There’s a lot of new technology coming out in the 3D printing industry, like 3D metal printers and now there’s SLA desktop printers. Designers and engineers can now work with the machines using prototypes to figure out if their designs will come out the way they want it. This movement has created a demand for new capabilities, making outsourcing less of a challenge for designers and engineers. Jon Bruner sees 3D printers of this kind as a cool set of technology that can be used in immediate manufacturing that is the driving idea behind 3D Digital Factory. Learn how this ongoing program is looking at the digitalization of manufacturing, engineering and design.
We are going to talk about SLA printers for a change. I thought we were all about fused filament fabrication, but we’re not. It seems the lines are getting blurred with desktop 3D printing. There’s a lot of good new technology coming out. We were talking about metal 3D printing and they were using what is basically an FFF model. We’ve been talking about that with Formalloy and Melanie Lang. Now we’re going to talk SLA. I’m excited about it because there’s been a lot of progress. It’s not like we were ever excluding SLA as a part of our process here. It’s just that there was so much exploding in terms of digital tools and machines and all the tips and tools and all the stuff we could talk about. There was so much around FFF, there was so much more of it. It seemed to make sense when we started to develop the show. We’ve never shied away from talking about it. We just haven’t always had quite the right people to talk to. We also don’t have as much experience in it ourselves because we really don’t review those types of printers. They are a little more involved in terms of post-processing. You don’t just take a part off the bed and use it immediately. You’ve got to wash it in alcohol and do some other things. It hasn’t been our first choice. Formlabs is a serious company and they’re developing some new cool stuff, not just in SLA but in another technology. We’re pleased to have Jon Bruner from the Digital Factory Podcast, which is sponsored by Formlabs. He’s from Formlabs and he’s the Director of the Digital Factory Program.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Digital Factory with Jon Bruner of Formlabs
Jon, thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me on. I’m delighted to be here.
I’m really excited to talk a little bit about Formlabs in general because we just don’t get to talk about them that often because we tend to focus a little more on FFF around here. We’ve been finding it in all of our work here that it doesn’t matter what process it is that we’re using but it’s all about the same design process. In prototype process, it is the same end goal. The machines don’t matter as much anymore as they did before. What do you find?
I’m excited to come on a program that has FFF in the name and talk about stereolithography. It’s a really exciting technology and one that really only became available on the desktop in 2013. Just five years ago, the Form 1 desktop SLA printer started shipping. It offers a lot of really cool features. The print quality, resolution and finish on printed parts are all generally better than comparable FDM or Fused Filament Machines. The other really exciting thing about SLA is that there’s a lot of material diversity just in the range of materials that we offer. If you go and look at other SLA vendors, you’ll see a similar range. Everything from really high quality, clear and colored resins that let you create compelling visual illustrations over to these really advanced engineering resins that are able to withstand high temperatures so you can do investment casting and even pewter molding. You’ve got resins that can be used to create jigs and fixtures, you’ve got biocompatible resins. The field has just exploded. At the same time, it’s become very accessible to people who might do 3D printing on the desktop.
I was really glad to have you on the show because, especially as older industrial designers, we have old views sometimes of the materials that are offered and we’re not always up on that. That’s what we try to do on the show is create that broader view of what’s changing, what’s coming up, and what’s becoming more and more viable as the industry progresses. Materials is one of the things. Materials are always advancing and that’s probably the toughest thing to keep up with, to stay on top of it and have time to really explore and experiment with them all. Shows like ours and yours probably come in handy for a lot of people to help them.
It’s a rapidly progressing field. A lot of this stuff was only available in machines that cost $100,000 or more just a matter of four or five years ago.
It’s not like they weren’t there, they just weren’t applied at this desktop level and not as easily accessible to all of us. Do you think that the advent of desktop SLA printers has really pushed the material development along faster? Or do you think that it really was going to happen anyway with commercial machines?
