New Decade of 3D Printing

3D Systems ETEC Food Grade Materials

It's been 10 years since I wrote the article "3D Printing in 2012 and beyond".  It would not be feasible to come close to covering everything that has changed within the industry let alone the world at large.

Arguably the most important topic for business ignored in the aforementioned article is Bitcoin and its questionable sidekick cryptocurrency.  In  fairness Bitcoin was only 3 years old in 2012, and worth around $5 to $10 a coin.

Unfortunately there has yet to be a meaningful impact on 3D printing and manufacturing in general.  This of course is expected to change. 

There are quite a few tokens that have the potential to in some way cross paths with 3D Printing (for better or for worse).  In the last two years there has been a notable uptick in the amount of articles available with both Printing and Blockchain in them.

A few relevant tokens to watch include RNDR, MFG, and HERO. (Please note this is not investment advice - this is simply a sampling for the sake of citing  examples relevant to manufacturing)  

Render Token (RNDR) is a distributed GPU network setup on the Ethereum Network that uses the tagline "Rendering the Metaverse".  The utilization of this token could be instrumental depending on how the dominoes fall.

MFG is the industry blockchain leader for Manufacturing operated by SyncFab.  It's main focus appears to be Supply Chain  Not only using it's abbreviation as it's namesake, but it also touts a tagline along the same lines.  "Building The Open Metaverse, One Interoperable 3D NFT Asset At A Time"  And this is based on the idea that everything commercially available will eventually exist as an NFT (Non-fungible token)  

MetaHero (HERO) is a token that aims to populate the Metaverse with 3D digital content via 3D Scanning.  Not only is "The Gateway into The Metaverse" prominently displayed on their website, but they also include an on point mission which is "To accelerate the mass adoption of crypto by bringing in the next 10M users with next-gen 3D technology."

3 out of 3 of the above mentioned tokens are heavily focused on the Metaverse.  That is no accident.  The Metaverse has the potential to drastically alter human life, society and culture.  And it could not be any earlier in this chapter of technology crossroads.

Phygital items are expected to increasingly debut as time goes on.  NFT's to a degree, these items hope to bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital world.  (Hence phygital)  This is a concept that screams 3D Printing, and appears to have near unlimited applications.

The development and progression of Web3 is uncertain, and there is a small chance that 3D Printing could be rendered irrelevant.  As the metaverse is among the major projects, we could be faced with a reality where someone or something develops a virtual world that is more suitable for prototyping than our current one. (Consider the real differences between curved space and Euclidean space...)

With the advent of the Metaverse comes an entire new way to manage 3D Data.  And believe it or not, that does not seem to currently include CAD.  Far as I can tell, BLENDR is rapidly becoming the de facto Metaverse creation tool.  STL and AMF aren't even part of the discussion. (by those within the Metaverse - SyncFab is no stranger to managing such files on chain - and BLENDR of course can output those file types)  Though it's likely that sooner than later a CAD Blockchain will be developed and  forever changing the landscape of manufacturing and business.

Besides the often heard about applications blockchain has to offer in Supply Chain Management; it might be easy to overlook the potential explosion of Product Lifecycle Management. 

And while many in manufacturing can be take it or leave it depending on the size and scope of the offering, PLM will be increasingly difficult to ignore.  3D Printing or "Additive Manufacturing" did not turn out to be the most amazing invention in humanity.  In 2012 which was often touted as The year of 3D Printing, magicians of marketing created a strange paradigm for this still young industry. 

Pipe dreams of replication, and "the future is now" mindset created customer expectations that were far too high and in a perpetual state of awaiting the next wave of upgrades.  Concept modeling and rapid prototyping seemed like old news, but in truth not even close.  Those companies that were secure in their application and used the technology as it was designed enjoyed a brief renaissance as consumable prices went up and up and some are still going up.  

Looking back on the concerns of 2012, there is little criminal use associated with 3D printing tech.  The concern over firearms was blown out of proportion because the expectations were blown out of proportion.  And the cost was not relative to the fear that was painted of a variety of lone gunmen boogeymen and rogue tinkerers.  It will be a long time before using a 3D printer is your cheapest or quickest way to acquire a firearm.  As Slate eloquently put it last year 

"It certainly takes more work than going to Cabela’s"

Copyright infringement rears it's ugly head from time to time but only lately has it peaked the interest of watchdogs again.  Where is this new found concern drawing it's wind from?  Look no further than cryptocurrency, more specifically the Metaverse.

TurboSquid recently attracted attention over content that appears to be of some concern to enough rights holders to invite some extra mail in their inbox.  (Not the good kind)  To be clear TurboSquid doesn't appear to have done anything much out of the ordinary besides attempting to expand to an adjacent industry in some capacity.  This is something many others need to do sooner than later.

 From NFT wearables to displayables the Metaverse landscape at large is a filthy wasteland of infringement.  The decentralized (or at least assumed) nature of many cryptocurrencies has made it difficult for outside authorities to navigate.  Often times there is no proprietor to contact about such grievances. 

An article from early this year suggests that 3D Printing could play an enormous role when it comes to blockchain.  It seems that 3D Printing could benefit from the security blockchain has to offer while being able to offer something in return.  Whether that is an NFT or a Phygital item remains to be seen.

And just what does 3D Printing have to offer cryptocurrency, the Metaverse and the planet?  In some sense that's still an unknown but look far enough down the road and the secret sauce will be in the materials.  

Materials got a boost in the last decade, with many being proprietary to companies that do not manufacturer a 3D Printer.  This evolution is taking 3D Printing to new corners of the world and giving it a fresh look and brand recognition.

LOCTITE has a website dedicated to it's recent successful endeavor.  This trend will likely continue as the Material Sciences are vast and perhaps even never ending?

A few months ago, Desktop Metal announced that next year it would be ready to launch FreeFoam for the ETEC Xtreme 8K DLP.  Desktop Metals describes it as "Revolutionary, Expandable 3D Printable Resin Designed for Volume Production of Foam Parts"

3D Systems is in a position to capitalize on this new era of materials.  Known for it's long line of printers, it has begun selling it's materials as well for use in printers other than their own.  Recently XYZ Printing reached an agreement with 3D Systems in order to add DuraForm PAx Natural (a nylon copolymer) to it's available offering of materials on the MfgPro236 xS SLS 3D Printer.

And thanks to XYZ Printing - even powder got a fresh look.  XYZ is making serious strides to remain competitive with it's offering and also recently announced a food grade recipe.

Finally it would not be right to end this article without at least a nod to a new friend.  If you have not heard of them yet, get used to End Effectors.  Essentially these little robot arm attachments, that again have near limitless applications, are the latest hot ticket in printing.

Another decade is behind us, and the year of 3D Printing (2012) keeps fading into the past.  Which is probably a good thing, because this is not an Industry you can pin down to a keyword and the future offers a wide selection of productive options. I wanted to include AI in some capacity but that will have to be an exercise for another day.


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