Jul.22, 2013

Duann Scott, design evangelist at 3D printing company Shapeways said that key patents are holding back 3D printing. In February 2014 these patents which cover a technology known as "laser sintering," a low-cost 3D printing technology will expire. Laser sintering can produce high resolution products and can be sold as finished products.

Currently it is only possible to buy expensive industrial-grade laser sintering 3D ​​printers. It costs tens of thousands of dollars each, and most of designers, artists or entrepreneurs can not afford this price. Scott said that once the key patents expire, we could expect a massive price drop of laser sintering machines.

Take an example of another form of 3D printing, known as fused deposition modelling. After the expiration of its patent, FDM printers grow explosively because of open source, and its price fell from thousands of dollars to as little as $300. And many of those inexpensive 3D printers are being manufactured in China.

A similar sequence involving the lifting of intellectual property barriers, a rise in competition, and a huge drop in price is likely to play out again in laser deposition 3D printers, says Shapeways' Scott.

Currently cheap desktop 3D printer can not print out the exact mold for mass production, and the model they produce is only handy for giving you a feel for what something will look like in 3D. It can not create the finished product which can be easily sold. When the laser sintering technology patents expire, all of that will change completely.

(Source: Shapeways)

Currently designers who want to use Shapeways' 3D printing service have to wait two weeks to get the finished product. It is because the company was unable to acquire sufficient laser sintering 3D printers. 3D Systems, the company that makes the models that Shapeways uses, has a delivery time up to 12-18 months.

The release of these patents could be an important step in getting us to the future of mass customization.

Source: Quartz

Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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insider wrote at 1/28/2014 8:51:32 PM:

Sometimes journalists make mistakes and do not fact check.

wrote at 10/4/2013 3:24:48 PM:

Austin and mickey was here

Kevin wrote at 8/13/2013 2:28:21 AM:

I am not sure where Shapeways is getting their information from but machine delivery does not have a wait list of 12 - 18 mos. This is highly misleading.

Will wrote at 8/7/2013 10:14:02 PM:

@Bill FormLabs machine is technically not a laser sintering device, rather it is a stereolithography machine. Laser sintering is technically defined as using a laser to melt together fine particles of a material (glass, plastic, metal). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_laser_sintering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereolithography

alidan wrote at 7/24/2013 11:17:34 PM:

@Daniel it already is at an acceptable cost, however its like the filament, base cost of it is 3-5$ a kilo, possibly less if you buy an in extreme bulk, but the price is gouged when sold as 3d printer anything, its allot like that uv resin, it is very cheap (relatively and quality print speaking) when you don't but a "this is for 3d printers" specific brand.

Daniel wrote at 7/24/2013 9:10:20 PM:

It will also require a open UV resin at an acceptable cost.

Nasty wrote at 7/23/2013 10:14:21 PM:

Actually Shapeways gets their PRINTERS from 3D Systems. They get their laser sintering machines from EOS, there's a big difference. Both are additive, not both are 'printing'.

Bill wrote at 7/23/2013 8:24:25 PM:

It is already here. I own a laser sinintering desktop machine purchased from Form Labs in their kickstarter campaign. They are currently selling them for a little over 3,000. The feature resolution is an amazing .3mm diam circle and a layer thickness of 25-100 microns.

jd90 wrote at 7/23/2013 5:30:17 AM:

The laser part isn't so terrible, laser engravers don't seem to be causing problems for anyone. But, yes, dust is very dangerous. Could be a show-stopper.

Benjamin wrote at 7/22/2013 10:43:24 PM:

Something is missing... There is need of a open source community for laser sinter printers... We would not have makerbots and all the printers when there was no open source all over the world movement who "invented" all the easy to use stuff...

jd90 wrote at 7/22/2013 10:42:20 PM:

Has that really stopped the hobbyists from designing one? Is there an index that shows what countries have issued such patents? Any hobbyist in a country that hasn't issued such a patent could work on it and post their designs.

Nick Allen wrote at 7/22/2013 7:59:24 PM:

What about the dangers of SLS? I own an EOS P100.... It is an oven filled with lasers, it needs a very expensive compressor that seperates the Nitrogen from the air to make the powder in a contained chamber less likely to explode. My vacuum cleaner cost £2,000 as well as it has to be ATEX rated (Explosion Proof). I don't see the cost falling as much as people think, even if the patent does expire. (and don't forget the mess the powder makes..... un-frickin-believable amounts of dust everywhere!)

Sasan wrote at 7/22/2013 7:27:14 PM:

exiting news...!! :):))))))

bubbatex wrote at 7/22/2013 7:07:33 PM:

Shapeways gets printers from EOS, not 3D

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