3D Printing 1. Zeepro Zim with puppies by cerberus333

Published on May 8th, 2014 | by Mathilde Berchon


The most innovative 3D printing companies in the world

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The time when 3D printing was just a gimmick to create figurines of your best friends has long passed. It is now on its way to open new markets and inspire new business models, while massively entering companies that need to prototype faster and cheaper. 3D printing has been growing at a fast rate: 25.4% per year in average for the past 25 years, and is expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2015. So that’s proof in the pudding, so to speak!

But trying to understand who are the key players in the field can be difficult at time. So to help, here’s our list of the most innovative 3D printing companies in the world.

Low-cost desktop 3D printers
Despite an almost saturated market and strong leaders (Zeepro, Makerbot, Cubify, FormLabs), some startups manage to innovate with personal 3D printers. Micro M3D just closed the fastest successful Kickstarter campaign with its very compact and affordable 3D printer. More than $3M raised in 20 days for this $200 ready-to-use 3D printer.

New Materials
Plastics is still the norm but materials options are now numerous. Kai Parthy, a german inventor passionate by personal 3D printing keeps coming up with new innovative filaments, such as popular wood filament Laywoo-D3 or sandstone-like Laybrick. Startup MarkForg3D launched a few weeks ago a desktop 3D printer using carbon fiber. D-Shape, an Italian company run by inventor Enrico Dini, 3D prints sand and concrete to rebuild giant coral reef along the coasts, while Chinese company WinSun was able a few days ago to 3D print 10 houses made of concrete in 24 hours.

Smart 3D printing
3D printing electronics is now a reality. Startups such as Rabbit Proto, which launched a few days ago an open source extruder able to 3D print simultaneously conductive ink and plastics, or Optomec, a company that specializes in 3D printing circuits and sensors on flexible surfaces are leading the way.

3D printing in the kitchen
3D Systems bought San Diego startup Sugar Lab and launches ChefJet, a 3D printer specialized in food printing (mostly sugar so far), designed for restaurants.

3D scanners for every day life
You can now 3D scan from your smartphone with apps such as 123D Catch or portable iPhone scanner soon to be released Structure Sensor. The personal 3D scanner market is moving fast, with compact and reliable devices now available at affordable prices. Fuel 3D is one of them, pivoting from medical industry to consumer.

Modeling in your browser
Tinkercad and 123D are popular innovative 3D modeling software and both part of Autodesk 123D suite. Free, they work directly in the browser and let users manipulate shapes to create 3D model without any CAD knowledge. Models can then be saved and send to a service that will make the model come to physical life.

3D printing services APIs
Online 3D printing services have been around since 2009. Shapeways, Sculpteo, I.materialise do a great job at offering high-quality 3D prints delivered to your doorstep. They now open their APIs and allow third-party integration, encouraging businesses to offer custom 3D printing options.

Distributed manufacturing
New platforms, such as the very dynamic 3D Hubs, let 3D printer owners propose their services online, building a worldwide network of local 3D printers readily available for anyone needing a print.

3D printing organs
Organovo is maybe one of the most innovative 3D printing companies, developing 3D printers able to build organic tissus by printing cells layer by layer. The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, among other labs, uses similar machines to print actual organs.

Ready for your weekly dose of 3D printing innovations? I’ll be covering them here, on BayLive every week.

About the Author

Mathilde Berchon is the founder of MakingSociety, blog and podcast dedicated to the maker pro movement. Mathilde is the author of “L'impression 3D”, Eyrolles Ed. And she also hosts every two weeks the 3D Printing Society Podcast.

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