It certainly increased the volume of SLA output. I think Formlabs has probably sold more SLA printers in the last five years than were sold in the previous twenty years. You see a lot more being printed with SLA machines now. It’s also much easier to innovate so that the demand for interesting materials that you can experiment with has gone up. Previously, if you have a $200,000 3D printer in a 3D printing service bureau that’s maybe internal in a large company or an external service bureau that you send away to, you need to know what it is that you’re looking for before you put down the money to print something on one of those very expensive machines. When you have a desktop machine, you can order all the materials and empower your engineers to try out different ideas. The movement of SLA to the desktop has made it possible for a lot more people to put their hands on the machines. It’s made it a lot cheaper to print at the individual print level. That’s driven demand for new capabilities.
We have a company we know in the next town over from us that uses one of the Formlabs SLA desktop 3D printers. They use it as a part of their manufacturing process. They manufacture skateboard wheels, very unique ones. In their mold making process, it really opened up their world and made it much easier for them than the old traditional method where they’re actually making the positive that the mold is made around with Formlabs SLA 3D printer.
That’s one of the cool areas that I think people who aren’t very close to the 3D printing scene tend not to be aware of, that 3D printing is a really cool set of technologies to use in intermediate manufacturing steps. A lot of people tend to think of 3D printing to print and use parts. They think like, “Could this part be 3D-printed and then shipped to users?” Often the answer is no because it’s a little expensive. Sometimes the parts that come out aren’t very durable. If you think of 3D printing as a set of technologies that you can use as an intermediate step in manufacturing like to create molds and casts, the range of stuff you can do with 3D printing gets a lot wider and you’re shipping products that are made of the cost-effective, tried and true materials that you’ve always used like thermoplastics, urethanes, silicone and even some metals.
It’s hit a tipping point in the last year where we’re seeing a lot more applications use of 3D printing than we’ve ever seen before. It’s really what’s keeping us excited and energized about the marketplace and the industry and where it’s going because we expected that to happen. Have you been seeing a lot of SLA use in small and medium-run sizes of products that are being in some cases end use, or is it still always an intermediate step?
There are some that are end use. In particular, we have a really large market in the dental industry. This has been a field that’s been really quick to take on new technologies. 3D printing has caught on very quickly among dentists and dental service providers. There are a handful of biocompatible SLA materials that Formlabs produces, and some other companies have these as well, where you can actually 3D-print things like splints, surgical guides, even some long-term dental fixtures, things like orthodontic appliances. Those are examples of end use parts. In other parts of the dental field, you see 3D printing as an intermediate step like in the Invisalign aligner braces. They create a 3D printed model of your teeth and then vacuum form the aligner over it. It can go both ways. You’re starting to see, especially in the dental field, some uses of 3D printing for end use products.
I saw this commercial for a competitor to Invisalign, some relatively new startup company that is selling a much less expensive Invisalign market product. I was impressed to see that. I was like, “Maybe this is part of what the reduction in the cost of 3D printers has really allowed to happen, a lower cost upstart competitor to Invisalign and possibly expiration of patents as well.” Invisalign has been around for decades. I always was really shocked when we started to first look into 3D printing in terms of doing this podcast that dental was so progressive. It just didn’t seem like the field that you would have thought that would be an early adopter, but they sure were. Are you seeing that more in any other more consumer-based type product areas, or is SLA still really much more industrial in that way?
We’re seeing it in some consumer areas where the benefits of these high-performance materials and the need for customization are very high. We have a partnership with New Balance where we are working to create highly customized athletic shoes for high-performance applications. The Olympians and the really top level athletes who need completely customized shoes, that’s one area. You can develop some materials that will do really well in that context. The other two areas where we’re really excited about end use 3D-printed parts becoming viable have to do with Selective Laser Sintering. We’ve just announced an SLS 3D printer that prints nylon, which is called the Fuse 1. This also is one of these printers that brings the cost of a technology down by in order of magnitude. It’s $10,000 for the printer, $20,000 for the whole package. This is a technology that, until very recently, cost more than $100,000. This creates really robust nylon parts. They can be packed into the build volume. They don’t require support structures. You get total geometric freedom that’s going to really transform the economics of end use 3D-printed parts and get you the material properties you need. The other thing that’s going to transform this is the introduction of automation into the SLA 3D printing process. We’ve also introduced an automation cell for the Form 2 that makes it possible to run a group of Form 2 printers in parallel 24 hours a day with the lights out and create 3D-printed parts very cost effectively.
