4. I imagine that as a teacher, you would see this as one more aspect of the tech to explore with students. Are you evolving your curriculum to cover the importance of teaching future designers to think of "use case" ---> "Material choice" ----> "design influence" links, so they incorporate this into their design process flow?
With 3D printing gaining world wide attention on an almost daily basis, the main emphasis is placed on hardware and print quality. But what about 3D printing materials? Materials are a vital part to the 3D printing equation and without the right brand of filament then the 3D printing process can be put at risk if your materials you use are not up to scratch. We decided to ask an industry professional who is printing every day his views on the materials market and where the future is heading. Preet Jesrani is the CEO of our North American partners Designbox3D and has helped bring many smaller 3D printing manufacturers to prominence in the USA. This blog is part of a two part series with the follow up being posted by Preet tomorrow.
1. With the vast number of new ‘materials manufacturers’ entering the market on an almost daily basis, how do you see this effecting consumer 3D printing?
That’s a great question. The materials market has been saturated for some time now. By saturated, I mean there are too many companies still entering the market with nothing that differentiates them from the others. Their approach is not based on innovation, and they seem to think a “me too” mindset and cool looking packaging for the basic PLA/ABS offering will ensure success.
With adoption of 3D printing growing at a rapid pace, many of the new entrants on the consumer side don’t always see the importance of materials choice and that often leads to an initial disappointment when materials from unknown manufacturers are chosen (usually but not always because of their lower prices) and do not work as expected. My suggestion to any newcomer to the space would be to skip the unknown brands and look for companies that either have a track record for innovation or are attempting to be innovators (for new brands) with new materials.
2. You test out many different 3D printers, how does filament quality reflect on the image of the printer? Do you recommend a particular brand over others?
We do an insane amount of testing of printers we are seriously considering and then their multi-material capabilities (especially if the manufacturer makes that claim). Filament quality, in my opinion is of paramount importance in what initial end-user impressions are going to be. In most cases, we have observed that new users will likely choose something cheaper that they can source online, without any concern for pedigree and that usually does not end well.
We have printers that we use in benchmark testing against other printers that we are considering and also for materials testing. There are a select few new brands that we are testing at the moment that are very promising in their quality, materials range and product knowledge. One key standout for us has been the range of materials produced by our partners at PolyMaker.
Their material has worked extremely well across all the printers we distribute, resell or have tested. In addition, as a company, they are founded on the principles of continual research and innovation, much like another company whose products we like a lot – Colorfabb. Although we don’t directly work with Colorfabb
, they have great material and are heavily focused on R&D.
3. What’s your view on 3D printing companies using ‘chipped’ cartridges verse open source standard materials? Which one will have longevity?
There are two flavors of the “chipped approach” – filament cartridges and chipped resin from many of the higher end DLP machines. We think that at least in the professional/consumer desktop 3D printing people hate the chipped approach. It is an intentional “closed” approach purely motivated by profit. We would suggest that taking an “open filament” approach would encourage more companies and individuals to embrace 3D printing and at a faster pace.
All the innovation is also occurring outside of the “chipped material” world, so it is only a matter of time before either the approach or the companies pushing this fade into oblivion.
4. In terms of available materials, where do you see the future of 3D printing materials? Are we at a plateaux in terms of feasible materials of FDM printers?
Not at a plateau by any means. A great example is a polycarbonate – not long ago, our friends at PolyMaker released PC-Plus (their PolyCarbonate filament) with extrusion temperatures of 280 degrees, which works extremely well on most 3D printers that have a hot end range that allows extrusion at these temps. If I recall correctly, the extrusion temp for PC used to be 315-320 degrees.
So from what we are seeing at DesignBox3D, we are not at a plateau, rather that the innovation not just in material types but also their properties, and printability across a widening range of platforms is continual.
5. What’s the most exciting development you have seen in 3D printing over the past year and what are your predictions for the future?
Aside from some promising new and mature (it not just the printers and the materials after all – it is about the people that stand behind them) entrants on the hardware and materials side, the most interesting development for on a personal level has been the recent news that Apple filed for a patent on what appears to be a full-color 3D printer. As a fan of all perfect or near perfect products and most things Apple, thats a pretty big one.
6. At what stage is education adopting 3D printing in the USA? Is there rapid adoption of the technology by a majority of schools?
Market penetration in education here in the US is far lower, based on what we have seen here, but in 2015 we have had many schools and universities move past “kicking the tires” to actually developing a design curriculum, budgeting and investing in additive manufacturing technologies in a big way.
The biggest hurdle is usually in relation to funding, but as many of our school district clients have found, funding sources do exist and as long as the “use case” is well supported, schools are able to request and receive the funding they need to bring 3D printing to their students.
Another segment that we expect to see rapid growth in is libraries – that would truly put 3D printing within everyone’s reach.
7. What are educators feeding back about the materials market in 3d printing?
Educators in the US have a growing interest in exploring a variety of materials, so long as they are classroom safe. There has been a great deal of interest in the metal infused, wood and flexible varietals on the market now. ABS is not a popular material primarily because of the fumes/chemical smell. Any printer manufacturer that is focusing on the education space with an open machine and pushing ABS use (I can think of one or two) clearly is not thinking about the importance of a fume free classroom environment.
We always recommend PLA, PLA derivatives and PET to name a handful of materials we like from the enormous range of materials now available to choose from.
Check back tomorrow for the follow up to this blog, how detailing how ‘materials are being used in education’.