Another Hat in the Ring: Will Xerox Shake up the 3D Printing Market?

xerox

At Xerox’s recent Investor Day 2019, a company that has been indirectly involved in the 3D printing industry for many years, announced its acquisition of metal additive manufacturing systems company Vader Systems and the company’s plans to develop a direct role in the market for 3D printing technologies.

Is Xerox entering 3D printing in this way, at this time, like a big fish leaping into a small, yet crowded pond?  In the last two years, there are quite a few big fish which have jumped into the proverbial 3D printing ‘pond,’ and while said pond keeps getting bigger, it’s certainly becoming more and more crowded.

Statements from Xerox regarding their plans for 3D printing are very reminiscent of other major companies which have done the same in recent years, with the most direct comparison likely to be HP.

Will Xerox shake up the 3D printing market?

The company’s biggest and most direct influence for now appears will occur via its acquisition of Vader Systems. Vader, in SmarTech’s opinion, is an “aging startup” and a developer of what is claimed to be an innovative metal additive manufacturing technology based at some level on inkjet technology. While Xerox has also made some claims on its intent to bring solutions into the polymer 3D printing market including materials, printing systems, and software, we do not have concrete details as of now so we will focus on Vader and metal additive manufacturing.

What impact might Xerox have on metal AM?

From a technical perspective, Xerox’s acquisition makes some sense. The company has a longstanding history in inkjet technology, and has been a long time supplier of various elements of this technology to other 3D printer manufacturers who use it in their own printers. Vader’s technology is based on some of the same tenants of inkjet printing, with the inherent (theoretical) scalability that comes with it. With that in mind, a lot of my thoughts on how to answer the question of “will Xerox shake up the metal additive manufacturing market” end up circling back to “what are the reasonable expectations for inkjet-oriented technologies to compete against fusion or extrusion based technologies?”

There’s no easy way to answer or opine on that in a blog post, but for now, I’ve made a few observations and formed some opinions that have started to shape my thoughts on Xerox’s potential impact (keeping in mind that more concrete details are still to come).

First, the primary statements regarding Xerox’s own motives for the Vader acquisition (and apparently it’s overall upcoming 3D printing activities that will be revealed in more detail), are based on the perception that, “manufacturing customers want to use 3D printing, but the current offerings only serve the prototyping market well, not broad manufacturing.

I consider this a very risky statement to put forth as the bases for a large investment and business strategy as this this perception is becoming rapidly outdated.   I would argue that manufacturing customers are using current 3D printing technologies and they want to use them more as they are able to overcome production challenges.  Suppliers and customers are increasingly messaging parts production in their AM efforts.

Xerox is also staking its position in metal AM on a technology that is decidedly not impacting the broader AM market as of yet. While there is an argument to be made for going with an outsider whose technology matches up closely with your own expertise, at this time I believe that the manufacturing community at large is ready to buy into a specific metal AM manufacturing process and work at fine tuning their processes and technologies to advance. To this end, technologies like powder bed fusion, and metal binder jetting have exponentially greater support in terms of end-to-end solutions.

There also comes a point where switching and experimenting with other metal AM methods provides diminishing returns for manufacturing customers. Xerox will have to sell the most influential users of metal AM today on a new process and at a time when we’re seeing such strong momentum behind some of the existing and more widely adopted methods.

While for now I retain a healthy amount of skepticism about Xerox’ potential success in metal additive manufacturing. I look forward to learning more about the specific solutions Xerox will bring in 2019 and beyond.

By Scott Dunham – Vice President, SmarTech Publishing

 

 

Titomic & Fincantieri to test materials in first step of evaluating AM for shipbuilding

Since partnering with shipbuilding company Fincantieri last month, Australian metal AM company Titomic has signed a Material Science Testing (MST) agreement with Fincantieri Australia. The agreement is the first step in evaluating Titomic’s Kinetic Fusion technology’s viability for Fincantieri’s manufacturing processes.

