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CES 2019 3D Printing Recap
I’m going to take you through a recap of my trip to CES 2019. There were a lot of cool things to see at this year’s CES. Longtime followers to this blog may remember previous CES recaps. I think two or three years ago was one of the best ones that we experienced. They had all the 3D print related companies in one section of CES at the Sands Expo portion which is attached to the Palazzo Hotel. They had everybody in one place. It was a time in the 3D printing industry where companies like ROBO 3D were making a big splash and spending a lot of time and money on their exhibit as well as their machines. After that, things seemed to take a downturn. There were fewer and fewer companies that were showing. It seemed like maybe the desktop 3D printing industry was not what it used to be or at least companies weren’t spending money showing the way they used to.
I have to say this 2019, there was quite a bit of a resurgence. I was pleased and there are a lot to talk about in terms of advances in 3D scanning, 3D printing, new applications for 3D printing and some new capabilities. There are also a lot of advancements from some new entrants in the market, mostly Asian manufacturers. There was also a value-added reseller, what I would call a company that sells a lot of different 3D printers that got a rather large space and got a lot of companies to participate and to show within there. There are a lot of great things to talk about that I want to share with you and I’ve got a lot of photos and videos that I shot.
Advances In Scanning
I want to start with advances in scanning. I was impressed and pleasantly surprised because scanning has been something we’ve been interested in. It’s closely related to 3D printing and we’ve covered it a few different times. In a very early episode, we went to a company in West Hollywood that was doing 3D scanning there. I’ve done an episode reviewing a desktop 3D scanner. I remember in an early episode, we went to a UPS store in San Diego area that was doing scanning and it was rough at the time. The tools that were available were rough. I was super impressed, not only with the capabilities of the hardware and the software, but also the price point seemed to be coming down relatively on good quality scanning equipment and software.
You may remember a couple of years ago at CES, I had my entire body scanned at an exhibit booth from Artec 3D. They had this display where you could get your body scanned and they would send you the model through email. They were doing that again this time, but what fascinated me was a demo that I was shown of one of their 3D scanning systems. They have several different devices at price points that range for maybe about $10,000 to $15,000 to even maybe over $20,000. While that’s expensive and scanners like that may not find their way into schools very soon, especially your secondary and high school-type schools. These prices are within the reach of small businesses, medium-sized businesses who are doing serious CAD work as a part of their professional services or in the course of creating whatever products they need to create.
There were even some little bit lower cost ones, but Artec 3D is the first one that I’m highlighting. I had a person there at the booth do a demo for me of scanning a random object. This was a model of a sumo wrestler or something and putting it on a turntable and scanning it with this scanning device that uses what they call structured light. It’s not photogrammetry and it’s not infrared. There are a lot of different technologies that have been used. What I found at this show is the hot technology or the main technology was structured light. What it looked like was a hand-held device that you point at what you want to scan. You put it on a turntable and this was a simple cheap turntable they bought from Amazon. They rotate it with their fingers. This is not a high precision turntable where it moves a fraction of a degree and takes a picture, and then moves another fraction of a degree and takes a picture. This is random. You could do it with your fingers at any time you wanted and scan the object very quickly. Then roll the object on its back to do it again so you get the bottom of it and it takes two scans of this object.
This was rather flexible in terms of the user and how you do it. Once these two models are scanned in their software, there was a way that they match up the two models very quickly and combine them also where they remove the base of the turntable. This entire process from starting to scan an object to then having a complete model, even down to the serial number that was molded in the bottom of this object, took about two minutes. It’s the length of my video. That’s why he did it once and I wasn’t videoing. I’m like, “I need you to do that again. Would you mind doing that? Let me video it for my audience.” He said, “Absolutely, no problem,” and he did it so that I can show you how this works. Scanning, while it’s been around for a while, I had always found working with it on the software side to be the most difficult aspect of it. The software side, at least with Artec 3D, has gotten incredibly simple. Anybody could do it as long as you can afford one of their devices. They showed me the least expensive one and I was impressed.
