Global 3D printer market on a growth spiral

17 July 2017



The global 3D printer market continues to grow with sales up 18 per cent in 2016.

Demand for 3D printers is strongest within the Asia-Pacific region. However, the North American market, despite a small recovery, still saw sales down from the previous 12-month period, according to research firm IDC.

Shipments in specialist manufacturing for the technology sector saw the largest growth at 30 per cent. Meanwhile, sales of powder-bed fusion-based printers increased by almost 40 per cent.

Keith Kmetz, program vice president-3D printing at IDC, said:“3D printing will enable revolutionary opportunities in commercial and industrial applications, with earliest success in manufacturing and healthcare. Our predictions create a framework for IT and line-of-business executives to plan and execute technology-related initiatives in the year ahead.”

According to IDC, ‘Discrete Manufacturing’ is the dominant industry for 3D printing, delivering more than two thirds of all worldwide revenues through much of the forecast.

While all the industries examined will experience revenue growth of more than 100 per cent over the forecast period, healthcare will leap from the number five position in 2016 to the number two spot in 2020, with revenues growing to more than US$3.1 billion.

IDC said the gains in both software and on-demand parts printing are being driven by the rapidly expanding use of 3D printing for design prototyping and products that require a high degree of customisation in non-traditional environments.

Another report on the 3D printing market by Markets and Markets predicts that the sector will be worth around US$30 billion by 2022.

The desktop 3D market is expected to see the highest growth rate with the education sector driving growth.
Laser metal deposition (LMD) printing technology will also continue to grow, resulting in a reduction of material waste during the printing process, tooling costs and cost of repairs.

3D-printed artificial heart beats just like the real thing

The devices currently used to pump blood around the body in lieu of a healthy heart have their drawbacks. Whether huge washing machine-sized devices that keep patients anchored to a hospital bed or mechanical implants that cause other complications, there is plenty of room for improvement. With this in mind, scientists have now developed a soft silicone heart that beats much like the real thing, and could provide a safer and more comfortable way to keep the blood pumping.

Artificial hearts and other devices designed to keep blood flowing typically take the place of damaged heart, while the patient awaits a donor organ or for their own heart to recover. There is a great need for new devices in this area, as on any given day, around 3,000 people in the US alone sit on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

So scientists are continually looking for ways to develop new solutions and improve existing pumps, something that includes searching for more biocompatible materials to use, such as malleable foams. This led scientists at ETH Zurich to create an artificial heart out of silicone that is designed to mimic the natural heart as closely as possible.

It is around the same size as a human heart, weighs 390 g (0.85 lb) and was created using 3D printing and a lost-wax casting technique. Just like the real thing, it has a right and left ventricle, which is separated by a chamber that serves as the organ’s muscle. As the chamber is inflated and deflate by pressurized air, it pumps the fluid from the chambers.

In testing the device, the researchers used a fluid with similar viscosity to human blood and found that fundamentally, it functioned in a similar way to a human heart. There is one pretty serious limitation, however, in that the material can only withstand around 3,000 beats which equates to around 30 to 45 minutes of usage. With that said, the team says this proof of concept shows a possible path forward when it comes to artificial hearts.

“This was simply a feasibility test,” says Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student at ETH Zurich and member of the research team. “Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

The video below shows the artificial heart in action, while the research was published in the journal Artificial Organs.

Source: ETH Zurich

View gallery – 3 images

3D Printing Can Improve Osseointegrated Implants

A study has evaluated two additive manufacturing methods for producing either fine- or coarse-textured titanium implants and compared the strength of bone integration, interlocking, and torque in rats given one or both types of the implants in the distal femurs. As the frequency of osseointegration increases, the ability to customize implant surface textures and geometries to match the specific anatomy of people with amputations will become more important, according to the study published June 1 in 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. The study will be available at no cost until July 20.

One of the methods used in the study, electron beam melting, produces a coarse-textured implant, whereas the other method, direct metal laser sintering, can create either a fine- or coarse-textured surface. The researchers reported substantial differences between the fine-textured and coarse-textured implants based on mechanical testing to assess osseointegration and torsional properties, and measures of bone-volume fraction and bone-implant contact.

Color Your Processed Prints With Hydro Dipping

Color adds a new dimension to the communication of 3D printers. Concepts that before could only be represented by geometries, can now be created in a way that is visually closer to the way the object would be created in real life.

Unfortunately not everyone has access to multiple extruders on their printers, resigning us to make do with monochrome prints. Luckily various methods such as hydro dipping are available for improving prints. Color can be a major issue if your primary focus is on artistic merit. Similarly, perhaps you like to print in single color and then add paint to the finished products (especially useful if you want to produce a range of different colors for different units of the same model).

That’s where hydro dipping comes in.

What is Hydro-dipping?

Hydro Dipping is a method of coloring various objects that can imprint complex colors and patterns onto their surface. Whereas most dipping methods that involve coloring will add only simpler patterns or single colors, hydro dipping enables quick and easy multi-shade patterns with dynamic aesthetics.

Coloring prints using this method involves (at minimum) getting a hydrographic film, some activator, a heated container and some finish. The process mainly involves setting up the film to be dissolvable and then submerging the item to color it. One disadvantage of hydro dipping is that it generally does one side at a time and thus may require re-dipping.

It is a home-friendly method and also very safe. All items can easily be obtained via the internet, hardware and hobby shops. It is also worth noting that while the dipping process is quite easy, setting up the apparatus can be complex.

Making a Hydro Dipped Print

Necessary items

Item requirements include:

  1. Primer
  2. Hydrographic film
  3. Base Coat
  4. Painter’s Tape
  5. Container (typically, acrylic or thick plastic box)
  6. Water heating device
  7. Activator
  8. High gloss finish
  9. Gloves


Start off by scrubbing and cleaning the object you want to hydro dip. While there are no guidelines for what to use, it’s important to take off any grease. This allows for a smoother primer application process. Apply tape to any areas of the item you want to keep paint free. Also, remember to wear gloves.

Then, apply primer to the object. Do this using successive coats on the areas that you want to coat. Similarly, apply the base coats lightly. Too much coating will cause runs and spillage into the desired design. The base coat will serve as the background to most of the design, so choose the color wisely.

As the coat dries, fill the container with water and heat it up to about 70°-80°F. This is the ideal temperature for hydro dipping. This is the best time to use more tape to create some borders on both the film and the area of the water you will dip prints into. The borders will help keep the film in place and prevents drifting as it expands in the water.

Then, shake up the activator can to get it ready. Some cans have a secondary tab at the bottom that readies it. Now you need to find which side of the film goes on the water surface. If you wet your fingers and touch the film, you’ll notice one side dissolves. The side that gets erased should be on top. It’s important to hold the film by the corners as you put it on the water surface. Put the hydro film in the water and let it float. Keep the corners up as the middle touches the water and slowly lower the sides. Make sure to reduce the bubbles and wrinkles for an optimal finish.

Let the film soak for a bit and retain some water (typically about 60 seconds). Apply the activator in light strokes. The film will start to expand and after 15 seconds you will be ready to dip the object. While dipping, push the object down at a 30 – 45 degree angle and swirl it just a bit. Quickly lift the object and check your color coat.

To finish up the process, apply (medium to hot) water to take off the adhesive residue. Try this until all the shiny residue bits are gone. Finally, you can apply the high gloss finish and consider the print recolored.