3D printing is one of the most exciting areas of current technological development. It’s not a new concept (engineers have been using big and expensive 3D printers for decades), but it’s only in the last few years that 3D printing has come within the reach of everyone. No longer confined to technical applications, it’s finding its way into homes, offices and schools.
Last year, some incredible 3D printers were released and this year, we’ve already seen the likes of Ultimaker, MarkForged and Mcor launch new products.
In this article, we are going to take a look at 10 exciting 3D printers and technologies to look out for in 2016. We’ll start with the 3D printers that are available to buy right now:
1. Ultimaker 2+
Launched at CES 2016, the Ultimaker 2+ is the successor to the award-winning Ultimaker 2, one of the best desktop 3D printers of 2015.
New features include a geared feeder system that prevents models from skipping during the printing process for better consistency. This geared feeder also allows you to easily switch filaments out. There’s also a new swappable nozzle system that gives you better control over print speed and detail. You can now switch between 0.25, 0.4, 0.6 and 0.8 mm nozzles.
There’s also a larger version of this printer called the Ultimaker Extended 2+. This is the same printer, except it has a roomier 223 x 223 x 305 mm build volume. Both these printers have a layer resolution of 20-600 micron and an X, Y, Z accuracy of 12.5, 12.5, 5 micron. This means the 2+ is an extremely accurate 3D printer that’ll print at a layer height of 0.02 mm.
2. Zortrax Inventure
The Zortrax Inventure is a desktop class 3D printer. It uses LPD Plus technology and Zortrax’s own filaments to print complex, detailed and robust parts for moving mechanisms.
With water soluble supports and a HEPA filter, the Zortrax Inventure is an excellent choice for an enclosed environment such as a classroom or office. The printer has a unique Dissolvable Support System (DSS) that eliminates the need for manual processing – simply submerge your models in a special water-based liquid and the supports will melt away.
The Inventure is also super-accurate. It’ll print at a resolution up to 90 micron with an X, Y, Z accuracy of 1.5, 1.5, 1.25 micron. The build volume is 140 x 140 x 140 mm and although that isn’t the biggest, the Inventure steals the show when it comes to quality and reliability. It’s been designed to be used in demanding environments and prints always look incredible.
The 3DP1000 by 3D Platform is one of the biggest 3D printers on the market, with a colossal build volume of 1000 x 1000 x 500 mm, or over 400,000cm³.
So big is this 3D printer that you can print V8 engine blocks in one go. It supports a wide range of filaments including ABS, PLA, PETG, Nylon, HIPS and PVA and it will print at a layer resolution down to 70 micron. As you might have guessed, this 3D printer is for industrial prototyping, and as a result is has industrial-strength mechatronics for unrivalled reliability.
The 3DP1000 is also an engineer’s dream machine, with an open source filament system and open source software that can be edited and tweaked. The possibilities are endless with this 3D printer, but it’ll cost you. Prices start at a snip under $22,000, although 3D Platform do have a number of leasing options, should you wish to rent your 3DP1000.
4. Mcor ARKe
The Mcor ARKe is perhaps the most wonderful 3D printer on this list. Using only paper, you can print full-colour 3D models using a 3D printer no larger than the average LaserJet.
Launched at CES 2016, this is the world’s first full-colour desktop 3D printer. It prints photorealistic 3D models in high-definition colour at the same specifications as the industrial grade Mcor Iris HD, a printer that costs thousands more. It’s completely safe and eco-friendly too, with no toxic chemicals used in the print process or harmful emissions.
What’s the catch? There is none. Mcor have big plans – they want to be a billion dollar company – so they have given the ARKe a very tempting price tag of under £8,000. That’s nothing for a 3D printer that will print full colour and at a layer height down to 0.1 mm. It has a spacious build volume of 240 x 205 x 125 mm too. It really is a cracking 3D printer.
5. Form 2
The Formlabs Form 2 is an incredible 3D printer. It’s the successor to the award-winning Form 1+, an excellent 3D printer in its own right.
But the new model is bigger, faster and simply better, so if you are in the market for a steroelithography (SLA) 3D printer, the Form 2 is the one you want. It has a new sliding peel mechanism that gently removes parts from the print bed, before a wiper system glides across the optical window, resetting the resin. It also has a powerful 250Mw laser and 405nm violet laser, capable of printing at a layer thickness of 25-200 micron.