Another company that is doing the same type of process and I would say is a competitor to Artec 3D and doing an impressive job is ESUN. I know many of you who hear that name and have been around the industry for a while would think, “ESUN, do you mean the filament manufacturer out of China?” Yes, I am talking about the filament manufacturer out of China. I have to admit, I also thought they were primarily just a filament manufacturer, but they proved otherwise at CES. They have a scanner called the Hawkeye 3D scanner. It also is a structured light scanner. It’s a lower price point than Artec 3D. It’s about $4,500 and they were demonstrating it right there. I got some video of it, not only of the scanner itself and what they were scanning, but they had a display video on a monitor showing the subject they were scanning. Their scanner also uses a turntable that is tied to the computer and spins the item for you. You don’t do it with your hands. It also puts the object in a white light booth to reflect as much light as possible into the object. That’s also very impressive with what they’re doing there. It showed that scanning is becoming more mainstream. The prices are coming down and the quality is getting better. I was also impressed with the ESUN Hawkeye 3D scanner.
There was another company showing scanning and this was showing scanning of people’s faces. It was more of a novelty in terms of an exhibit at CES with people lined up around the corner waiting to get their face scanned. It used an iOS device and an iPad to do it. If you have some of the latest iPhone and the latest iPad, they have a depth sensor in their cameras like the iPhone 10 is one of them. They have a depth sensor that their software can use. If you have an iOS device, you don’t need anything else but their app to do it. Other technology is happening. You have another device you can buy from them if you want to do it. The idea of what they’re going after in terms of the market is the 3D game and VR characters for use in gaming. Scanning people’s faces is an important aspect of that, even if they don’t need to scan their whole bodies.
I didn’t see as much of a practical use for the scanner, which the company by the way is Bellus3D. I didn’t see much of a practical use for it other than novelty or for the game industry. If you’re in that industry, then it would be very cool. I also shot a video of them scanning someone’s face who was waiting in line very quickly. They do point out that you can 3D print these models. They’re making actual real models of your face. It’s the front shell, the way this is done. Their program would have you sit in front of it. Then it has these lights that indicate the tip of your head down as far as you can so it can get up into the top of your head and then lift up so it can get under your chin. Then from left to right to get the side of your face. It did it very quickly.
3D Printing Applications
It just pointed out that scanning comes a long way. I think that if any of you out there have a need for 3D scanning in a part of your workflow, there are a lot more tools available for you. Especially if you’re in business. If you’re a home hobbyist and complete desktop application or in the high school, it may be still a while before you can afford to buy something. The prices are coming down so it probably won’t take that long. Another interesting area that I saw a lot of at CES was 3D printing applications. There were a few Asian companies there who were pitching that you can buy their system and you can 3D print fake fingernails for nail salons. I think this is going to be up and coming in that industry. I don’t know how many of you out there know anything about nail salons. The old traditional way to get a manicure was to go in and have your nails clipped and filed and then painted with one kind of nail polish or another.
3D Food Printing
In more recent years, there are these things called gels that had come out in the industry that some people do. Now, 3D printed different fingernail designs that can be done in all different ways because of 3D printing technology is a thing. I didn’t even know it was a thing until I was at CES, but I saw three or four different companies showing something like that. To me, it was worth mentioning. Another thing that deserves a quick mention before I get into some more meaty things is food 3D printing, in particular, chocolate. This is something that has been on a lot of people’s radar for a long time. There was a company there called JER. They were selling food 3D printer that uses different materials that are injected almost like a syringe and chocolate in particular. The most interesting part of their display and what I saw they had was a chocolate 3D printing pen.
There are a lot of pens on display at CES and a lot of different objects people have made with it. I’ve personally used 3D printing pens and they’re not all that easy to use. It takes a lot more of creative skill and dexterity of an individual and patience to be able to make something significant with a pen. With chocolate, I thought now that’s something that a lot more people would be interested to do. This particular JER 3D pen that they say is the first chocolate 3D printer in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but I haven’t seen any others, so it may very well be. I talked with them there and they said that the user can take any chocolate material that they want to use and just cut it down and put it in the pen and it melts it and will print with it.
