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5 Interesting developments for 3D printing in 2015

on Dec 18 2014 , 12:46:23

2014 has been an exciting year in 3D printing, both for the desktop and the industrial and commercial worlds alike.

1. Patents

2015 won’t be any less exciting or dramatic. Like the heady days of early PCs in the 80’s and 90’s, one thing that will help grow 3D printing are patents that have come to the end of their legal life. Patents relating to SLS deserve a closer look. It’s the very same technology that allows for metal 3D printing, for example. Even some SLA patents have expired this year along with the end of legal proceedings 3D Systems had with Formlabs, the maker of the SLA Form1 3D printer, which seem to be reaching a compromise as it relates to 3D Systems patents in the SLA printing space.

In the desktop printer space we will see more 3D printers that are based on other techniques, than just FFF/FDM. Following the end of some of these patents and legal challenges, SLA/DLP based printers will become more common place.

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2. Larger user base

With more and more being funded on crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, following the trends we have seen with FDM/FFF printers, the market looks to expand due to a larger user base. It will also bring down the price of resin used is these printers, making it cheaper to print. As there will be more competition in this market space, resin makers will have to find cheaper ways to make their products. On top of cheaper costs that come from larger manufacturing volume, 2015 will see more pressure to regulate 3D printing and the 3D printing industry as a whole.

3. No room for Luddites

Luddites among us will be hit hardest by 3D printing who want to try to cripple 3D printing before it can affect their business models. This can happen in many ways and provides enough material for several books on the subject.

4. Regulation

Due to regulations, there will be intellectual law challenges in the courts and more pressure on 3D content providers. Some have already compared 3D printing to be as dangerous as Naspster was to the music industry: calling it the next frontier in copyright infringement. The real question is how bad the lawsuits will be and what will be the tactics used. My hope is that we will see more cooperation and harmonious coexistence between the players involved as with Shapeways and Hasbro who partnered up for fan made My Little Pony art.

5. Software

More computer graphics and CAD software will support direct printing from within the software, similar to Adobe’s own 3D printing within Photoshop consequently making printing easier for the end user.  It could almost be similar to print printing a text document with your favorite office applications. Top computer graphics software will integrate to 3D printin, resulting in friendly modeling tools as we saw earlier in 2014 with Modo and MeshFusion.

There will be many interesting and revolutionary developents in 2015, both good and bad, but my advice for both users and manufactures is to take it one step at a time.

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Mike Grauer Jr is a Puget Sound area 3D printing consultant and evangelist for home 3D printing. He has a BFA in Animation and a MBA in marketing. He is active in all areas of 3D printing.

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