The Jalisco company Shift 3D announced in Mexico the arrival in the country of the “Hp Jet Fusion 3D Printers” series, a model that will reduce costs and time of 3D printing. The announcement is a signal of the healthy business environment of 3D Printers.
3D printers had their popularity boom five years ago, partly because of their appearance in the television series of The Big Bang Theory, the enthusiasm of the maker community and expired patents. However, this technology exists since the 80s with a less fancy name: additive manufacturing.
The irruption of 3D printers
Chuck Hull was the inventor of the first 3D printer with a method he called stereolithography. However, Hull’s process is old-fashioned now. Currently, the most commonly used method for 3D printing is fused deposition modeling (FDM), patented by the Stratasys company.
Stratasys has been a 3-D Printer manufacturing since 1989 and has been present in Latin America since 2005, although its first offices in Mexico opened until 2013. In Latin America, Stratasys has offices in Mexico City, São Paulo, and Santiago de Chile.
In Mexico, 3D printers are traded since the 90s. The TCM company was a pioneer in this market when almost nobody knew them. Juan González Luna, director of TCM, commented for Forbes that “to sell the first machine it took me two years, neither who knew them nor justified them.”
The 3D printer market will grow at a rate of 16% annually until 2022, to reach a value of $11 B, according to the US consultancy Aritzon.
In Mexico, Stratasys reports an accelerated expansion, growing 770% in 2015-2016 and 202% in 2016. Despite the reliable results, the company had to face the problem of convincing its customers about how additive manufacturing could improve its industrial processes, according to Carlos Ramírez, Stratasys regional director.
According to Ramírez, Stratasys’ best clients are in the education, electronics, and automotive sectors. UNAM and IPN are two of Stratasys’ main clients, although these educational institutions usually opt for less expensive equipment. The aerospace industry is another growing sector.
The leasing of machines is an option for small and medium companies that cannot afford the cost of acquiring new 3D printers. In any case, 3D Printers had become crucial hardware in the companies’ workflow.
A 3D printer at home?
3D printers are an effective solution for several industries. This technology allows them to have the necessary parts for their work processes, without having the inconvenience of transport times from other sites.
However, 3D printers have not been able to become part of people’s domestic life, although in 2011 in Makerbot they were convinced otherwise.
Makerbot took advantage of the expiration of some Stratasys patents to manufacture low-cost 3D printers that could be used at home by ordinary users. Some technology specialists criticized the idea, such as analyst Petter Basieler: “People are a bit ill-informed about how easy it is.”
3D printers require a satisfying level of technical knowledge, which has prevented their adoption by a wider audience. Makerbot collided with this reality, and Stratasys bought the company later.
As a way to overcome these barriers, Shift 3D offers training courses to know and operate HP additive manufacturing equipment from its exhibition floor in Guadalajara.
Increasingly affordable technology
The adoption of 3D printers has benefited from the reduction of their cost. González Luna says that when he started trading with 3D printers, they cost $ 120,000. The price for a similar device is now $ 10,000.
3D printing equipment also has the disadvantage of being slow, so reducing your time is one of the challenges for this technology. A piece can take 16 hours to manufacture, and the machine needs to rest two hours for every four hours of work to avoid problems in its engines.
These drawbacks are a good sign: there is still wide room for innovation.