Entries in 3D Systems (110)
by General Fabb
3D printing giant 3D Systems has announced their financial results for the second quarter of 2012, and it appears they're doing just fine.
Compared to this quarter last year, their revenues are up a huge 52%, growing to USD$83.6 million. Evidently all their businesses report growth in this quarter, indicating a very strong operation. They even have a backlog of USD$12.3 million in backorders to fill.
Their gross profit grew by 71% - larger than their revenue growth. This means they're making their operations more efficient, thus leveraging their huge size.
What this all means to us is that the numerous corporate acquisitions made by 3D Systems over the past year have all worked out rather well.
Via 3D Systems
3D Systems now has robots! Well, not actual robots, but instead a system of 3D models that can be assembled into a huge variety of robot shapes. The robot pieces include arms, legs, torsos, etc., but also accessories such as ray guns and backpacks.
The pieces are intended to be assembled and fit together - but they also are specifically designed to have movable joints. This means your personalized robot will be completely posable.
The robots are sold in different packaged sets that include different features. All pieces can be mixed and matched thanks to a very versatile design. You can either download the models and print them on your own 3D printer (and 3D Systems would hope that's a Cube) or you can send the models to 3D Systems print service for direct delivery to your doorstep.
We think this is a tremendous way to engage buyers, who are more likely interested in themed items than arbitrary objects. Robots are a great idea - and probably has something to do with 3D Systems' earlier acquisition of My Robot Nation.
Industry giant 3D Systems intends on teaching you a lot more about 3D printing with their new seminar series entitled, "Smarter 3D Printing". These seminars are planned for approximately 80 events in multiple locations across the United States, four locations in Canada and one (Sao Paulo) in Brazil.
The no-charge seminars will provide:
... an interactive and informative seminar series for entrepreneurs and professionals to experience the latest 3D printers in action and explore the benefits of 3D Systems’ end-to-end, 3D content-to-print solutions and services. These seminars provide immediate access to powerful ideation-to-production tools and services and are offered July through September 2012 at participating 3D Systems’ partner locations across North America.
There are so many of these events and they are so widespread you'll likely find one nearby that you can attend. Best check the detailed schedule to find one near you.
We managed to examine 3D Systems' latest personal 3D printer, the Cube, in person at Rapid 2012. The colorful unit was much as we expected, but there was a surprise.
The print bed appeared glossy for some unknown reason. We wondered if the surface was made that way and investigated with a finger. We discovered immediately that the print bed is in fact heated. Heated A Lot!
After recovering our damaged fingers, we learned that Cube users must apply a coating of glue before each print operation to the print bed to ensure prints stick. Here is the magic glue. Yes, it is literally magic, because the label says so.
This is an interesting approach to a common problem among personal 3D printers: how to you ensure the prints stick. Various approaches have been attempted, including unusual print bed chemistry, blue painter's tape, etc., but glue now seems like a very simple and obvious solution.
You may recall Bespoke Innovations, a company dedicated to using 3D printing to produce personalized replacement limbs. The method is to use 3D scanning to prepare a digital model of a remaining limb, then 3D print a mirror image of the model, approximating the original missing limb. Panels are prepared in the correct shape and then mounted on a strong artificial limb structure to produce a replacement limb that appears very close to the original.
But now they've been acquired by industry giant 3D Systems in yet another of their frequent acquisitions. It's not known what the acquisition terms were, but according to the press release:
3D Systems plans to integrate Bespoke into its growing healthcare solutions services and leverage its integrated scan, design and print technology and knowhow to develop and commercialize a full range of innovative, ventilated and lightweight custom fit prosthetics, orthotics and orthopedics.
Who will be the next acquisition?
First announced in January of this year, 3D Systems' latest personal 3D printer, the Cube, is now available for pre-order.
The highly consumer-oriented device first came to light at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, where its ease of use features were very noticeable. The USD$1299 device was not available then, and actually isn't yet either - but you can pre-order it. Shipping evidently commences on May 25th, so the wait won't be that long.
If you haven't heard of the Cube yet, it is a rather interesting device. While it has only a single plastic extruder (and thus prints in a single color at a time), it has several terrific ease-of-use features:
- A solid yet friendly case that provides safety for internal workings and transforms the device's look into something families and children would resonate with.