You mentioned about the automation of the SLA printers. Is that even automation to the point of things coming off the build plate and getting rinsed in the bath to that final step process? Or is a human being still needed to do that part?
There’s still a human being doing some of it. What it does is it takes care of the most routinized parts of the task. It’s a single robotic arm that tends to a row of about five desktop Form 2 3D printers. It can change the build platforms in and out of the printers. After taking the built platform out of the printer, it puts it in the Form Wash, which is the rinsing station, and rinses the platform in isopropyl alcohol for the right amount of time. Then it takes it out of the wash station and stacks it in a cart that the technician comes in and changes out periodically. It doesn’t remove the parts from the build platform. It doesn’t remove the parts from the support structures. It does take care of all of the continuous process that a technician might have to manage and turns it into a batch process. The technician comes in, grabs this cart with as many as 1,000 or more prints on it, if there are small prints that fit a lot on a build platform, takes the cart and does the remaining post-processing. It really changes the amount of labor that’s required to 3D-print at high volumes.
Not dealing with the alcohol itself is nice. I’m sure there is always going to be human involvement to dispose of that and all those things. On a daily basis or hourly basis not having to deal with that sounds like a wonderful thing.
It’s also a need to watch the dashboard on it. It comes with a lot of software that makes it possible to optimize stuff. In the future where we’re doing a lot of mass customization, you’ve got to have good software to track everything from the moment an order comes in through the production of it. Keep track of whose parts are whose and make sure that they go through quality control and get packaged and shipped in the right way. The Form Cell comes with a lot of software that helps you manage that as well.
It’s starting to remind me of my textile manufacturing days when we would shift from more labor to processing yarns and spinning them. More robotics would come in and more batches being done and you’d be just seeing rows and rows of connected machines. It’s time for this to happen. I see a new specialty in terms of technicians and job security for somebody where everybody’s been studying and learning how to hack G-Code for FFF printers. Now somebody is going to have to learn whatever this code is for programming the robotic arm to do what they do. It’s a whole new field. You mentioned this SLS printer, this new one with nylon and that excites me. We actually have been developing a lot of parts recently, prototypes really, for products we’re designing for clients that are being made out at service bureaus like Shapeways and places like this that are in the SLS nylon process. With a new machine, there may not be a wide variety of materials or post-processing available. I’m interested in the aspect of color. Nylon is one of those materials that companies like Shapeways are producing in an SLS fashion, and then doing a post-processing and offering a standard set of colors you can order parts in. They’re dyed after the fact. Has Formlabs thought about that? How deep are you getting into the colors or at this point, is it just really a natural color and that’s going to come later?
For now, the Fuse 1 prints entirely in Black Nylon 12. The reason is it’s a new machine. You’ll definitely see a lot of material innovation. There’s a lot that you can do with nylon in post-processing as far as tumbling to polish it and then dying or coating it. We think there will be some room for variation and innovation in the post-processing step. We’ll also develop some new materials as well. Black is an easy color to work with in SLS because it absorbs light better than other colors, so it heats up faster and you can use a less powerful, faster laser to fuse it. When you’re taking a system that used to cost $100,000 or more and bringing it down to the $10,000 to $20,000-range using a less powerful laser, makes a big difference in that. That means that black is the first color to be delivered. We absolutely see some innovation coming along there. You could move away from nylon a little bit and get into some of the urethanes, for instance, and start producing some slightly more flexible materials. You can look at different colors as well.
