This was my first time attending an Inside 3D Printing conference and I was excited to see all of the different presenters, keynotes, and 3D printing technology on display for the first time. This post basically serves as my recap of the week by going over the 10 things that stood out to me most at the conference (in no particular order).
It should be noted, though, that while I did get to see most of the booths I set out to see, I definitely did not see everything at the conference and so this list shouldn’t be taken as the end-all-be-all of recaps from the week.
#1 Trusty LulzBot
If you’ve spent much time on 3D Forged, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of LulzBot (Aleph Objects) both as a 3D printer manufacturer and as a company. They’re big on keeping their printers open source, which is a plus in itself, but their printers are also top-quality.
And, while the LulzBot team didn’t have a new printer to announce, they did show off their new Flexystruder v2, which makes printing with flexible material a breeze. This also comes on the heels of two other recent announcement from the Colorado-based manufacturer…
A week ago LulzBot announced that they were releasing their LulzBot v2 Hot Ends for use with other RepRap and DIY 3D printers. And a few weeks ago at the World Maker Faire in New York they announced their new Cura software.
Ultimately, I already knew a lot about LulzBot and their printers, but it was good see them at the conference and get a chance to meet some of the team. Overall, the company has repeatedly pushed the envelope with their 3D printers and as such they are continually reaffirming their position as one of the top consumer-level 3D printer manufacturers in the world.
#2 AIO Robotics Displays their All-In-One Machine
Another company that I really enjoyed talking to was AIO Robotics, who had their All-In-One ZEUS on display. The ZEUS also makes my Best 3D Printers list, if nothing but for the fact that of how innovative their machine is (it is a very good printer, too).
The ZEUS is not just a 3D printer, but also serves as a 3D scanner as well. It is the first device of its kind and as such is a pioneer in the industry. It has the ability to print in resolutions up to 80 microns and it can scan at resolutions up to 150 microns. It also has a decent-sized build volume at 8″ x 6″ x 5.7″.
But perhaps the best part about the ZEUS is the team behind it. CEO Jens Windau was on the floor (along with Marco Meyer and Lukas Lok) and they talked to me in length about the ZEUS, its future, and the business side of running AIO Robotics.
A big plus for AIO Robotics, in my opinion, is their dedication to getting their 3D printer into the educational sector. An important part of that is the fact that they offer setup and training services for the ZEUS. That way they aren’t just dropping off their printer and leaving the instructors and students to figure it out on their own. Instead, they are actually engaging with the instructors and students and are educating them on how to use the ZEUS.
AIO Robotics was on my radar before, but after speaking with their team and seeing the ZEUS, I’m even more excited to see any news and announcements coming from their camp.
#3 Octave Offers Much More Than Just Filament
You’ll have to forgive me if this was a bit more obvious, but my only experience with Octave prior to seeing them at the Growshapes booth in the Inside 3D Printing exhibition hall, was seeing their filament listed on Amazon.
However, they do a ton more than just sell filament…
Originally founded as an online seller of optical media equipment and accessories, Octave has now jumped into the consumer-level 3D printer market. Some of the big brands that they sell and are affiliated with are UP!, Zortrax, Taulman, Polymakr, Printrbot, and FlashForge.
I got a chance to speak to Octave’s President, Roy Worthington, and he talked to me a little bit about Octave as well as raved about the Zortrax M200, which I completely agreed with as I’m in the process of finishing up a review on the M200 right now and I can attest to how truly awesome of a 3D printer it is.
Tammy Fung of Growshapes also took the time to talk to me about Polymakr’s wide range of high-quality filaments, which are available from Octave. Growshapes is the top reseller of DAVID 3D Scanners in the US and have a partnership with Octave.
#4 The M3D is Primed to Dominate the Sub-$500 3D Printer Market
When I first saw pictures of M3D’s Micro 3D printer, it didn’t register in my head just exactly how small it was. But when I saw the M3D Micro in person at the M3D booth in the exhibitor’s hall it dawned on me that the Micro is definitely one of the smallest desktop printers on the market.
In fact, the printer is so small that it’s overall dimensions measure in at a mere 7.3″ per side (a cube). At $349 right now through M3D’s website, the Micro will directly compete with the Printrbot Simple Maker’s Kit, the Hictop Prusa i3, and the Printrbot Play 1505.