I thought that was probably one of the most practical food 3D printing applications or devices that was there at CES. There wasn’t a whole lot in the food 3D printing arena, but it was well done and creative. I think anybody, even if you just wanted to use the pen to 3D print chocolates where you’re writing a message or a name on a cake or a cupcake or whatever it is you’re doing, you could certainly use it that way, but there are a lot more opportunities as well. You can build any 3D object you want with a pen. They have a 3D printer called FPO1, Food Printer O1. That looks like more an actual desktop 3D printer with a build plate and uses chocolate among other materials.
Desktop 3D Printers
Moving onto desktop 3D printers. There were a few different companies showing. I want to say this year, most of the 3D print companies were in the south hall on the second floor of CES. If you’ve ever been to the Las Vegas Convention Center, the South hall, which is closest to their monorail stop. On the second floor is where most of the 3D printing companies were. That was very convenient. Even the scanning companies were mostly all there. There were a couple of 3D printing companies that were back in the Sands Expo Center where it had been in past years. There was one company I went and saw over there that’s very noteworthy, but most of them were in the South Hall and that was very convenient.
The major companies included Airwolf and Raise3D among some other Asian companies that were there as well. Let’s talk about the big ones first like Airwolf and Raise3D. Airwolf has gone heavy industrial. They’re coming out with bigger and bigger machines. They’re still using the nominally three-millimeter diameter filament that they’ve always used. They’ve got two nozzle machines, mostly about dissolvable support material and then another material. They have something called the EVO Desktop Manufacturing Center. It’s a very large printer. They have their market they’re going after, which is largely aerospace and heavy industrial use. They continue to do well. They continue to show and that’s great. I think their machines have definitely moved. Although they’re called desktop and they certainly are, they’ve definitely moved more into the commercial market than the individual desktop market. It is the impression I get, but very nice machines. They’re getting more expensive. They were always on the high side for desktop machines, but very large build volumes. Their prices on these machines are between $8,000 and $12,000. Not, as I said, the least expensive desktop machines. They can print pretty much any kind of material that you want, but they had a good one.
Raise3D surprised me. I know Raise3D is a company we have been following for many years and it’s clear to me their ownership has changed because their address has changed. They’re now in Irvine, California on Tesla Drive, which happens to be the town that I live in. Tesla has offices here and there’s a whole tech center in Irvine and Raise3D is now out of there. They’ve definitely gone more of the prosumer market. The big thing is they’ve got the Raise3D Pro2 Series is what they were showing. These are machines that do two materials or two colors. I did notice that their nozzles are coplanar and they haven’t done anything different to try to address a lot of the problems that come with having two nozzles that are coplanar. They’ve got some good-looking machines with these seven or eight-inch diameter LCD screens on them for operating them on the machine itself and have Wi-Fi capability and all sorts of other things. Raise3D is definitely a formidable player in the industry and they are definitely worth mentioning.
Aside from some of those companies that you’ve heard of over in that South Hall section, there were a couple of companies you may not have heard of and more on the Asian manufacturing side of things. When I tell you the name of this company, you might chuckle a little, which I first did because their name is ComeTrue as if you want something to come true, buy their printer. This is something I’ve been working and traveling over in Asia dealing with product manufacturing for more than twenty years now. You often find this is the case. I wish that Chinese manufacturers, when they’re going to name a company and they’re trying to enter the US market, would actually consult someone in the US market, so their name isn’t something we might chuckle at. This company ComeTrue has a couple of 3D printers that are pretty impressive.
These are based on jet technology, 3D printing technology that uses powder and that it injects I think a combination of glue but then also prints full color in there to make solid objects. You don’t need to worry about support materials because the powder bed supports itself. They’ve got some machines that are ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 that do this. The number of objects they’d created and all the different kinds of objects and sample objects they made were pretty impressive. They even have another printer that’s one of the less expensive ones they do that print ceramics. If you wanted to do anything in a desktop sense in this ceramic world, you can do that. It was pretty impressive and I’ve got a lot of photos of the different things that they were showing.
