3D Printing For Hobbyists And Businesses

Latest blog on 3D Printing By NERMIN HAJDARBEGOVIC 

First of all, I think we need to distinguish between two very different niches in the 3D printing, or additive manufacturing industry.

On one end of the spectrum, you have countless hardware enthusiasts, software developers and designers working on open-source projects. The RepRap project embodies this lean and open approach better than any similar initiative in the industry. RepRap stands for Replicating Rapid Prototyper and it’s basically an initiative to develop inexpensive printers based on fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology. Essentially, that is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology, but RepRap can’t use that name because it was commercialised by Stratasys. When the company’s patent on FDM expired, FDM was embraced by the open-source community, albeit under a different name.

RepRap turned ten this year, with the first printers showing up a few years after launch. By 2010, the RepRap project was on its third generation design, and the RepRap community saw a lot of growth over the next few years.

One noteworthy feature to come out of the RepRap initiative is self-replication; the ultimate goal of the project is to create a 3D printer that will eventually replicate itself. We are not there yet, but some RepRap designs allow users to print three quarters of the printer. You still can’t print extruders and electric servos, but it’s a start.

However, RepRap was never supposed to be a commercial success. It was created as a tech-first initiative, so it was never consumer-centric. It was all about pioneering various technologies and bringing them to the hobbyist market at low cost. RepRap was never supposed to be a cash cow.

So what about big business? A number of industry pioneers have already become 3D printing heavyweights. These include Stratasys, 3D Systems, Ultimaker and Printbot. RepRap printers still command a big market share, and they’re not being squeezed out by proprietary platforms. In fact, most vendors have no choice but to embrace some RepRap standards in order to guarantee compatibility.

However, simply listing 3D printing companies and their respective market share does not paint the full picture. For example, RepRap is limited to FFF technology, which is the most widespread 3D printing technology today. The problem is that FFF printers have a lot of limitations, which means they cannot be used in many industries.

Read more from original resources: https://www.toptal.com/designers/print/3d-printing-for-developers