I’m thrilled that Formlabs has taken this on. It’s actually pretty exciting to see that this company is branching out in that way. The company has a view of the level where we see this industrial design where the projects start, the industrial design departments, the engineering departments, where the design is starting and where it’s working. It has a little bit different view on where things need to go to become then integrated into the manufacturing process, coming from within and moving it the other way. Where a lot of companies working on the FFF, you’re working from the outside in. It’s just not become as integrated. We’ve been seeing this gap between companies that happen to have industrial design and sample-making departments or prototype service companies they work with. Those are truly the individuals being unable to get a product all the way through the process, that there’s a gap in this coloring section of it or the finishing section.
We have a client who was very interested in doing new designs of something and we said, “This is great. This is the perfect case study for us to use 3D printing with you.” We were going to use it in the design process anyway. We designed six different designs and they look really cool, but we don’t really want a tool for all six designs and then find out only two of them sell. Nobody wants to do that, it’s too expensive. How can we test run? Sell them on Amazon, sell them in direct response marketing, however the company was planning to sell them. In this case, it’s Amazon. Sell them as an end-use piece in all the different designs, 3D-print them for that run, and get some feedback on the design itself and find out which ones we should tool for first. This is a great model. We thought, “This is the perfect application for 3D printing. It’s a perfect follow-through into small run production that we should be doing.” We had designed them with these really smart, fun colors along the way and we were able to get a Shapeways or a Sculpteo sample of them and they were really happy with the quality of the SLS, and then dyed into the colors that we needed.
Our client was really happy with the colors. That’s when it fell apart when we went to say, “Now we need to make 250 of them.” Nobody wanted to take a run size that big from the smaller companies that do the dyeing and finishing. None of the bigger companies wanted to take the run because they were like, “We only do white.” That’s where we saw it fall apart and we were like, “Do we need to be doing this ourselves?” You are starting on a road in which with a machine $20,000 full packaged, we could do that. We could be doing that ourselves and now we have a full lab. We don’t have that here. We’re too small to have a painting studio and a finishing studio and an area in which we could dye things ourselves. We just don’t have that here. We’re smaller than that.
You’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly where we’re heading. The Form 2, especially as the more mature product, is a little farther along on that road. The idea is that you can both prototype and produce on the same platform. That solves exactly the problem that you are describing. If you have a Form 2 SLA printer on your desktop and you’re a designer or an engineer, you can prototype on it, figure out exactly how you want to design something and how you want to approach something. If you have a Form Cell with five Form 2s in it that can operate at high throughput, you just send your production over to that. You get exactly the same results that you did out of your desktop machine. It’s a very different product development process from the old way.
The continuity is what really is important here and that’s what we discovered in the process. We are skilled in all types of manufacturing processes as designers and we do that for our clients. We recognize that we design differently for 3D printing than we design for manufacturing. We have to be cognizant of both. If we have to make a small run in 3D printing, we know what changes we’re going to make and are acceptable to make it injection molded later. Not everyone has that viewpoint and they’re really designing in the process at which they need to output it. It is impossible to use it in a different manufacturing system.
The continuity is enormously valuable. You can get this with SLS to prototype and produce in the same machines so that you get exactly the same results. It really makes a big difference when your engineers and designers can put their hands on final quality products during the prototyping process. This is the big advantage too of desktop 3D printing. It’s part of our philosophy. These big industrial machines have been around for a long time but they’re often not accessible to the designers and engineers inside even pretty large well-resourced companies.
They’re siloed. You have to pass it off, put off a request into the sample-making department in these large industrial design firms. We don’t have that here because we don’t have a department. We do have a sample shop but it’s usually in partnerships with certain factories. We make it in the process that it will be made in the end. That’s how we’ve done it, outsourcing and have a reach out for us. Not everybody has the capability to do that. You are now arming smaller boutique firms. You’re empowering designers and engineers within bigger firms, it’s great.
A lot of our customers inside really big companies are individual engineers and designers who have a little bit of budget left over in their quarter to buy a 3D printer for the desktop. These are people who have access to top-of-the-line machines inside a 3D printing center of excellence within the company, in theory. They find that when they want to run a small experiment, they take it over to the 3D printing center and the manager says, “Where is your supervisor’s authorization? We’re going to charge your cost center $5,000 to run this experiment.” It just becomes a big headache and it inhibits innovation. It slows the design process. They just want to experiment on their desktop and try out new ideas. After you try out a new idea, it’s great when you can just carry it through to production on the same system.
