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商业 - 科技

3D打印领域值得期待的五件事

Andrew Zaleski 2016年01月12日

“制造出新型3D打印机是个绝佳的消息。3D打印机厂商都知道速度是关键。速度越快,用的人就越多,这有助于市场的成长。”

3D打印有什么好处?

2015年,这个问题变得越发重要,原因是在社交网络上华丽展示3D打印饰品最多似乎只能换回一句话:“噢,又一个3D打印的尤达大师头像?真有创意。”

一年前3D打印还风光无限,如今则处处显露着窘迫之相。美国3D打印行业龙头Stratasys和3D Systems一度高歌猛进。眼下,一家公司的桌面型3D打印机部门已两次裁员,另一家则辞退了首席执行官和部分员工,还退出了消费型3D打印机市场。以前,3D打印似乎无处不在,服装!食品!榔头!现在,它在添加制造领域的主要用途是生产原型,这绝不会成为大家在跨年鸡尾酒会上的闲聊话题。

看来,3D打印技术依然过于不可靠,过于复杂,进入主流应用的速度也太慢。投资于3D打印的公司需要有大量资金,以便购置逾10万美元一台的设备并培训人员来操作3D打印机。

不过,虽然存在这些障碍,2016年对3D打印行业来说依然前景光明。以下就是在新的一年里可以期待的五件事。

新的参与者:更多的公司进入了3D打印领域,并带来了吸引人的广告宣传。Xjet计划推出更便捷、成本更低的金属打印工艺。东芝和欧特克正在或者已经开发出了自己的3D打印机。惠普将推出Multi Jet Fusion 3D打印机,这可能是该公司最大的一次赌博。外界预计这款产品可以打印彩色物体,而且打印速度是市场上现有产品的10倍。

速度更快的3D打印机:速度是关键。打印速度加快意味着3D打印机将成为制造流程的一环,而不是设计师和工程师用来制造和测试新产品的工具。新老公司都意识到了这一点。3D打印交易网站首席执行官彼得•维依玛邵森说:“制造出新型3D打印机是个绝佳的消息。3D打印机厂商都知道速度是关键。速度越快,用的人就越多,这有助于市场的成长。”

高尔夫球定律:如果可以放进高尔夫球里,可能就已经适于3D打印。这条定律由3D打印软件和服务商Materialise提出,它有可能让3D打印在2016年实现突破。3D打印顾问尤里斯•皮尔斯说:“尺寸小、价值高而又独特的物品最适合3D打印。”这样的东西有首饰、助听器和外科金属植入物等,但也包括较大制造产品中的细小零部件。

彩色打印机:总的来说,目前桌面型3D打印机的局限在于它们无法打印出彩色物品。几年后,3D打印有可能在消费者中得到广泛应用,桌面型3D打印机将走进家庭,而不是学校或企业。彩色3D打印机或许将有助于这一天的早日到来。MakerBot和3D Systems已经在为此努力。预计其他3D打印机厂商也将采取同样的行动。

金属打印:在匹兹堡,铝业巨头美铝有个大胆的计划,那就是为金属3D打印开发更好的原材料。Stratasys和3D Systems也在推进自己的同类项目。如果3D打印真的是制造业的未来,那就必须有一种可靠又划算的方法来打印金属产品。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

校对:詹妮

What is 3D printing good for?

That’s a question that’s become increasingly relevant in 2015, as the majesty of showing off 3D-printed trinkets has seemingly led to nothing more than a great slogan for your latest Willy Wonka meme: “Oh, another 3D-printed Yoda head? How innovative.”

Signs of stress have infiltrated an industry that just a year ago was at the top of its game. Stratasys and 3D Systems, the giants of the U.S. 3D-printing industry, were soaring. Now one has experienced two rounds of layoffs in its desktop 3D-printer division, and the other has said farewell to a CEO, some employees, and the consumer 3D-printer market. The bounds of what 3D printing could do seemed limitless:Dresses! Food! Hammers! Now the main application of additive manufacturing technology—prototyping, mostly—is something you probably won’t brag about at your New Year’s Eve cocktail party.

3D-printing technology still appears too unreliable, too complicated, and too slow for mainstream adoption. The companies making investments in it are the ones with significant amounts of capital to purchase $100,000-plus equipment and train the personnel needed to operate 3D printers.

But despite these obstacles, 2016 looks promising for the 3D-printing industry. Here are five things to look forward to in the new year.

New Players: More companies are diving into 3D printing with attractive sales pitches. Xjet is planning to introduce an easier, cheaper way to print metal. Toshiba and Autodesk are developing or have already developed their own 3D printers. And HP, in perhaps its biggest gamble, will bring to market its Multi Jet Fusion printers, which are supposed to be able to print objects in a variety of colors and 10 times faster than current printers on the market today.

Faster Printers: Speed is key. Faster 3D printers means machines that become components of the manufacturing process instead of machines that designers and engineers use to build and test new parts. This is something companies new and old recognize. “It’s great news that new 3D printers are built and that manufacturers understand that speed is a key feature,” says Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of online 3D-printing marketplace Shapeways. “The faster they get, the more people will use them, which helps grow the market.”

The ‘Golf Ball’ Rule: If it can fit inside a golf ball, it’s probably something ripe for 3D printing. That’s a rule attributed to 3D-printing software and services company Materialise, and it’s one that could make 2016 a breakout year for 3D printing. “Small, high-value items that need to be unique are the sweet spot,” says 3D-printing consultant Joris Peels. That means things like jewelry, hearing aids, and dental implants, but also tiny pieces of larger, manufactured items.

Multicolor Printers: One of the current limitations of desktop 3D printers is their inability, generally, to print one object in different colors. Widespread consumer adoption of 3D printing—desktop 3D printers in homes as opposed to schools or business—is several years down the line, if it happens at all. Having printers that could print in multiple colorscould help. MakerBot and 3D Systems are already working on this. Look for others to do the same.

Metal Printing: Out in Pittsburgh, aluminum giant Alcoa has a bold plan to develop better raw materials for metal 3D-printing. Stratasys and 3D Systems are also pushing ahead with their own projects. If 3D printing is truly the future of manufacturing, then there has to be a reliable and cost-effective way to print metals.

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