As part of the new agreement, Titomic will conduct various tests on a Fincantieri specified alloy (following ASTM International Standards) using its AM process to achieve desired mechanical and chemical properties. The tests will include hardness, strength, porosity and chemistry analysis tests. The goal of these tests will be to offer insight into the material properties, performance and costs of Titomic’s additive manufacturing process.

“We are pleased to kick off this first project with Fincantieri as part of our MoU,” said Jeff Lang, CTO of Titomic. “We will be producing test samples at our new state of the art facility in Melbourne in order to conduct the stringent tests required. This is the first step towards manufacturing large marine parts on our metal 3D printers of limitless scale.”

As part of the companies’ agreement, Titomic’s technology and operational team recently made a trip to the Riva Trigoso Shipyard in Italy to learn how Fincantieri’s mechanical ship components are designers, developed and produced. Eventually, the aim is to transfer Fincantieri’s marine technology to Australia.

“Titomic’s technology combined with Fincantieri’s technology transfer program to Australia creates the potential to return Australia’s capability in mechanical componentry,” said Sean Costello, Director at Fincantieri Australia. “Our aim is to return high-value jobs to Australia, reduce costs and become sovereign as a shipbuilding nation.”

Fincantieri

May 14: Titomic signs MoU with Fincantieri

In a world first for AM adoption by the Marine sector, Titomic signed a MoU to work with Fincantieri to evaluate the potential for the Company’s additive manufacturing process, Titomic Kinetic Fusion, to be used in Fincantieri’s manufacturing activities. Effective immediately and with a 12 months duration, Titomic’s signing with Fincantieri explores the Company’s proprietary processes to complement and improve existing manufacturing process and is the start of a synergistic partnership.

“This agreement with Fincantieri marks a significant milestone for future shipbuilding and industrial scale additive manufacturing,” said Jeff Lang, CEO and CTO of Titomic. “Titomic’s signing with Fincantieri to evaluate our Titomic Kinetic Fusion process will not only add value to existing manufacturing and repair activities, it will lead to the creation of next generation high tech vessels.”

With 20 shipyards across four continents, Fincantieri S.p.A is one of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups and number one by diversification and innovation. It is the leader in cruise ship design and construction, and a reference player in all high-tech shipbuilding industry sectors – from naval to offshore vessels, from high-complexity special vessels and ferries – to mega-yachts, ship repairs and conversions, systems and equipment production, and after-sales services.

Fincantieri also carries out maintenance and refurbishment of cruise ships – a major and growing international industry. The company is also one of the shortlisted bidders for The Future Frigates SEA 5000 program. Titomic was awarded Best Maritime Innovation award at Pacific 2017 International Maritime Exposition. This MoU affirms Titomic’s entrance into the shipbuilding and offshore industries. The initial R&D phase will take place at Titomic’s Melbourne facility.

Dario Deste, Chairman of Fincantieri Australia also commented on the deal: “We are pleased to partner with Titomic, an innovative advanced manufacturing company, to pursue new technological development, continuous improvement and value creation for all our stakeholders. The significance of this partnership examines how we can introduce new manufacturing technologies to make Australia sovereign in advanced naval technology and improve our solutions on the world-wide market.”

UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing invests in a Digital Metal 3D printer  

Digital Metal’s unique high-precision metal binder-jetting technology continues to raise great interest in the AM field. The UK’s renowned center for innovative technology, the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM), has just decided to add a Digital Metal printer to their already extensive range of advanced manufacturing equipment. The NCAM is part of the Manufacturing …

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CTC to offer EBAM metal printing through new partnership with Sciaky, Inc.

Sciaky, Inc., a subsidiary of Phillips Service Industries, Inc. (PSI) and leading provider of metal additive manufacturing (AM) solutions, have entered a strategic partnership with Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) to support a growing demand for high quality, large-scale additively manufactured metal parts. CTC will offer Sciaky’s industry-leading Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) metal 3D printing technology to its diverse range of …

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