It is so sad to hear that corporate bureaucracy is still stifling innovation in that way with all these new wonderful technology that’s opened so many opportunities. This is why I don’t work in Corporate America. I’m completely incompatible with that. I’m so glad we’re segueing into this because I really want to check about this with you, Jon, because this has come up at some of the conferences we’ve been to in 3D printing. I believe that it is that corporate management idea and the labor gap that has been driving the AI design explosion, “AI design is going to save industry.” I think that AI-driven design has come out of the fact that they’re like, “The engineer department is costly. We could just have a machine do it and do away with it, or we can never fill our positions. We get that all the time that they have a huge skill gap. What are we going to do? We better develop some software that can take over and do it for us.” That’s why it’s exploded as being the hot button right now. The reality is we just need some better training programs for our designers and we need some better HR programs in terms of matching that up as well.
If you look at the history of a lot of this type of software that really assists professionals, you could compare it to the emergence of spreadsheets in the 1980s and what that did for accountants. I don’t know that it actually put any accountants out of jobs or decreased the cost of accounting departments that much. It certainly made individual accountants much more effective. It probably changed a lot of time that accountants used to spend doing arithmetic on paper spreadsheets in the time that they spent managing requests from information and handling their clients and their bosses and so on. You’ll probably see the same thing here.
It’s not a hot button. It’s not going to replace anyone. It makes actually much more necessity for them to be a part of it because there are design decisions that need to be made, engineering decisions that need to be made, things that need to be well-informed that are customer-based or end use-based that only humans can do. AI is only as good as the information that goes into it. If there isn’t someone monitoring that and making sure that you’re getting constant good information that is useful to the core business, then it’s not going to work at all. It’s going to change your job and maybe make it less mundane. There will be parts of it you don’t have to do anymore.
No engineer enjoys tweaking the location of different bolt holes in a bearing. This is the thing that a computer might be able to do in a few years. Designers will get to spend more time sculpting beautiful forms out of products, which is probably why a lot of designers got into design in the first place.
We met a couple of people recently who thought that AI was going to be the be-all and end-all and they weren’t going to need designers and engineers near as much as they used to. I completely disagree with that. AI has a place and there are situations where it can calculate what’s necessary on a purely functional part. If you are going to have AI be the only thing that solves design and engineering problems, it’d be a pretty boring world that we live in.
There always has to be a human touch and that will continue to be a core part of the best products.
How much better human guides can we be if we have that support? Embracing that is also important and that open-mindedness we have to have that AI is not a bad thing. It’s not going to ruin our lives. We are in charge of it, so act like it. Jon, you’re also the host of The Digital Factory Podcast. Tell us a little bit about what that’s about and what people will find there.
The Digital Factory is this ongoing program that we have. It started with a conference back in June. It will continue with a conference in Munich this spring, then probably back in Boston in the fall. Digital Factory is all about these ways that manufacturing, design and engineering are getting digitized. It’s a way of looking a bit more broadly than just additive manufacturing, just 3D printing. We also take a look at things like factory automation, AI-driven design, new business models that arise from ideas like mass customization and rapid product development. On the podcast, we talk with people who are leading in that area. In the conferences, we provide a venue for people who are participating in this field to come together and chat with each other. There’s a lot of cutting-edge stuff going on out there. At the high end, software and robots and machines are getting incredibly capable. At the low end, costs are coming down for stuff like factory automation and 3D printing that make these accessible to small and mid-sized manufacturers. Where previously you would only see an industrial robot in a giant automotive factory, now it’s possible to bring this really cutting-edge technology into just about any manufacturing process at any scale. That’s basically the area we talk about on the Digital Factory Podcast and in the Digital Factory conferences. We found a really great reaction to it. There are a lot of people out there who are doing interesting things.
