Well, that was a long summer! The children went back to school this morning, with little drama, and the house is scarily quiet. It’s going to take a few days to adjust again I think.
The decision I made (three years ago this month actually) to go freelance, was finally taken after a very difficult summer of juggling way too many balls, the result being two discontented children that felt sidelined and one very guilty me, because I knew they had a point. The flexibility that freelancing offers still requires some juggling skills as there is still work to be done, but I can cut back during the summer (work & expenditure) and spend some real quality time with much happier bunnies!! And so we did but it did drag somewhat towards the end. I think the summer felt so long this year because the weather in my part of the world in no way reflected the season. Good old Britain!
Anyway, I kept an eye on all things 3D printing and additive, and, like me, it went pretty quiet over the summer. It’s more of a behind the scenes time, gearing up for the autumn shows, launches and announcements. There were a few exceptions of course and here is my take on Summer 2011…..
The biggest nugget of news emerged a couple of weeks ago when MakerBot announced it has garnered a USD$10 million injection from a series of investors led by Foundry Group. I find this interesting and important for a few reasons. While industrial and consumer awareness of 3D printing has taken a huge leap forward this year through a variety of converging sector activities, it is still just a first step in moving towards a world that takes 3D printing for granted. This news from Makerbot, for me, signifies the second step — outside investment from sectors that see huge potential in the technology. Furthermore, Makerbot, classed as a start-up company, makes and sells entry-level 3D printers based on open-source technology — it is one of a handful of successful companies doing this, but rather than succumbing to acquisition, as others have, and being swallowed up by a larger corporation, this investment will allow Makerbot to build on its success with new developments and scale-up as well as strengthening its own identity.
On the acquisition of start-ups front, 3D Systems has acquired BotMill. This is not surprising in terms of 3D Systems’ history of acquisitions, but it does raise a brow in terms of how it will fit into the stable alongside previous competitors that have also been acquired by the AM giant.
Accessibility to 3D design for 3D printing has also increased over the summer, with Tinkercad — ‘a new and faster way to create designs for 3D printing in your browser’ — hooking up with both Shapeways and i.materialise. Both of these successful 3D printing companies now accept Tinkercad files for 3D printing in their labs.
ZCorporation announced a great initiative based on educating the next generation of makers — EngineeringZone. This scheme, endorsed by local Congressman Tierney, invites high school classes to visit the company and get hands-on with 3D printing.
Stratasys has released the data findings of a 1-year study into specific performance characteristics of its two, main FDM materials. Covering the effects of time, temperature and the environment on the mechanical properties of PC and ABS 3D printed parts, this study offers greater insights for industrial users into the potential of the technology.
Tomorrow see’s the opening of ‘The Power of Making’ Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Running until the 2nd January 2012 this event rightly places a heavy emphasis on new ways of making things — including 3D printing. I’m looking forward to getting down there.
And looking ahead a few weeks, TCT Live is fast approaching, starting 27th September. It’s looking bigger and better than ever!