3D Printer Carves Out Niche for Big Parts
Tom Lansford posted on January 08, 2016 |
What will $1.5M buy? A 3D printer that claims to have the biggest build volume on the market.

At first glance, 3D printing is a broad, horizontal technology. But each industry will have its unique needs for 3D printing. A 3D printing manufacturer can turn a specialized technique into a large niche market.

The technologies used in 3D printing are varied. Stereolithography and curing of resins, digital light processing (DLP) and photopolymers, fused deposit modeling with thermoplastics, inkjet techniques using binder agents (binder jetting) or photopolymers (material jetting) and direct metal laser sintering are all types of additive manufacturing processes, but the techniques and the materials vary significantly, which make certain processes more appropriate for one application than another. 

Germany’s voxeljet manufactures 3D printers that produce casting molds for industrial applications. voxeljet uses the binder-jetting method and prints using sand and plastics. Its printers can generate either plastic parts or sand parts in very large sizes, or many parts of a more modest size—the key point being the industrial target for casting production molds.

At Frankfurt's Formnext 2015 trade show, voxeljet presented its range of printers, including the VX1000. With a price of $1 million, it is not surprising that the company also provides a 3D printing service using the technology. In fact, the parts-on-demand business is running ahead of the 3D printing system revenue for 2015, according to a company press release. And while Formnext in Frankfurt would be a local event for its German customers, voxeljet has gone international, now with service centers in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The VX1000 is not the largest printer in the voxeljet stable. That distinction goes to the VX4000, which is, according to the company, “the world's biggest industrial 3D printer including the cohesive build space of 4,000 x 2,000 x 1,000 mm (158 x 79 x 39 in). The machine is very fast, easy to operate and permits the economical production of very large individual molds, many small-series components or a combination of the two.”

The VX4000 comes in at a price just over $1.5 million. It has a very large build envelope and most importantly, the printers create mold casts efficiently for industries such as the automotive industry, where competing technologies and solutions are expensive. The service arm of voxeljet for parts on demand is a critical path to monetize their technology with customers who do not need to, cannot afford to or simply choose not to invest in their own in-house printing capacity.

The result? voxeljet has established itself in a niche market within the extremely large and horizontal 3D printing industry.

About the Author

Tom Lansford is a marketing consultant and analyst. He manages CADplace, a multi-lingual site for CAD professionals. He has a degree in computer science and has worked in the computer graphics industry for more 25 years. He provides marketing services for clients in North America, Europe and Asia, and he speaks four languages, including fluent German and French. His professional interests include visualization, simulation, graphics solutions and professional video. 

Recommended For You