Need an executive level primer on the current state of 3D printing.
June 18, 2014 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get up to speed on the current state of 3D printing, from a pretty high level. I'd like to know what the major technologies are, how they compare to each other, who the major players are, and how their products compare with each other.

Assume I'm familiar with the general concepts but haven't been following the latest news. So some questions that come to mind are: what materials can be used now? are they strong enough to be 'products' or is it still more of a prototyping tool? what are the price points involved? who makes the best machines? what technologies are on the (realistic) horizon? I'm interested in the whole picture, from makerbot machines you might have in your home, to professional level products only large corporations could afford.
posted by danny the boy to Technology (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'll be following this thread with interest, but one other thing to keep in mind is that companies like Shapeways will do 3D printing on-demand at rates that seem quite reasonable, using up-to-date machines that you don't have to buy or maintain, in a variety of materials and processes. So if you're just thinking about playing around with the technology and don't mind waiting for your models to ship, it might be a better choice than building/buying your own.
posted by contraption at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2014

For one datapoint, SpaceX is 3D printing rocket engines.
Are you willing to pay $hundreds or $thousands for a report or are you looking for free websites?
posted by Sophont at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2014

As far as materials, I was just flipping through a popular press account of visiting the ATX East manufacturing trade convention and the author states that the brochures accompanying this Eos printer claim that their larger models can print using "any weldable metal", the examples being titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel.
posted by XMLicious at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2014

Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014

"The second annual MAKE Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing is here to help, with reviews of 23 printers currently on the market. In this year’s testing, we assembled a diverse team of expert reviewers and put these machines through a battery of tests to determine this year’s standouts. We focused on the printer’s end users and made recommendations based on goals, budget, and usage setting. Learn about how we tested for this issue.

This issue issue delves into:

Reviews of 23 3D printers
3D scanners and filament extruders
Cool, useful, and specialized 3D printed applications
CAD Software tutorials

This year we have published the seven reviews for the this year’s standout printers online and will be publishing one additional review each day until they are all available."

Link to buy is here.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Recent MeFi post mentioning some current and on-the-horizon industrial-level applications.
posted by XMLicious at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2014

The Wikipedia article on 3D printing is a great place to start.
posted by Behemoth at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2014

There is so much information out there. For News the Best site is

For questions and answers

There is no doubt that 3D printing is going to be a game changer over the next 5-10 years, that's for sure. The materials and printing technologies are developing rapidly. There are several methods of printing, FDM which are the cheap makerbot replicator devices, SLA which are more expensive and use UV light to cure a liquid resin, then there is SLS which is selective laser sintering, used by SpaceX and other to print with metal powders.
posted by edbri871 at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the links guys, especially that Make guide, LuckySeven. That looks like a pretty helpful guide to the consumer market.

I was also hoping for a lay-of-the-land type summary of the companies in the space, the kind of information someone involved in this stuff would know but isn't going to show up in a wikipedia article or google search. Like: these 4 companies are on the hobbyist end, these 6 own the mid-range/industrial segment (with this one company being the clear leader), but another company is a newcomer with a really promising tech that looks disruptive, etc.

If I was introducing someone to say, console video gaming, I wouldn't necessarily tell them about spec differences, but that there are 3 major manufacturers, with two in direct competition (sharing a largely identical pool of content) and the third serving a sizable but meaningfully different demographic. Several minor competitors and technologies, the best of which have historically been acquired/co-opted by the 3 main players, and one theme in particular that looks ascendant in the near future (headmounted VR).
posted by danny the boy at 4:02 PM on June 18, 2014

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