In 2008, several companies introduced new additive-manufacturing (AM) systems to the market. EOS (Germany), Objet Geometries (Israel), Mcor Technologies (Ireland), MTT Technologies Group (England), and three U.S. companies—Optomec, 3D Systems, and Z Corp.—introduced new machines.
In Q4 2008, chemicals giant Huntsman Advanced Materials (Switzerland) surprised many when it announced the development of an entirely new additive-manufacturing process and machine. In early 2009, Stratasys introduced the $14,900 uPrint system based on FDM technology. ReaLizer (Germany) and Bits from Bytes (England) also introduced systems in 2009.
In 2001, 3D Systems was the unit sales leader, with an estimated 415 machines sold that year. Sales then declined significantly the following two years. In 2003, Stratasys took over as the company with the largest installed base and has since extended its lead. Through the end of 2008, Stratasys had sold 11,366 FDM systems, compared to an estimated 4,274 by 3D Systems. With an installed base of 4,975 systems, Z Corp. pulled ahead of 3D Systems in 2008 with the second largest number of installations worldwide.
Note: The previous excerpt was taken from Wohlers Report 2009, a 250-page global study that focuses on the advances in additive manufacturing worldwide. A detailed overview of the report, as well as additional information on the market and industry, are available at
Wohlers Talk: Shapeways
A new type of additive manufacturing service provider is targeting consumers. One of the best examples is Netherlands-based Shapeways, a company that is a part of the Philips Electronics’ incubator program. The company, which launched in Q2 2008, allows customers to upload a design that Shapeways will manufacture using a method of AM. This may sound similar to a conventional AM service provider, although Shapeways focuses entirely on the consumer market. Also, it offers a portfolio of “creator” tools that makes it easier for customers unfamiliar with conventional design tools to create custom products. Prices range from a few dollars for a ring or key chain to $100 for a semi-custom “Lightpoem” lamp. Larger pieces can cost hundreds of dollars.
Shapeways Shops, a service that became available in January 2009, allows artists, designers, or anyone to set up their own “storefront” to sell AM-produced products to the public. Shapeways handles the sales transaction, manufacturing, and shipment to the customer. All manufacturing is done by laser sintering, fused deposition modeling, PolyJet, or ProMetal. Products include sculptures, jewelry, figurines, and a wide range of other consumer-oriented products. To an extent, Shapeways Shops is modeled after CafePress, a website that is said to be growing by about 2,000 new shops and 45,000 new products per day. The products from CafePress are custom t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, postcards, mouse pads, ornaments, clocks, and a wide range of other items.
I spoke with Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways, about the company’s recent introduction of metal-based products. Custom and semi-custom metal rings are now available from the company for as little as $10-30. A 50-mm (2-inch) custom statue is priced in the range of $40-50. The cost of larger parts rise according to the amount of material used to make them.
Weijmarshausen explained that tens of thousands of items are now available at the Shapeways gallery. He said the company is currently producing and selling thousands of products per month. Given the low prices of many of them, you’d have to sell thousands to begin to cover expenses. It’s difficult to know when Shapeways will become profitable, but at its current growth rate, it could occur sooner than one might expect.
Note: Wohlers Talk is a blog that offers views, perspective, and commentary on rapid product development and a wide range of other topics. More than
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The Future of Additive
Additive-manufacturing technology is making impressive advances. Hear about them at the 11th Annual International Wohlers Conference, titled The Future of Additive Manufacturing, on Friday, December 4 at EuroMold 2009 in Frankfurt, Germany. Plan to attend and discover the opportunities, challenges, and lessons learned from those who use AM technology for custom and special-edition products, replacement parts, and short-run and series production. Discover when it makes sense to consider it and when it does not.
By attending this conference, you will be able to meet and network with some of the most knowledgeable and well-connected individuals in the world of additive manufacturing. Bring your questions, concerns, and ideas and seek feedback as you explore the vast possibilities for the future. Go to
http://euromold.com to register or learn more about the program.
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