3D printers made the headlines last year when they first graced the exhibits at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014. This year, 3D printing pioneers are staging a comeback and showing off their significantly improved 3D printers that are believed to revolutionize businesses and change the way consumers shop.
These 3D printers from the following makers are expected to shape the growing 3D printing industry in 2015:
While most companies are focusing on how to improve 3D printing with plastic filaments, MakerBot introduces an innovation with the use of PLA composite filaments to print out objects that look and feel like they are made of wood, metal and stone. This works by combining real wood, metal and stone in powder form with a regular PLA filament so that the 3D printer churns out objects that look like they are made from real wood, metal and stone - because they are.
MakerBot has demonstrated its new printers capabilities by printing out a hammer, made from wood and metal composites combined with plastics, which the company says is useful for light hammering tasks.
Widely considered MakerBot's main competitor in the fused deposition modeling (DPM) market, Ultimaker has debuted two new 3D printers designed separately to meet the needs of businesses and lower-end looking for more affordable solutions.
Drawing from its success with the medium-sized Ultimaker 2, which is fast becoming a staple in business environments, the $3,030 Ultimaker 2 Extended can print objects up to 10 inches tall, which is 4 inches taller than what the Ultimaker 2 can generate. Both 3D printers share the same screen and touch wheel, but the Extended 3D printer can print in finer detail.
As for the Ultimaker 2 Go, it's the hobbyist's ultimate dream. The $1,450 printer is small, compact and portable enough to be carried around for those who like to print on the go.
Here is where things get interesting for bakers, chocolatiers and basically anyone with a sweet tooth. 3D Systems' new CocoJet, which was developed in partnership with The Hershey Company, can print custom designs for chocolate, whether it's dark, milk or white.
3D Systems is not the only one working on 3D printing food. Taiwan's XYZPrinting has a three-chambered machine that can combine flour, chocolate and other batter ingredients to print out cool new designs for cookies and cake decorations.
For now, XYZPrinting's new food printer is limited to unbaked desserts, but the company will eventually turn out an improved machine that can print pizza in the future.
Formlabs' new Form 1 may not be able to print food, but it sure can print entire speakers as demonstrated by the company at CES. Formlabs has introduced innovations in its 3D printing system, such as the use of a new, flexible resin and a draft mode to allow for high-speed printing at low resolutions to double up the printing speed without sacrificing the printing quality. Form 1 also uses a new software algorithm to generate more efficient print supports.
In the future, Formlabs predicts it won't just be able to print the speaker's housing and components, it will also be able to print the wires and magnets too.