3D printing power shift


Consolidation in the 3D printing business continues as the big companies in the industry aim to provide services and products that cover the field, from consumer printers to industrial additive-manufacturing machines. 
Stratasys, based in Minneapolis, (and which merged with Objet of Israel, last year) has now bought Brooklyn-based MakerBot, the leader in bringing 3D printers to the consumer market. MakerBot has sold more than 22,000 MakerBots since it was formed in 2009. It’s Replicator 2 has accounted for half those sales in the past nine months alone.
Stratasys reckons desktop 3D printers will become a mainstay of the business. MakerBot also comes with thingiverse.com, which is widely used by the maker movement as a repository of downloadable CAD designs. Other services include software and plans by MakerBot to bring out a desktop 3D scanner. MakerBots might be seen as entry-level machines but they are often used in corporate R&D labs – even some of the biggest.
3D Systems, based in South Carolina, is the other American market leader in additive manufacturing. It recently bought an 80% stake in Phenix Systems, a French provider of direct-metal selective laser sintering. These machines print metal parts, sintering powder with a laser. The American companies lead with various 3D printing systems that make things in a range of industrial plastics, but direct-metal printing has remained something of a European speciality. One of the leaders in metal printing is EOS of Germany.
Phenix Systems makes printers that can produce things in ceramics and metals ranging from stainless steel to super alloys, non-ferrous alloys, precious metals and aluminium. Much of its work is for aerospace, automotive and medical devices, which are customised for individual patients. From the consumer end of the market to the industrial one, 3D printing is getting serious.


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