We’re back with Part 3 of our four-part series on analyzing all the impactful market activity announced at Euromold 2014.
In Part 1, we named Prodways as the vendor with the most potentially impactful new products and initiatives in the additive manufacturing industry showcased at Euromold 2014 –mostly due to their development of a photopolymerization printer that can utilize pastelike composites featuring high concentrations of metal, ceramic, or bio compatible nano particles. We also discussed 3D Systems’ modest offerings of new printing systems (only modest by their own standard set at last year’s show!).
In Part 2, we applauded Stratasys for rolling out a huge number of new entries in its existing product lines that bring the best aspects of multi-material printing to a potentially wider customer base. We also though EOS’ new customer focused consulting services represented a potentially more exciting announcement than its latest M290 system.
So here we are at Part 3, where we’ll be focusing on announcements from voxeljet and Renishaw – two more of Europe’s finest publicly traded additive manufacturing companies.
Voxeljet Looks to Dominate Sand Printing Applications With New Binders
If you know anything about additive manufacturing of castable molds and cores, you know that sand is the choice for industrial applications through the binder jetting process. And if you know anything about industrial sand binder jetting providers, you know that ExOne and voxeljet are the commercial providers of such systems.
At Euromold 2014, voxeljet made a pretty significant play to try become the leader in sand based 3D printing. With the new Phenolic-Direct-Binding (PDB) process being developed by voxeljet, sand printing becomes much more accessible. According to voxeljet, the method allows for greater precision and strength in sand parts. But the real kicker for me is the benefits to recycling and less stringent requirements on sand characteristics and pre-treatments before the process can even take place. This means that big users of sand molds, like the automotive industry, will further buy into the use of 3D printing to create complex molds for parts that have to be cast for end-use.
An added benefit to the development of PDB is its ability to fabricate ceramics. While this could pay dividends in the future, for now, the economics of printing ceramics in an industrial additive manufacturing machine are a little murky. It’s the sand that we’re excited about.
Overall, voxeljet could be on to something fairly significant here. Sand printing is pretty big for automotive manufacturers, and looks to be growing in this segment all the time. At least until the fabrication of direct-metal parts catches hold. Even still, sand printing of molds and cores is a unique area for additive manufacturing that bridges the worlds of industrial production and additive manufacturing, and it is these areas that hold big potential for getting 3D printing integrated into manufacturing on a big scale.
Renishaw Teases A Metal AM System All It’s Own
Renishaw is a bit of an oddball in the area of metal powder bed fusion additive manufacturing providers. The company has decades of experience in manufacturing equipment, but has only recently gotten into additive manufacturing, and has sold a single product in the market since acquiring the UK branch of MTT. This sole SLM-based product, the AM250, was sort of grandfathered in to Renishaw’s new additive business.
All of that is going to change at some point next year, however, as the company announced it is developing a totally new metal additive manufacturing system aimed at production volumes. The project is called EVO, although I expect the official commercial product to be called something slightly different. EVO will apparently feature large build volumes, a 500W fiber laser, and have a focus on automation and likely built-in process monitoring.
Renishaw has been playing a bit of catch-up in my opinion when it comes to metal additive manufacturing, as their current product doesn’t have any discernable differentiation from other similar systems on the market that are sold in multiple configurations. But in terms of future potential, Renishaw has huge upside due to their experience with manufacturing equipment design. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that no other firm currently in the metal powder bed fusion space has as much applicable experience. So the promise of a new metal AM system developed entirely in-house by Renishaw seems quite promising.
Will EVO break the “catch-up” cycle in metal AM for Renishaw? With the details released at Euromold, it’s difficult to truly say. The project likely won’t see commercial release until the end of 2015. Of the features hinted at by Renishaw at Euromold, every single other metal AM system provider is working on similar features to integrate into new (and in some cases, existing) systems. The key will be in how each of these companies, including Renishaw, applies these features. We’re giving Renishaw the benefit of the doubt based on their history alone.