- Easy to load print cartridges, which are available for USD$50 or less from a selection of very cool colors. They're called "EZ Load Cartridges", obviously.
- WiFi capability to send print jobs to the device without having to get out of your chair. We like anything that keeps us in our chairs. You can also use the included USB stick if you need the exercise, however.
- A tube of glue to assemble multi-part prints. It's a small thing, but we think this is the only personal 3D printer that includes glue.
- They even include "25 Free Creations", which we suspect are digital files from Freedom of Creation that you can quickly print on your Cube.
It sounds like a terrific entry-level 3D printer for less technically-inclined consumers. We'll find out for sure when the sales figures come in.
3D Systems and their recent acquisition, ZCorp, announced the availability of their most gigantic 3D printer yet, the ZPrinter 850. The 850 is capable of 3D printing large objects in full color using its powder-based printing approach.
This beast is similar to the smaller model 650, but with a larger build area. The new model can build up to 20 x 15 x 9 inches (508 x 381 x 229 mm), quite an increase over the 650's 10 x 15 x 8 inches (254 x 381 x 203 mm). That's a 2.25x increase in volume, according to our calculations.
While most of the other specs are similar to the 650, including 390K colors using 5 heads, 600x540 dpi resolution, a layer thickness of 0.089 - 0.102mm and minimum feature size of 0.1mm, there are some differences. The vertical build speed is actually somewhat less on the 850, which is no doubt due to the massively larger build envelope - there's much more to get done. Strangely, although the 850 has more than double the build envelope it's actually physically smaller: 47 x 46 x 68 inches (119 x 116 x 162 cm) vs. the 650's 74 x 29 x 57 inches (188 x 74 x 145 cm). Another difference is a new requirement for Shop Air, presumably for cleaning finished items.
The main feature seems to be the massively larger build area, which should provide much convenience for architects and others needing to produce very large models.
No word on pricing yet.
To promote their new Cube 3D printer and Cubify 3D printing community, 3D Systems has a tricked out van shuttling around the USA. The van is equipped with Cube 3D printers and evidently a ton of 3D models, too, as they're printing stuff at every stop. They've started in the western USA and are more or less proceeding east. It's possible to follow their activities by checking the Cubify blog (tag Cube Odyssey) for location updates.
What we found interesting (beyond the 3D printing of course) was the van itself. This is a wonder of art and paint, as you can see in the image above. The paint over was created by noted artist Jeremy Madl of MAD Toy Design. There's no way you wouldn't notice this vehicle cruising down your street.
But what kind of vehicle is it?
A Nissan Cube, of course.
Via Cubify Blog
Standard and Poors have added 3D Systems to their SmallCap 600 index. The index is a basket of (surprise) 600 companies whose aggregated stock prices offer insight into medium-sized company performance. 3D Systems was able to be added after one of the existing companies, Taleo, was acquired by Oracle (making it definitely not a Small Cap instrument).
We think this is an important development because of two things: first, it confirms that 3D Systems, a company dedicated to 3D printing, is large enough to be considered for this influential list. Secondly, it also means the 3D printing industry is seen as a valid and important concept in business. Those can only be good for all 3D printing companies.
Industry giant 3D Systems has made another acquisition, and this one appears to be a little different than previous purchases. They've acquired specialty 3D print service MyRobotNation, whom we've written about in the past. MyRobotNation's specialty is, well, robots. Personalized robots.
The service provides users with a very easy to use (and fun) interface to quickly design your own robot. Press the final button and they produce your custom 3D printed robot and it shows up in your mailbox shortly thereafter.
The service was clearly a success, as they've now attracted the attention - and pocketbook - of 3D Systems.
How is this acquisition different? 3D Systems didn't just buy them for the robots. They bought their expertise in producing a high-quality end-user design experience. It's a perfect addition to the company's Cubify online repository of 3D models. Now (theoretically) some Cubify models could be customized in a manner similar to MyRobotNation, making Cubify much more interesting.
We'll be watching for changes inevitably coming in Cubify that incorporate the new approach.
Via 3D Systems (Hat tip to Franky)