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Not Just Hype: Making 3D Printing Accessible Across Industries

Jason Fullmer
By Jason Fullmer COO, Formlabs

When 3D printing rocketed in popularity a decade ago, it was overhyped with the vision of a 3D printer in every home. While this expectation of 3D printing has yet to become a reality, 3D printing has already had a significant impact, including in healthcare, automotive and supply chains.

3D printing is an innovative technology that enables advances and flexibility never before possible.

The Need for Additive Following Pandemic Disruptions

The pandemic was a critical turning point in the digital revolution. Disruptions in the supply chain called for technologies such as 3D printing to assist in mitigating risk, filling in for manufacturing gaps and streamlining workflows. Formlabs released a report which found that during the past two years, using 3D printing increased dramatically, not just for prototyping but also for custom manufacturing tools and end-use parts.

The need for rapidly expanding 3D printing into manufacturing allowed it to impact the tech industry on a greater scale. Of companies that adopted 3D printing in the past two years, 63 percent shared that they are frequently or always using 3D printers for end-use products, compared to only 33 percent of those who adopted before the pandemic.

As more users adopt 3D printing, they can worry less about external factors, like COVID variants and labor shortages, that may impact their production. Formlabs will continue to create and innovate new printers and technologies that further solidify additive manufacturing’s place in technology.

Formlabs prioritizes innovative thinking to produce impactful 3D printing products—and achieves this by consistently prioritizing customer needs instead of focusing on the hype of 3D printing.

To meet customer needs, Formlabs produces affordable tech, like the Fuse 1, an SLS printer, and innovative materials. With the Fuse 1, Formlabs set out to reduce the cost of manufacturing. Formlabs’ founders figured out how to use the same laser found in Blu-Ray players to produce a SLS printer that’s significantly less expensive. Formlabs also offers a diverse materials library users can use to create anything, from prototypes to end-use parts. Formlabs has enabled customers to explore the possibilities of 3D printing technology.

For example, its printers have enabled dental professionals to create over 25 million dental parts in house, from models to surgical guides, since 2019. Furthermore, Formlabs embraces innovative partnerships with companies like VITAL Auto, a concept car manufacturer using 3D printing to create car parts on site.

Formlabs’ Place in Tech

Formlabs has continuously aimed to keep 3D printing affordable by investing in overlooked technology. With accessibility as a priority over the years, Formlabs has unlocked opportunities for collaboration with major consumer brands. Gillette used Formlabs to make its customized razor handle using 3D printers as its production engine, while New Balance used Formlabs’ unique printing process to create the soles of the FuelCell Echo Triple sneaker. This type of sole can only be created with a 3D printer and represents a usage few would have imagined when Formlabs first began making printers.

Investors like Softbank have taken notice of Formlabs’ impact in other industries like healthcare, and invested $150 million in the company as their first 3D printing investment. This funding not only increased the company valuation to $2 billion, but it also proved that focused innovation can make a name for niche technologies like 3D printing in the greater technology field overall. Additive manufacturing is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, expanding into industries few could have envisioned.

Formlabs will continue to innovate at the forefront of this space to enable anyone to make anything.

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