But, unlike the printers listed above, the M3D is sleek-looking, won’t take up nearly as much space, and through an extremely efficient design is actually able to provide a bigger print volume than the Simple Maker’s Kit. And, despite being half its size, the Micro has a similarly sized print volume to the Play 1505.
On top of that, the Micro is plug & play ready, has a self-leveling print bed, can hit resolutions as high as 50 microns, and offers a one-year warranty (very rare in this price range).
However, while the Micro might be game-chnaging for sub-$500 printers (and beyond) my favorite part about visiting the M3D booth was meeting co-founder and president, David Jones. David is a very laid-back and down-to-earth guy, but I could still sense his excitement and passion about his company and the product that they have created.
The most interesting part about David’s story is how the Micro came to be. David was working on developing a low-cost robotic strawberry harvester. David explained that his efforts couldn’t produce a harvester that would cost less to run than it would to pay workers to do the harvesting. However, instead, he discovered that the technology would be perfect for building a low-cost 3D printer… and that’s exacty what him and his partner Michael Armani did.
Ultimately, with one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever (nearly 12,000 backers and over $3.3 million raised) and a dedication to providing an effective and low-cost 3D printer to the market, M3D is poised to shakeup the consumer-level market for 3D printers in a big way.
#5 FormLabs is About to Release the Form 2… and, of Course, It Looks Awesome
My biggest gripe with my Form 1+ (aside from from the high operating costs) is the finishing station. It isn’t very sturdy and it was a chore to remove prints from the print bed.
Now, to be clear, the problems I had with the finishing station were mainly due to my lack of patience and inability to follow instructions. But the newer Form 2—which was on display at Inside 3D Printing—looks like it’s going to provide a more stable finishing kit, with some specifically designed tools to help the removal process go much more smoothly.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, in terms of what changes the Form 2 will bring to the table.
For starters, the Form 2 comes with a little bit bigger build platform, a touch screen interface, and WiFi capabilities. It also has a new automated resin system that will allow you to perform larger prints without having to pause and refill the tank.
And, the tank is heated to ensure consistent thermal temperatures. (The print quality and consistency on the Form 1 and Form 1+ could be effected by the temperature outside of the printer.) There is also a resin wiper, which will automatically wipe the tank clean of any particulates that are left behind in the resin. On previous models, you had to do this manually.
Overall, while the Form 2 will still be a printer that requires high operating costs, the improvements that Formlabs has made to the Form 2 shows that they are definitely listening to their user base and that they are dedicated to continually pushing the best SLA printer on the market forward.
#6 Raise3D is Taking Print Volume to a Whole New Level
I often love to talk about how the LulzBot Taz 5 has an enormous print volume. However, there were a few 3D printers on display at the conference that had build volumes that trumped even the Taz.
Among those printers, the Raise3D perhaps stood out the most. Raise3D is currently running their Kickstarter campaign and has already far surpassed their $50,000 goal. The campaign still has 20 days left and Raise3D has already generated $276,374.
While those Kickstarter numbers are impressive in themselves, they may not be as impressive as the lineup that Raise3D is planning on rolling out. They are going to offer three different printers… their N1, N2, and N2 Plus.
The N1 has a standard build platform of 8″ x 8″ x 8″, while their N2 exceeds the LulzBot Taz 5 with a 12″ x 12″ x 12″ print volume. However, it is their N2 Plus that comes in with a truly shocking print size: 12″ x 12″ x 24″.
All three printers were on display and the N2 Plus, as tall as it is, had to sit on the floor (it has wheels underneath it to make it roll easier.) Aside from the huge print volume, the Raise3D printers can hit print resolutions up to 10 microns, have 7″ touch screens with a clean-looking user interface, are built with an aluminum inner frame, can resume printing after power interruption, come with dual extruders, have a heated print bed, and are “leveling-free,” among many other features.
The N2 Plus is also set to hit the market at anywhere from $1,999-$2,499. And, that is phenomenal considering the enormous build volume it comes with.
So, I am definitely excited to see if Raise3D can live up to their successful Kickstarter campaign. If their printers are reliable, it would be hard to imagine why you would spend over $2,000 on any other printer when the N2 Plus is sitting out there.
#7 There Are Some Big Predictions for the Industry in the Coming Years
But to see the projected numbers in person and hear the experts speak on the trends and growth they are seeing is still just as shocking as it is reaffirming.
