One wag on Google+ lampoons HP's milking of its traditional printer ink cartridges saying:
"HP could put PLA filament in a proprietary cartridge design with a feedback path to check "filament level". File 200+ patent disclosures on this innovation. Aggressively market cheap calibrated printers using this very expensive consumable filament cartridge."
Cube 3d printers took a page from HP's book and implemented a cartridge system, forcing you to buy your material from them. It is a cruddy move for sure and many people have found ways to bypass it, just like they have the HP cartridge sensors.
Disagree. Being late to the party means they have to turn all assumptions on their ear. My bet is that it'll be a polymer that's dispensed by piezo cartridge, likely UV cured per layer. This is where their strengths are.
Just a guess, but PLA and ABS weedtrimmer line has been done to death.
Adjustable layer thickness for starters. Position resolution is another. Ability to print finer geometry support structures. Zero ooze and instant start vs waiting for the extruder to start working. No heat distortion/shrinkage. Tons of benefits and inkjet and viscosity chemistry is their strength. Arguably, they just need z axis on existing mechanism, which is easy peasy with a movable platen; a platen the doesn't need heat.
@Genius EE: Excellent insights. Can you quantify (I love numbers) the kind of start up time or positional accuracy (or other features) they could deliver. What numbers do they need to hit to rise above the fray?
By startup time, I meant they won't have the latency in material deposition that a filament machine would, as it needs to do a retract to keep from drooling liquid plastic. Yes, numbers would be nice, but then that spoils their market disruption - let's just sit back and watch to see if there is still the innovation and quality we knew from their pre-Carly-the Destroyer R&D days. If I'm right about using their piezo tech (there is a liquid piezo 3D printer out there, though it's an industrial beast - I'll assume HP will target upscale consumer and engineering/designers/medical), it'll make all but the immersion machines look like hammers and chisels.
I too think that this is where they will go in the end. There are a few other companies that have professional units like this. This will give them a consumable that refilling will be out of the question for most people. It will also yield better looking models, though with reduced functionality as they will not stand up to heat as well as some of the other methods that are out there. I would actually be ok with this as long as they had a wide varity of material choices and colors, I think that this could really be great for proto models with better resolution than extrusion based parts. It also plays to their strengths in that they are very familiar with cartrige based mems ink dispensing. If they then added a way to have ink mix at the interface with the resin, then you could print in color as well. This would give them two consumables. If it has not been patened, I am sure that they would try, and I hope that people would find this post and use it as a reference for prior art.
I may be wrong, but as I understand the new rules if an invention is disclosed in public it cannot be patented as it has already been disclosed. The trick, though to patents is that there are many ways around it. This is why you see many devices that have the same features that are patented. There are always loopholes.
Many patents are nothing more than ideas. Most of them never get implimented in the fashion that we would hope, but are used as ways to prevent their competition from using the idea. I have heard many stories of companies doing patents in the area that they know their competitor is trying to go only in the interest of stopping them from being able to come to market.
Aeroengineer- I think the words "reduction to practise" separate ideas from inventions. In the old days inventors had to take, the device, a model or some clear evidence that the idea worked before a patent was granted. The problem was this cluttered up the patent office.
I do not think getting a patent for "ideas" is a simple matter of just applying. I know this from the personal experience of giving a number of depositions, in the area of memory, to patent examiners who are investigating the claims of "idea" patent applications, submitted by third parties. Behind the scences the examiners do some quite detailed work.
Of course you can always apply for an "improvement" patent and that is often the reason why so many similar patents appear.
I have no idea! I can tell you that I see new companies putting out consumer 3d printers every day. It may not be huge like the cell phone market but new companies appearing with the frequency I see them tells me that it is trending upward quickly.
FWIW at an event last week I ran into a new 3-D printer maker out of the Netherlands called LeapFrog. They claim faster, finer printing for sub-$2,000 , 12.4 liter max volume, 0.05 mm positioning accuracy, just opened a US office.
I believe that this is in the early growth stage, where you see huge percentage increases but not yet huge volume numbers. This is where Gartner and others will extrapolate the percentage increases to get the hockey-chart graphs that show a market bigger than the population of the planet within a few years. That cynicism aside, I do think that this market will grow nicely over the next few years, and it seems like HP could be a very viable player in it.
This is where Gartner and others will extrapolate the percentage increases to get the hockey-chart graphs that show a market bigger than the population of the planet within a few years
That made me chuckle! I've always believed that where 3D printers shine is when one of a kind type of things need to be made -- which suggests that its real market is more in a rather high-end medical, archictual, antique type of stuff... am I wrong about that? If so, I don't really see a HUGE volume of 3D-printer market. But I am sure I am missing something in my assumption.
Indeed. Although everyone expects growth in 3-D printers over the next several years, I question how much of that growth will be in the consumer market.
If you refer to the device as a "3-D printer," it sounds like a consumer electronics item -- but not so much if you refer to it as a "additive manufacturing system." I don't think the mass market of consumers are just desperately wishing they could manufacture something.
