2016 – The Year in 3D Printing


Aya Bentur  

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - 3D Printed Gear GE Additive CATA

This past year Additive Manufacturing leaped into the mainstream. Every day something new happened involving 3D printing: another company implementing additive manufacturing of spare parts, new technologies are coming of age, or a new innovative application appearing. Here is a brief summary of 2016 in Additive Manufacturing, covering design, materials, technology, business models and manufacturing systems.

New Technologies and New Ventures

The HP Multi Jet Fusion printer was released in May this year, for the sake of keeping things simple we will call it a 3D printer but it doesn’t quite fit that category. The definition of additive manufacturing is expanding as are the implications of 3D printing for manufacturing, the Multi Jet Fusion illustrates that change (3D printed mechanism below). At formnext 2016 HP showcased the printer as a production-ready commercial 3D printing system, and this month the new printer has begun shipping to companies such as Jabil. More about the new HP printer and other 3D printing options here.

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printed Example

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - RPU Pedals - Carbon M1

The 3D printing startup Carbon also started taking orders earlier this year for their new technology, the M1 3D printer, and are currently delivering the first 92 printers before the end of 2016 (above is an example of  3D printed rigid polyurethane on the M1). At the same time, the company has received over $80 million in financial investments from a group of investors, including General Electric, BMW Group, Nikon, and JSR.

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - GE CATA

GE investing in Carbon is just part of GE’s strategy of becoming “the premier digital industrial company”. This year GE also acquired two 3D-printer companies, Arcam AB and Germany’s Concept Laser. GE which also inaugurated the new Center for Additive Technology Advancement – CATA (above and up top) a part of the newly created GE Additive.

For Precise Quantity and Quality

3D printing expanded the focus from just quantity to both quantity and quality in design production. Othr, for example, has become a platform for quality 3D printed designs, bringing together design and technology. The products are all collaborations with known designers, focusing on three main principles: useful, aesthetic and unique. 3D printed in porcelain or metal, they produce numbered series, manufacturing without excess, of pieces such as the Pill Mortar & Pestle designed by Bambu Studio and the Lilium Carafe & Cup set designed by Felicia Ferrone. (both below).

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - OTHR -  Pill Mortar & Pestle designed by Bambu Studio

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Othr - Lilium Carafe & Cup set designed by Felicia Ferrone

Like Othr, companies which are known for their flawless design and meticulous details such as Nendo and Alessi also worked with 3D printing this year. In the recent exhibition in Tokyo titled Un-Printed Material, Nendo presented various states of paper and its momentary nature. The objects were 3D printed as thin lines adding another layer to the interpretation of material and time through Nendo’s work (below).

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Un Printed Material - Nendo

During the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year, Alessi exhibited the results of “Alessi goes digital”. They explored what 3D printing could mean for Alessi’s entrepreneurship through the re-design of a pen for 3D printing production (below).

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Alessi Goes Digital

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Maison 203 Penrose Omri Revesz

Maison 203 which prides itself on digital craftsmanship has launched two new jewelry collections this year utilizing 3D printing. The Penrose collection designed by Omri Revesz was showcased in September at Maison&Object, Paris and the Kalikon collection by Giulio Iacchetti (who also hosted the Alessi Goes Digital process in his studio) was launched earlier this year. Iacchetti used 3D printing to create spherical joints, generating an extremely flexible structure printed as a whole unit (below) while Revesz created a mathematical logic leading to natural patterns (above).

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Maison 203 - Kalikon collection by Giulio Iacchetti

The world of eyewear has been adopting 3D printing to create versatile collections as well as personal customization of shapes and sizes. Monoqool Glasses is one example from this year.

Last week the Design Museum Holon opened Overview, an exhibition dedicated to eyewear, including 400 rare items collected by optometrist Claude Samuel (exhibition space designed by Tal Gur), as well as works by 46 Israeli designers (full disclosure: I‘m one of them) and architects reacting to the question “what is eyewear?”. Many of the designers utilized 3D printing in various ways and materials – more on that in a future post.

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Monoqool Glasses

What is it Made of?

From glasses to lenses, Luxexcel has recognized a need for 3D printing not only the frame but the lens itself. Collaborating with Automation and Robotics, they are currently working on instituting a quality control program which would simplify customized manufacturing of lenses while keeping a high standard of quality and accuracy.

2016 The Year in 3D Printing - Luxexcel 3D Printed Lens

3D printing in metal has become even more common this year, used to produce industrial parts such Siemens production of spare parts for gas turbines (below), nano-scaled detail parts, gears, and jewelry. Direct Laser Sintering, Selective Laser Melting, or Electron Beam Melting, here is a recap.

On the more experimental side, another material that received attention this year is medication. This year the FDA approved a 3D printed drug for epilepsy. This development can help in structuring the release of the active components in the medication due to the layered build of the pill or create a more dissolvable pill making swallowing easier. It can also open a world of customized medication, for example, children receiving medication vary in weight quite a lot, 3D printing their medication would create a precise intake.

So many designs and developments this year, it really is impossible to fit it all in one post. What are your yearly favorites? We’d love to hear about it. Share your comments and suggestions below. For more inspiration and information follow us on Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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