Some important 3D printing updates, including micro- and nanoscale printing.
First, the ExOne IPO had an early surge according to press reports. ExOne is located in North Huntingdon, PA.
Second, the antitrust litigation involving 3D Systems had a major development recently. Apart from the legal analysis, the judge’s opinion (28 pages) has some interesting reading about the markets and technology for 3D printing. By noting this development, we confirm, of course, no implication on the merits or lack thereof for the litigation, for any of the parties, by noting this update for readers.
Finally, Nanoscribe GmbH continues to market its micro- and nanoscale manufacturing process using laser lithography. Nanoscribe is a “spinout” from the KIT organization. I enjoyed looking at their video.
I attended today the USPTO partnership meeting on “additive manufacturing” (aka 3D Printing). The content was excellent, covering both talks and demonstrations. Companies presenting included 3D Systems, Stratasys, Shapeways, MakerBot, Ex One, and EOS. Several hundred persons attended, including in person and via the web, and the room energy was excellent throughout the three hours plus of content. The 3D printing revolution appears to be on after some 25 years of gestation.
MakerBot is featured in this article. Ex One is featured here.
The USPTO should be congratulated for putting together this informative, exciting event. The USPTO did not give too much overview of how patenting impacts this, but patenting was frequently noted by the speakers, and the PTO did note that there have been around 6,800 patent applications filed in this area over the past ten years. I was particularly struck by the concept that 3D printing can in some cases make objects which cannot be made by other ways. I would also like to hear more about nanoscale aspects of this including materials, interfaces, and nanoscale resolution. One of the driving forces for nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing is additive manufacturing. This recently published U.S. patent application from Lockheed Martin (2013/0018243) shows use of carbon nanotubes and uses the phrase “bio-additive manufacturing.” We will continue to monitor patent filings in this important area as 2013 progresses.
In 3D printing, an object is built up layer-by-layer under computer controlled manufacturing. The talks today covered the historical development including the original stereolithography, laser sintering, binder-on-powder printing, and inkjet 3D printing. Today, some of the companies are trying to “democratize” the technology and introduce this wonder to the general public. With 3D printing, everyone can become a creator. Recently media reports on 3D printing have been abundant. Hopefully, venture capital will be interested. Stay tuned!
Another interesting nanotechnology book recently appeared, The Visioneers, by W. Patrick McCray, 2013, 323 pages, $29.95 hardback at Barnes & Noble (“How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies, and a limitless future”). One focus in this book is on the history of nanotechnology up to around 2004, including the role of Eric Drexler and Richard Smalley and their famous debate. The origin of the NNI is briefly covered. The multiple strands of nanotechnology are explored, ranging from futuristic concepts to advanced materials science for making products now. Tensions between different nanotech philosophies and groups are explored. Good read, although it would have been interesting if more content had been provided for after 2004. Also, nanotechnology is only one of two conveyed stories of visioneering.
Also, 3D printing seems to be the rage these days in the technical and general media. The USPTO will hold a special session on 3D printing on January 23,2013. The 3D printing company ExOne is announcing an IPO attempt. In 3D printing, thin layers are built on one another. Nanotechnology connects in the materials used for 3D printing, as well as the notion of making thinner and thinner layers. Where is nanotechnology going? It is impacting personalized medicine and energy.
Clearly, one visioneering answer also now arising is in 3D printing.