January 10, 2014
By this point even the dourest of analysts might be willing to concede that additive manufacturing (AM) is more than just a trend. Big business, defense, and the medical industry have all shown a keen interest in what 3D printing can accomplish, and growing numbers of home users are also experimenting with the technology.
For most of its lifespan, the AM market has been self-contained with companies such as 3D Systems and Stratasys ruling the roost, but that could all change with the emergence of larger companies, the likes of HP, showing signs they might enter the business. Epson is the latest corporation to talk about moving into AM, and President Minoru Usui recently had some interesting things to say about the 3D printing market.
To start with, Epson isn’t interested in joining the ranks of home AM system providers. It wants to build industrial, multi-material 3D printers capable of making just about anything. Usui specifically mentioned cars as one type of product that could be largely constructed using AM. Epson is still five or more years away from that lofty goal, but is hard at work developing large systems that could handle that sort of build.
“We are developing our own printers, but our aim is to change everything,” Usui told Engadget. When it comes to 3D printing ... we want our machines to make anything.”
Usui stated he believes the current market for home 3D printers is undergoing a boom that is unsustainable, citing various reports that show a general decline in sales. He went on to take a bit of a jab at the current market, calling it derivative. He claims few companies are showing anything like real innovation, and are instead simply copying each other’s work. His final take on home AM is that few people need the ability to print their own plastic toys.
I tend to think that point of view is a bit dismissive of what AM has to offer in both the workplace and at home. It’s also somewhat ironic coming from a company that manufactures 2D printers, a product many experts also once dismissed as a device not needed in the home. While there might be some truth that the current hobby AM scene is somewhat stagnant, that’s bound to change as patents expire and innovation continues.
Below you’ll find a second piece of what might be considered irony in the light of Usui’s statements, with a video about Epson’s entry into wearable electronics with the Moverio BT200 smart glasses.