I know that there are a few companies that won’t be happy with some of the things they displayed because one of them was Mickey Mouse and some other licensed characters that they probably shouldn’t be printing and showing without permission, but they got away with it for CES. That’s the way it is. The other Asian company that is worth mentioning is a company called IVI 3D. They were showing a particular IVI 3D printer, which in terms of the printer itself, it’s essentially a Delta 3D printer. We all have seen Delta 3D printers. They’re some of the least expensive printers because they’re relatively simple to manufacture and operate, but this one was a bit different. They were touting it as the world’s first AI powered 3D printer.
I have a little bit of interest in AI and there’s a lot being written about it in recent years. It’s a hot technology area. There’s a lot of money being put into it. I was like, “What is an AI-powered 3D printer? What does that mean?” They said, “This is a printer that learns from its own mistakes.” Even if you “Slice it and start to print it” then we all know from anybody who’s done any amount of 3D printing knows often you can have little errors that occur for one reason or another, whether it’s material feeding or other motion in the printer. I’m not sure of all the different potential issues that this printer will track. Apparently, this printer is tracking its own performance and as it has problems, it apparently learns from those problems, stores that information and then make corrections going forward. In theory, this is a printer that would never make the same mistake twice. That’s at least what they’re touting and selling. I’m personally a little skeptical of that. I think AI can be a good thing, but it only gets you so far.
The other thing that concerns me about it is one of the things I’ve always liked to do when working with a 3D printer and manipulating it and learning how to use it better or getting the most out of it, even beyond the capabilities that the manufacturers intended is that there are things that you may want a machine to do that I’m afraid now its AI or its intelligence won’t let you do. I intentionally do things at times slicing and printing models that conventional wisdom would say, “No, don’t ever do that.” I like breaking the rules sometimes pushing the edge of the envelope and getting more out of a printer. With this printer, it probably wouldn’t be happy doing that. I have mixed feelings on this one and we’ll have to love to see whether this AI has legs or not.
Another interesting company I want to mention that wasn’t showing anything groundbreaking technologically. It is an Asian import company called Anet. They’re selling 3D printers that I think the LulzBot TAZ people would probably be somewhat concerned about or at least wanting to be looking over their shoulders at this company who’s trying to cut into their market. They’re selling styles of printers, a few different models that are very much on par with LulzBot TAZ. The pricing that they were displaying here with these 3D printers was inexpensive in terms of a manufactured cost. If you’re going to buy a quantity, this is the quantity of these if you’re a reseller. You have to ship them to the US, they’re not distributing locally yet. They have a printer called the A8 Plus. It’s a pretty large build plate and build volume printer of 300 x 300 x 350 millimeters and they’re selling it at a manufactured cost of $310. That’s pretty reasonable. If you were an importer and wanting to build out a line or a reseller or a distributor of some kind, this is one you might look into. It was pretty impressive.
Another company that I want to make a quick mention of that had conventional FFF 3D printers is a company called WEEDO. They’ve got FFF fully enclosed 3D printers. The only thing that I want to mention is that they have two-color, two-material 3D printers and that’s what they’re doing. I was impressed with the quality of the finished parts. They had the machine running. It does not appear to retract the nozzle. They’re coplanar. It’s suspect to having a lot of problems that those conventional machines had in the past. I have a couple of photos of one of the printers and then have a couple of two-color two-material objects that they made and showed there. The quality of the parts speaks a lot toward the quality of the 3D printer. Somehow, they were getting good quality out of them. I thought they at least deserve a mention.
The other big display that I want to mention, and this one deserves a few minutes on its own, is a company called Dynamism. You might think, “Who is that?” They’re a value-added reseller. They have been doing this in business since 1997. I expect that that’s not all in the 3D space, but they are a reseller of anybody’s 3D printing equipment. Anybody who is willing to let them be a distributor. They had a large booth space and they were showing Ultimaker, LulzBot, the Shining 3D, which was the people that were doing some of the 3D-printed fingernails I was telling you about, Dremel and Formlabs. The other big one is Desktop Metal. Ultimaker has a new S5 3D printer that’s a two material or two-color 3D printer. This was impressive to me. They definitely have learned what certain other companies have learned when you’re doing two color or two material 3D printing. They have made the second nozzle retractable. It’s about time they did that because this is something I’ve talked about many times in the past.
