Major changes are happening in the world of 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM), in the three key technology areas of materials, machines, and software. But if the industry -- and the design engineers and OEMs it serves -- are to grow, all three of those areas must become much more tightly integrated.
As patents have expired on existing 3D printing processes, most notably FDM (fused deposition modeling), numerous startup companies have come up with a wide variety of low-cost machines based on those processes. This has also opened up a huge materials market, as both existing materials companies and completely new ones have started supplying a much broader range of filaments and other materials.
"For making quality prototypes, you can get desktop machines today for as low as around $1,000," Autodesk's Duann Scott, business development manager for its digital manufacturing group, told Design News . "This has ushered in a new era of faster prototyping, made on less costly machines, with lower-cost quality materials. Similar trends -- lower-cost machines and a broader materials palette -- will also impact different 3D printing processes as patents expire for other additive technologies, such as selective laser sintering and stereolithography."
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