Increasingly, we’ve seen a number of mainstream manufacturers enter the world of 3D printing with their own systems. The flood really began last year, as Autodesk, HP, and Trumpf unveiled their own 3D printers, followed by companies like Ricoh, Canon, and Sentrol. Other brand names in the mix include Dremel, Microsoft, and Intel, who have found entrances into the 3D printing industry, as well. GE has been in 3D printing for some time, but, last year, they opened their first complete metal 3D printing facility in Alabama, which is used for in-house production of LEAP jet engine nozzles. The latest is Toshiba Machines who, with Toshiba, are working on their own laser metal deposition (LMD) 3D printing, which they suggest will be 10 times the speed of powder bed fusion metal printers.
To pull this off, the company has, according to a recent press release, developed a nozzle that relies on Toshiba’s fluid simulation technology to cut down the spread of metal particles, which are fused with an 800-watt laser focused on that small area of powder to produce parts at 110cc an hour. The site also reports that the machine will be able to 3D print larger parts at lower costs, using materials such as stainless steel, Iconel, and iron. As they develop their prototype, optimizing the speed, resolution, and print management interface, Toshiba will be launching the printer in 2017.
The system will be sold with other manufacturing equipment through a program established by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, dubbed “Technological Development for Next-Generation Industrial 3D Printers and Ultra-High-Precision 3D Shaping Systems.” The plan is to leverage 3D printing in traditional manufacturing to allow for a hybrid approach to production. This may bode well for greater integration of 3D printing into the larger supply chain, but may not be such a great sign for established 3D printing leaders as they become the medium-sized fish in a much bigger ocean, populated by the likes of Toshiba and HP.