It’s been very frustrating working with two nozzles 3D printers when one nozzle won’t get out of the way. They’re both coplanar at all times. They knock parts off and it creates all sorts of problems and material bleeds. All the ooze shields and purge towers that people use are no comparison for stopping the flow and moving the nozzle that’s not being used out of the way. This Ultimaker 3D printer has taken care of that. The other thing I want to mention about the Ultimaker 3D printer going along with that, they were displaying in the Dynamism booth a lot of new materials. There were these incredible materials made by DuPont, which are complex but normal FFF 3D printing materials and normally in that they print in the conventional way, not normal in terms of what they’re made of. They had some material and even beyond DuPont, but some other professional series materials by a company called Innofil that were carbon fiber materials and all sorts of different cool materials.
I shot a little video and I get some photos of it in here, but a video of a very large mating screw assembly, male and female. The precision with which these things are printed on that Ultimaker printer, when you actually hold the piece, that’s essentially the nut and you put the screw on the top. These were rather large threads. The tolerance was such that if just due to gravity, those parts would move and turn about each other and it was an impressive little thing. Beyond that, Dremel had a very interesting thing called a Digilab Laser Cutter. It’s a laser cutting machine that looks honestly very similar to many that you’ve seen from other companies that are more in the desktop laser cutter size and realm of things for that market. They were laser cutting a piece of wood that was really laser etching more than cutting at the time, but this is a laser cutter.
They were showing some very interesting software for how you could take an image and then manipulate that to create a relief or an etching in another material like wood in their laser cutter. It just seemed to me that the machine itself as very well thought out. It had the proper ventilation because it was operating during the show. It has this air handling system that’s a part of it and that’s certainly not desktop. It was floor standing, but in order to run it properly and not have any fumes that are going to be harmful, they have a ventilation system hooked up to it. It was well done. I’ve seen Dremel and some of the other 3D printers they make and they always seem to private label other people’s printers. I wonder if this laser printer is also manufactured by somebody else’s already making them, whether it’s a Glowforge or somebody else, I don’t know. Certainly, it was an impressive machine.
The last thing I want to talk about in this Dynamism booth was Desktop Metal. If you recall, we interviewed Tuan TranPham of Desktop Metal. This is before the company ever had put anything on the market. They were getting investment. They were working on developing their systems and it’s finally done and shipping. Tuan bumped into me literally. As I’m walking around the Dynamism booth, he was like, “Tom, are you the guy who used to do WTFFF?!” I’m like, “I still do WTFFF?!.” We reminisced about the old interview and he apologized for not being able to go into too much detail about some of the things that they were doing at the time because it was all very proprietary.
Now, the product is shipping and it’s a full end-to-end system. They call it a studio system even though the company’s name is Desktop Metal. Truly their printer is an FFF style printer that is a desktop machine, although they have it mounted on a particular case or rack that raises it up. They’ve got a whole system because you print the parts and then you have a deep binding solution because they’re 3D printing metal in an FFF sense. There are some polymer binders and some other materials in there that have to come out of it. Some of it comes out in a washing type of process, but also self-contained. Then they have an oven that was like a kiln that heats the part up. It removes any more of those binding materials and leaves you only the metal that you want.
Because of that process and heating it up, when they heated it, it’s almost like curing it or if you think of when you’re using ceramics, firing it in the kiln to make it stronger and harder. The principles are similar, although it’s doing little bit of different things where all the rest of the binding material comes out in that heating process. The part also shrinks a bit. They have to plan in and it’s a part of their software where when you’re developing a part, it’s like 13% or so that it shrinks. You have to build it oversized slightly and then end up where you want to go. They’ve dialed this into a specific science. They had some examples of parts they had 3D printed like one that’s most notable was the head of a golf club that was made of metal. You literally can 3D print it through their intense system, put it on a shaft and then play golf with it and test it.
