in Q2 2017 with a price of $2,699.95.
  • The da Vinci miniMaker, a 3D printer with an auto-calibration and auto-loading filament targeted at the education market for $249.
  • Theda Vinci Super, which has a robust build volume of 11.8 in x 11.8 in x 11.8 in (300.0 mm x 300.0 mm x 300.0 mm) and will be released in Q3 2017 for $1,999.95.

Prints made with the 3D JET.

Since last year's event, XYZprinting has made it known that it will be entering the industrial 3D printing space. This time around, specific details about the exact release of some of those products was made public:
  • The 3D JET is a material jetting 3D printer that uses UV light to cure photosensitive resin deposited from inkjet heads in a process not unlike 3D Systems' Material Jet Printing and Stratasys' PolyJet technology. The 3D JET will be made available in Q4 2017.
  • The 3PP0A 3D Printer is a binder jetting 3D printer slated for release in Q4 2017. Not much has been made public about the printer, but it seems to use technology not unlike 3D Systems ColorJet Printing for full-color prints.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
The company also unveiled a number of accessories and devices that fall outside of the 3D printing space and into the lifestyle and robotics categories, including a “smart” mirror that is meant to perform personalized skincare analysis, a smart scale, fitness wearables and clothing, a personal mobility board and some edutainment robots.

HP Unveils the Sprout Pro

HP announced the new-and-improved version of its mixed reality desktop computer, the Sprout Pro. What is unique about the Sprout platform is the combination of a touch mat, touch screen and built-in 3D scanner to make it possible to 3D scan physical objects, manipulate them digitally on the mat or screen and then 3D print them.

The HP Sprout Pro is meant to be sleeker and faster than its predecessor. (Image courtesy of HP.)

Whereas the original Sprout was more targeted at consumers and educators, the Sprout Pro is aimed at commercial customers. It features a 2.2mm thick, 20-point capacitive touch mat with a more detailed, almost 1080p projected resolution, as well as an Intel Core i7 processor, 1 TB of SSHD storage, 16 GB of RAM and NVIDA GeForce GTX 960M graphics. HP has also introduced the specialty pressure-sensitive Active Pen for digital drawing.

LulzBot Launches MOARstruder and MOAR

LulzBot is known for its open-source, Maker-oriented 3D printers, including the TAZ 6. At CES 2017, the company expanded its products and partnerships, including the introduction of the MOARstruder, a high output extruder for printing stronger objects four times as fast as traditional tool heads. Other announcements included the release of Cura 2 (LulzBot Edition), the company’s latest take on the open-source 3D printer management software.

The LulzBot booth at CES 2017, featuring a massive rocktopus 3D printed with the MOARstruder. (Image courtesy of LulzBot.)
LulzBot's parent company, Aleph Objects, will be working with the Blender Institute to create a streamlined version of the open-source 3D modeling software Blender. For those who have used Blender and possibly quit using it, this may be welcome news. A channel partnership with Fry's Electronics was also announced, but further details are pending, and LulzBot will also begin selling filaments from Polymaker and twoBEars.

T3D Introduces a Smartphone 3D Printer

The ONO smartphone 3D printer may have gotten to Kickstarter first, but I can vouch from personal experience that another group was at work on its own smartphone 3D printer before ONO was funded. Developed by a team from National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, the T3D 3D printer relies on light from a tablet or smartphone to 3D print objects from photopolymer resin. The company made its U.S. debut at CES 2017, where it showed off its exciting device. will be covering the product in more detail in an exclusive interview with the CEO of T3D.

Everything Else

These are only a handful of the many products shown off at CES 2017. For instance, Polaroid brought new 3D printers and 3D printing pens to the event this year; EinScan showcased a new 3D printer and 3D scanner; and Titan Robotics had a massive 5-printhead printer, the Cronus, on display running Autodesk's Project Escher software.
Where 3D printing is concerned, 2017 has already gotten off to an interesting start, but we've only just begun. Still ahead: AMUG, RAPID, IMTS, formnext and Euromold. Hang in there! There's plenty more to come!