The Form 2 has a 40% bigger build volume versus the Form 1+ at 145 x 145 x 175 mm and a colour touchscreen, as well as Wi-Fi support. Also new is automatic level sensing, which eliminates the messy work of refilling the resin tank. The Form 2 is also as stylish as it is practical, and it’s ready to go out of the box after a simple initial set up process.
6. Mark Two
The Mark Two by Markforged is the only 3D printer in the world that can print fibreglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. This 3D printer uses nylon as the core build material, and a second extruder head embeds nylon parts with continuous strands of composite reinforcement.
There are three versions of the Mark Two; Standard, Professional & Enterprise. The Standard model is the cheapest – this can print nylon, fibreglass and carbon fibre. The Professional model can print these plus Kevlar, thanks to a special extruder. And finally the Enterprise version can print everything the Professional can plus High Temperature Resistance Nylon. Nylon parts embedded with Carbon Fibre is as strong as 6061 aluminium, and as a result, the Mark Two is going to be popular among engineers and especially those in the automotive and aviation industries.
The Mark Two is also incredibly easy to use and its bespoke software, Eiger, is among the most intuitive of any. Overall, this is one of the best FFF/CFF 3D printers on the market.
7. Carbon 3D
With $100 million in funding from Google Ventures, California-based company Carbon 3D have a lot of expectations to meet. Back in March 2015, the company unveiled a new 3D printing process that’s up to 25-100 times faster than anything on the market today.
That technology is called Continuous Liquid Interface Production Technology (CLIP), and it works by harnessing light and oxygen to rapidly cure a resin. While that might sound a lot like stereolithography, CLIP is a different technique entirely. Rather than print layer-by-layer, it prints in a 3-dimensional way, using oxygen as the inhibiting agent.
To give you an idea of its speed, with CLIP you can print a 51mm diameter complex object in 6 ½ minutes. It takes 11 ½ hours to do that with a traditional SLA 3D printer.
Now, you can’t actually buy a Carbon 3D printer yet, because there aren’t any to buy. The printing process is simply a concept right now, but when the time’s right, they will launch one, and there’s a good chance it will change our expectations of 3D printing forever.
Vancouver-based company NewPro3D is a real threat to Carbon 3D. NewPro3D’s printing process, Intelligent Liquid Interface (ILI), is even faster. For example, while CLIP can print a 51mm complex object in 6 ½ minutes, NewPro3D’s ILI will get it done in 4.5 minutes.
As with Carbon3D, Newpro3D don’t have a 3D printer out just yet. But the technology is showing huge potential. The way it works is as such: ILI integrates a transparent hydrophilic membrane between a photo-curing resin and light source. This creates what NewPro3D call a ‘dead zone’ between the membrane and printed object, eliminating the work usually performed by an extruder, such as with traditional FFF 3D printers. By eliminating this, the printing process is sped up considerably, while maintaining a high resolution.
Who’s the winner between Carbon 3D and NewPro3D? Neither just yet. The winner will be the first one to bring a 3D printer to market that lives up to its claims.
9. BigDelta WASP 12M
The BigDelta WASP 12M is a 12-meter tall 3D printer, capable of printing a house. WASP is an acronym for World’s Advanced Saving Project, and they strive to bring 3D printable homes to the 3rd world. The 12M is the first in a line of products they will use to do that.
WASP wants to create a means for affordable fabrication of homes, and the BigDelta has the ability to print using rapid set cement and clay and raw soil. The latter two materials are the Holy Gail, because they are available practically everywhere on earth. The key to structural integrity is the type of additive used, which will be different depending on the climate.
The BigDelta 12 will be commercially available to anyone who wants it. Financing the company say will be discussed privately. But building houses isn’t the end of WASP’s dreams – they want to create whole villages one day. Farfetched? Perhaps, but anything is possible with 3D printing, and the company are certainly passionate enough to see it through.
10. HP Multi Jet Fusion Tech
HP are a household name when it comes to Inkjet and LaserJet printers, and the company is hoping to be the very same with 3D printing. HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology is said to offer greater control over texture, friction, strength, elasticity and electrical and thermal properties than other 3D printing technologies, and it’s kicking up quite a bit of interest.
The build material is not yet known, with HP keeping that information under wraps, but what we do know is a little bit about the process: a thin layer of material is laid down, and then a Thermal Inkjet array passes from left to right, printing chemical agents across the working area. The material is then built up layer by layer, until a complete part is formed.
HP claims that their technology offers best-in-class total cost of ownership and new levels of accuracy. HP are expected to announce further information this year about their Multi Jet technology (perhaps they’ll even launch a printer), so stay tuned.