If you were a company that was manufacturing golf clubs, you might very well want to buy one of these systems and put it in your offices. If you’re developing golf clubs, you can do it all in-house from design to prototyping and testing. It’s very impressive. That’s the market they’re going after. They’re definitely going after a commercial market and corporate market of companies, maybe there are 10,000 or 15,000 around the world. It’s not hundreds of thousands or millions of people that are going for, but they’ve made a very impressive machine. He has actually realized what they intended to way back when we did that interview. I thought that was a great update. He and I discussed perhaps coming on and having a specific interview, a whole other episode just on the Desktop Metal System now that it’s out and shipping. We’re going to get that on the schedule for this year.
The last thing I’d like to mention, and I’m going geographically around CES. Leaving South Hall and going over to the Sands Expo, which is where all the big 3D print exhibits used to be, but now they changed it. They had on their lower level this area called Eureka Park, which is trying to romanticize the idea of smaller companies that are inventing things, innovating things and showing certainly these smaller booths. I’m sure they were less expensive. It was a cluster of craziness. The things were not very well organized. You didn’t find the same types of companies grouped together. They didn’t have a little 3D printing section. Basically, they lumped anybody who was a younger company into this Eureka Park and put them wherever and navigating it was not easy.
I didn’t have fun going down there. There were about four or five companies I attempted to go find there. They’re definitely according to the directory where a few that I went to try to find. The booth number ended up not existing and they weren’t there. It was a very frustrating experience and I didn’t waste a whole lot of time there, but I did come across one diamond in the rough there. A gem of a company that I was impressed with called Snapmaker. They have a 3-in-1 3D printer. It was originally a Kickstarter and it was the third most funded 3D printer project on Kickstarter in their history. They did fulfill all the rewards and ship all their products. That speaks well of this company, which is a Canadian company.
What’s impressive about their 3D printer is the first one that they are shipping and was a part of the Kickstarter has a pretty small build platform. It’s only maybe a four-inch square or close to that build platform, which other smaller 3D printers have as well. They’ve got this interchangeable system and heads on their 3D printer that one does 3D printing, one does laser engraving, and one does CNC carving. It’s a versatile little machine that’s not very expensive. I think it’s about $800 or so. For all of those different capabilities, it was pretty impressive. They also shared with me that they have a whole new size coming out and some new versions coming out. That’s another company that I’m going to have come on the show and be interviewed specifically for their printer. It was very impressive. I met a nice guy there named Brian Abdallah who is the Marketing Developer. He said he was a teacher and he works with them and helps them develop their product. He was there showing with them and helping show for them at the show.
All in all, I was glad I went to CES. I saw a lot of great new things. I talked to a lot of people about the state of their companies and how they’re advancing. Everybody seemed to be moving forward in one way or another and I was impressed. It was worth going and worth checking out. Although I do wish that CES would keep all the 3D print companies, no matter how big or small they are, in one location to make it easier for those of us who are trying to see it all, to be able to see them. That Eureka Park to me was a disaster. I know a lot of companies put a lot of time and money into displaying there and showing. They’re hoping to meet customers or investors or anything that’s going to move them forward and I hope they all did. I don’t wish anything ill on any of them. If I had a company and I wanted to show at CES, I would stay far away from Eureka Park if I could possibly afford to because it was a mess.
All in all, great CES, good stuff. I hope you enjoyed hearing about it all. There are tons of photos and videos in this one that you’re going to want to check out. Leave me a comment. Let me know. Any of those companies other than the couple I mentioned who I’m planning to interview shortly, if there’s anything else that you’d like to know more about, we can go find out about it. Reach out to us anywhere in social media, @3DStartPoint. I look forward to talking with you next time. This has been Tom on the WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast.
- CES 2019
- ROBO 3D
- Artec 3D
- EVO Desktop Manufacturing Center
- Raise3D Pro2 Series
- IVI 3D
- A8 Plus
- Shining 3D
- Desktop Metal
- S5 3D printer
- Digilab Laser Cutter
- Tuan Tranpham – Previous episode
- 3-in-1 3D printer
- @3DStartPoint – Facebook Page
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