In Wednesday’s afternoon keynote speech, Richard Garrity of Stratasys put up a slide and spoke on an estimation that said the following:
3D printing could generate $100 billion to $200 billion in economic impact per year by 2025 from direct manufacturing of parts.
…3D printing of tools and molds could generate $30 billion to $50 billion.
Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates, Inc. (additive manufacturing consulting) said at the Ask the Experts panel that “the industry has never been stronger,” and that “the next frontier in 3D printing is manufacturing.”
At the Ask the Experts panel, both Wohlers and Garrity both spoke to the fact that 3D printing is starting to emerge in the aerospace industry, which they said is typically a launching point for technology to move into other industries—most notably the automotive industry.
One important thing to note, though, is that Wohlers settled the hype a little bit as he stated that the industry isn’t growing as fast as everyone is making it out to be. It’s still growing, just not at the ridiculous rate some assume it is moving.
#8 FlashForge Has Two New Printers Coming Out Soon
While the original MakerBot Replicator is long gone, FlashForge has swooped in and filled the void that they left behind with their Creator and Creator Pro models. They were also at Inside 3D Printing and had their newest 3D printer on display, the Finder.
With the Finder, rather than making a bigger and more expensive 3D printer, FlashForge opted to go for a smaller and less expensive option, which considering where the market is going, is probably a smart play.
The FlashForge Finder will have a build volume of 5.5″ x 5.5″ x 5.5″ but it will not come with a heated bed and therefore will only be compatible with PLA filament.
The Finder is available now for just $539, which, given the competition, instantly makes it one of the most interesting options in its price range.
Ultimately, FlashForge continues to establish themselves as one of the top consumer-level producer of 3D printers and 3D printing accessories.
#9 The Start Up Contest Was Awesome
My favorite part of the whole conference was watching the Start Up contest. Everyone who presented had some really cool pitches for some really cool 3D-printing-related services or products.
Of the contestants, my favorite presenters were
- Owl Works: They pitched their enormous yet somehow affordable SLA-like 3D printer.
- AstroPrint: CEO Drew Taylor dubbed Astroprint the “Android of 3D printing,” and for good reason. Astroprint will allow you to use any phone or tablet as a 3D printer interface and perhaps the best part is that it will collect slicing data to help reduce failed prints in the future.
- Zmorph: They presented their all-in-one 3D printer and CNC machine with a ton of different interchangeable tool heads. They had their printer on display on the showroom along with some samples of items they created on it and it looked really amazing.
- Savvy Society: CEO and co-founder Alexa Fleischman gave one of the better presentations by sharing her vision of empowering young girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The company will start off by letting girls design their own “Savvy Swirls” (which are accessories) in order to fashion-up their shoes.
- Metamason: They presented their idea for a better and more customized CPAP mask (sleep apnea therapy). Overall, they delivered the most polished and exciting presentation and had a product that not only had a big market behind it, but could potentially help a lot of people as well. And, as such, they took home the first place prize.
2nd Place: Savvy Society
3rd Place: AstroPrint
#10 Want to Jump Into 3D Printing But Don’t Know Where to Start? Try HoneyPoint3D’s Online Course
I own quite a few 3D printers and I love to download crazy things off of Thingiverse and print them, but I have never gotten into designing my own objects, mainly because I just don’t know where to start.
So, when I came to Nick and Liza Kloski’s booth in the Inside 3D Printing exhibitor’s hall, I knew it was time to take my 3D printing game to the next level…
Nick and Liza run HoneyPoint3D, which provides a plethora of online 3D printing courses that range in student level from beginner to advanced. Their online training courses include a full course on the popular and free design program, Meshmixer, a 3D printing 101 course, an upgraded content pack for Meshmixer, as well as monthly 3D printing webinars.
I signed up for the Meshmixer Full Course at the conference and Liza threw in the 3D Printing 101 course for free. So, now my goal is to go through both of those courses and put up a full review of each. But ultimately, I’m excited to check out HoneyPoint3D’s courses and dive more into the design side of 3D printing.
What Was Your Experience at the Inside 3D Printing Conference?
Did you attend the conference in Santa Clara this past week? If so, what stood out to you? Like I said, I wasn’t able to see everything at the conference and in the exhibitor’s hall and I know I missed some cool stuff, so if you saw anything I missed, definitely post it in the comments!