Formlabs is also hosting local events all over the place as well. You are coming to LA pretty soon. What are those about? What can people find there?
We just wanted to create a setting, a community, a venue where people could come out and meet other folks who are interested in 3D printing and take a look at 3D printers and the parts that come off of them. It’s a very tangible field. If you’re interested in 3D printing and manufacturing, it always helps to be able to touch and see in person the kinds of technology that they are working with.
The people out there selling printers or materials or whatever it is, they really don’t have a great way for people to try things out, kick the tires, and check it out. It makes a difference. If I can see it, maybe I can think about how I can apply it.
We find that it’s really inspirational. A lot of people get ideas for what they can do by touching these parts, inspecting them, taking a look at the printers, imagining them as part of their workflow.
That’s coming up for us on February 8th in LA. You have a little bit of a design and manufacturing focus on this particular LA road show. What’s that going to be about?
LA has a giant and really diverse manufacturing sector. It’s just incredibly sophisticated. There are a lot of small and mid-sized manufacturers, as well as some really big aerospace and automotive manufacturers in LA. We’re going to talk with folks from a really wide variety. Someone is coming from Snap, that’s the maker of Snapchat as well as the Snap Spectacles, the glasses that you can connect to Snapchat. We have someone from SOLIDWORKS, which is a familiar tool for everyone at companies both large and small, Ringbrothers, Hazz Design.
That’s right, we’re going to be on your panel. You’ve got a little bit for everyone. It’s not just industry. It’s new launch startups. You’ve got a little bit going on for everyone for them to be thinking about how they’re going to use 3D printing through the whole process. That’s really critically important.
On February 9, we’re also having a panel on 3D printing in entertainment. This is a really fascinating, slightly more LA-specific field where we see 3D printing used to create a lot of cool visual effects.
We’ve done a couple of episodes and blog posts on some of the cool props that we’ve seen in recent movies or TV shows that are 3D-printed. Game of Thrones has a ton of them that they’ve been putting out that are just incredible. That should be really exciting.
Aaron Sims from Aaron Sims Creative who did a lot of modeling for Stranger Things is going to be there. We’ve got a cool case study about Aaron Sims and his work on Stranger Things on the Formlabs website as well. We’re really excited to hear him live and have him speak with folks.
Jon, I’m so grateful that you came on the show and gave us a broader view of all the advances that are happening in SLA and SLS. We’re really looking forward to seeing more from you and hearing more. I will do a recap show definitely after my experience at the event. We’ll also do that as well.
It’s been a pleasure. I love your podcast and I’m really delighted to be part of it.
Thank you, Jon.
3D Digital Factory – Final Thoughts
Jon was a great guest. I really had a lot of fun talking with him about these new technologies, all the stuff they’re doing with the robotic arms and this automated little cell of up to five Formlabs SLA printers. Now that they’re coming out with this “lower cost” SLS printer, that’s fantastic. It’s one-tenth of the price so that’s definitely lower cost. It was so great to have him on the show and so great to have a chance to talk about what’s going on in the SLA world and the SLS world. I think that the ultimate goal here is we really want to go from idea to factory and however that needs to happen along the way, if it’s more development in cell systems or cell automation where you’re creating that farm factory or in materials. There needs to be an opportunity to create it at the end of that, which is in the post-processing. We just did an episode recently about that.
Now we start to become full circle and it really becomes a closed factory system. Now we really can be a digital factory and produce products on-demand for any industry. I also really liked one of the parts that Jon was talking about. We’re really not talking enough about it. I’d love for us to find some more examples of these things where 3D printing is an intermediate manufacturing step like they’re making the tool or they’re making a mold. We’re doing parts of these things where it’s a part of that. It shifted many businesses into being more cost-effective and being faster. We aren’t talking about enough of those applications. I’d love for us to have some more stories. If you have some great stories, please send them to us. We’d love to hear more of those.
