Wednesday, December 28, 2011

3D Printing in 2012 and Beyond

This week's blog post is by John Kawola, Z Corporation CEO.

2011 was an eventful year for Z Corporation and the 3D printing/additive manufacturing industry worldwide. There is continued strong demand for prototypes, tools, fixtures….all the parts that this industry has been about for the past 20 years. But perhaps more importantly, 3D printing/additive manufacturing is beginning to really make a move to users and applications outside of the engineer trying to see if two parts fit together.

We see architects building a model of a new project, walking into the selection committee and winning the business. We see sales and marketing folks using printed models to attract new clients. We see printed parts being used for real end-use medical applications. We see consumers beginning to experience this industries capabilities through access to parts on-line or with very low cost 3D printer kits. We see 3D printing/additive manufacturing transforming the way that industries think about design, both functional and aesthetic. 2011 was a year where 3D printing/additive manufacturing really started to capture wider public awareness. Unlike any prior year, 3D printing/additive manufacturing really made its way into the mainstream press and consciousness.

In 2011, Z Corporation agreed to be acquired by 3D Systems. This transaction is expected to close early in 2012. We embrace the efforts by the 3D Systems team to think beyond one technology and beyond being simply a machine manufacturer. For 3D printing/additive manufacturing to continue to grow, new applications and new users will need to be continually brought into the mix. They will require software to learn and be creative. They will require printers that are affordable and easy to use. They will require on-line service providers that will deliver parts through the mail as easily and simply as ordering digital photographs today. We are excited to be part of this revolution, to bring our style of 3D printing into the mix and to contribute in any way we can.

We expect that all of the trends that we saw in 2011 will continue to grow and expand in 2012. The use of 3D printers in education and architecture will become a normal part of what people expect. A custom 3D printed part will become common as birthday, anniversary and workplace gifts. New engineers for the first time will really begin to optimize their designs based on the fact that AM removes practically all manufacturing constraints. All of these trends bode for a strong and bright future for this industry.

I am excited to be a part of it.