In a world where a single 3D printing printer can produce hundreds of thousands of parts, the threat of losing them is a huge one.
That’s why some printers, including the popular Makerbot and 3DPrinting, are pushing for more than just a patent protection for their parts.
The idea is to make sure their technology stays with them long after they’re no longer needed.
“If a printer was to go away, we’re going to be there to keep the technology,” says Paul Besser, vice president of technology and engineering at Makerbot.
“It’s the future.”
This isn’t the first time the makers of 3D printers have been pushing to keep their technology from going away.
The printers were around in the early days of 3DP and were eventually replaced by 3D scanners.
“When 3DP came along, it was an exciting time,” Besserr says.
“You had a whole bunch of things coming out.
But once you had a scanner, you had an incredible platform for the whole industry to build upon.
Now you have printers and 3D scanning and you’ve got 3D software.”
A year ago, 3D printers such as Makerbot were worried about the future of the industry.
They weren’t alone.
The 3DP print heads that have taken the most to heart the fears of makers are the makers themselves.
But while the Makerbot crowd is a little worried about being left behind, the majority of the 3D technology in use today is made by other companies, including 3DPress and Makerbot, which are now competing in the 3DPprinting wars.
“They’re all trying to figure out what their place is in the market,” Busser says.
Makerbot says that the competition from the likes of Makerbot is “very aggressive.”
“We want to build on the technology that’s there, and use it to make better 3D objects,” says Steve Fosbury, vice chairman of MakerBot.
“We think that 3Dprinting is a good way to make that happen.”
But Bessers argument for staying in the game stems not just from his love of the technology, but also from the fact that 3DP printers can make things in minutes.
“I think if we just keep pushing on with it and making it better, we can have a lot of interesting 3D items that are available in the marketplace that will help us in the long run,” Bissers says.
This is a point Makerbot makes in its patent application for a new printer called a “universal printer.”
The company envisions that this new printer will be able to print parts for the next 10 years.
It will be cheap to produce and easy to install, and it will have a built-in laser cutter that could cut down on the number of parts needed to make an item.
“People have been printing in 3D for hundreds of years,” says Mark Zlotnik, senior director of global innovation at MakerBot, which is also a member of the MakerBot International.
“A lot of people have been doing it for decades.
People have been using it for generations.
Now people are making it, and they’re using it more and more.”
The printers are a part of a broader trend that the makers say is about getting the technology out to the masses.
“The 3D industry is moving into a new age where the consumer is looking for the most affordable and durable object that they can find,” Besseser says, “and so that’s the next step in this industry.”
This article has been updated to reflect that 3DSystems and MakerBot were both members of the International 3DP Printing Alliance, not the Makerbots.