A lot of us who have been into 3D printing for a few years have seen some of the documentaries out there. We’ve seen these companies at different trade shows like Print the Legend, there was as much about the formation of Formlabs in that documentary as there was about MakerBot. It was equal. It’s really interesting to see where Formlabs started and where they’ve come to now. They really seem to be quite a mature company that while, on the one hand, I would have expected them to stay in SLA and focus on that and do that the best they can do, I’m excited and impressed that they’ve stepped out into SLS and trying to bring that to a larger market. It shows a high sensitivity to being what their consumer needs. I use consumer because they’re in a business-to-business model more where they’re selling to agencies and engineering departments within companies and things like that.
When you’re sensitive to what the real needs are, the real opportunities are, and you’re working towards making that happen with the ultimate goal in mind of being a digital factory, it requires you to not be so close-minded about what materials you use, what process you use, which is how we’ve always operated as a design firm. We aren’t just a design firm that specializes in a particular area. We do that for a reason. It’s limiting. As a designer, we will go with whatever material and manufacturing process makes sense. We’re not going to put ourselves in a corner or in a box of, “We’re the FFF guys or we’re the injection molding guys or we’re the steel stamping guys,” whatever. It doesn’t matter. We want to make a product that is the right product for the consumer who wants to buy that product. We want to make what that consumer wants to buy, whatever material or process is required to do it. What they’re doing is they’re creating systems, structures, machines, materials, all of those things, to create an entire ecosystem that does what their clients want them to do, accomplishes their goals for them. That’s admirable.
3D printing additive manufacturing is used as an intermediate step in the process. It really was born that way from the get-go. Prototypes are an intermediate step in a product development process. Now we’re talking about them being used as an intermediate step in manufacturing, which is happening more and more. That’s very logical and has shortcut costs and timelines to bring products to market. We have this vision of 3D printing end-use consumer product that’s really where it should be and should go long-term, not that consumers are going to care that they’re 3D printed. All they’re going to care is they get products the way they want, they get them quickly, and they get cool products. There’s such an opportunity for doing end-use consumer product because of no inventory carrying costs, shipping things halfway around the world at great expense, and time delay and all that. It has to move in that direction. We see things much farther ahead. We’re impatient and we want it to be here now.
I wrote an article recently about a VR company and one of the things that the companies that help take the baby steps. That’s really where I see Formlabs is really doing a great job of doing the baby steps and helping the design agencies, the engineering firms, the departments within corporations, within big manufacturing facilities. Helping them shift from where they are today and move into that visionary future takes a lot of steps along the way. The companies that are willing to hold hands, go step by step along the way and show them the path are the ones that have much more sustainability and much more longevity. Those that sit out at the frontend and go, “You people should have caught up. Too bad for you,” and leaving people behind in the process, sometimes they don’t last. It’s very rare that they last. They usually get bought out and gone. The Formlabs process here is actually going to make the industry itself shift and more sustainable at actually a much faster pace. Thank you to them for making those moves on behalf of the whole industry.
If you have any ideas, application stories, we’re always looking for cool new things, things that you would like us to talk about on it and it does not have to be all FFF. We love to talk about things surrounding 3D, design, digital, goods, manufacturing. Any part of the process that you are interested and we want to talk about. Please put them forward on our website at 3DStartPoint.com and on our Facebook page at @3DStartPoint. Thank you so much. We’ll be back next time. This has been Tom and Tracy on WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
- Melanie Lang
- Digital Factory Podcast
- Fuse 1
- Form Cell
- Form 2
- Hazz Design
- Aaron Sims Creative
- Tracy’s article about VR
About Jon Bruner
Jon Bruner is the director of the Digital Factory program at Formlabs, which aims to bring advanced digital fabrication to every industry. Before joining Formlabs, he oversaw O’Reilly Media’s publications and conferences related to electronics, manufacturing, and industrial design. He started his career as a journalist at Forbes Magazine, where, as Data Editor, he combined programming and writing to investigate topics as wide-ranging as the dams on the Columbia River and migration patterns between U.S. counties.
Jon lives in San Francisco with his wife. He spends his free time playing the pipe organ and fabricating projects in wood and metal.
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