They made exactly the same argument about these so-called "personal" computers. Why on earth would anybody want one of those? Granted, it did help when the Internet came along and the masses discovered that they could be used to download porn. It's not like a 3-D printer has any possibility to create something involved in that...
Admit it. Each and every one of you has just come up with at least one idea.
I agree, Larry. There were two major killer apps for PCs, both enabled by the Internet: e-mail first, then web browsers. And along for the ride, word processor, spreadsheet, and database apps.
Ever wonder why we can download books, movies and TV shows, photos, magazine articles, music, not to mention software, but not, say, pots and pans, dishes, even something as simple as buttons?
The major limitation with today's 3D printers is that everything they make has to be plastic. I see that as a temporary nuisance. Online shopping, for items other than those I mentioned above, still involves shipping. That could slowly change, over time.
Bert22306, I think that the internet will be an enabler for the 3D printer market. Imagine instead of having to master 3D modeling using typical MCAD software just downloading 3D models from the 3D printer.com store. I could see that being one avenue that would grow sales of the 3D printers. Another venue would be for hobby market, imagine being able to create 3D sculptures or models for HO train track layouts, etc... Then again, give it a few more years (maybe less) Kinect may have an application that allows for the user to scan a part and then send it to the 3D printer. This could be a neat way to allow the more general public to play with 3D.. I am sure that there are many other ways to open up the 3D printer market..
I can see any number of people that need a specific piece of plastic or want to create a piece of plastic that they can't find. If I want a chess set with my face on the king and my family or pets as the other pieces I can make it. If I need a cell phone case that I can hang around my neck I can make it. If I need a button for a blender that hasn't been made for a decade I can make it. If I want a hood ornament that expresses a gesture considered too rude to be sold in a family store I can make it (and that one I am pretty sure someone will).
Granted, many people will buy them and never get around to using it. But that is also true of woodworking tools, high-end embroidery sewing machines, or any other creative tool. On the other end of the scale you will have people that live for new designs. There will also be yet another massive war over copyrights. Want to make your own Mickey ears? Don't wear them to Disneyland.
@LarryM99, OK, you do make some compelling arguments here. Many people may not use it often but they might want one. Your comment about "Mickey ears" actually made me understand this. Not that I want Mickey ears, but I can certainly see people wanting to "copy" that at home!
Excellent examples Larry & Bert. I too can think of times I've wished I could obtain a button to replace one that fell off a shirt, or some particular plastic part that broke and rendered an otherwise good device useless. But as a consumer, I doubt that I have enough such instances in my life to justify the cost of having my own 3-D printer. On the other hand, online businesses that offer such a service and can make a viable business selling individual plastic parts to consumers, in small quantities (often just one piece), would be useful to many of us. There are many such businesses already, and the costs seem viable -- for example, you can have someone print a plastic iPhone 5 case for you for under $10.
Bert mentioned the temporary nature of today's restriction to just plastics, and indeed that is a materials limitation only at the low cost end of the market. There are 3D printers that work with metals, glass & ceramics as well. You can have that iPhone 5 case, for example, "printed" in gold plated stainless steel if you like -- and only for about $100. But again, these are examples of how 3D printing opens up new opportunities for businesses dedicated to custom manufacturing of small quantities for consumers, but I still don't see a mass consumer market for actually owning one of these printers -- especially if we consider going beyond plastics. Bert wants to "download pots & pans," but for him to have the capability to manufacture them at home with his own 3D printer (like the one from ProMetal), they would be very expensive pots & pans!
HP has a ton of experience in the printing world and could possibly bring lower cost, higher quality printers to the market. I'm not sure where they fall in the patent minefield, or how much they are willing to invest, but it seems like they have the leverage to step beyond a tiny improvement in FDM quality.
For HP to have a chance in this market, it will require them to purchase a company that is currently in the 3D printer business. HP's HW engineering talent pool has been depleted over the last several years as they have outsourced a majority of that work, and to enter a new market with any sort of chance will require in house engineers.
Interesting article and conversation. Thanks, Rick. I think HP could redeem themselves for the customer gouging on ink cartridges by making a plastic recycler to go with a 3D printer, like the FilaMaker. Imagine the convenience of putting a soda bottle back into reuse as material for the next tchotchke. (I'm sure that's complicated.)
In my opinion, for the home users , the 3D printer will only remain as a novelty item and not something that will be regularly used.
And since it will not be regularly used , it will soon become unusable as is the story with most of the inkjet printers bought at home. The cartridges dry up and the printer head does not work if you try to use your printer once in a while. It becomes cost effective to get your printouts done at some internet-kiosk rather than owning your own printer.
The 3D printer is a complex product for a home user.
But it has great potential as an industrial product and every 3D printer manufacturer has to put its focus on that segment.
I agree that it will be seldom used by the casual pc owner. I think a better solution is the same as printing pictures. I tried using a home ink jet printer, but the results weren't that good and it wasn't cheap for ink and print heads. It is a much better solution to print my pictures at Walmart or CVS. I would think that 3D printing may be the same. Of course, if it is an item for porn, I might need my own printer...
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