To Top

The Evolution of the 3D Printing Industry and Our Role in it

By Gabe Peragine • 
December 7th, 2022

Over a decade ago, 3D printing became mainstream. Now, 3D printing is used for everything from creating small figurines to manufacturing industrial parts. When the 3D printing craze hit years ago, the central part of the 3D printing industry was selling the hardware and printers themselves.

However, there has been a shift in the industry's focus that we've seen here at Tech Soft 3D. 3D Printers are expensive. Depending on your needs, a printer can range from $200 to $500,000 USD. The cost associated with buying a printer may not make sense for your business. So, in order to remain competitive, many hardware companies have also begun selling 3D printing software. This software often needs to be specialized since off-the-shelf software may not account for differences in printing materials or processes specific to their technology.

One of the software trends that we've seen in 3D printing is in the generative design space. Generative design uses algorithms with pre-defined goals and limitations to generate potential designs for a product. We have partners such as ELISE that create software for generative design. By combining generative design with 3D printing, businesses and individuals can achieve massive cost savings. 3D printing material is costly, so generative design can help by creating designs that use less material, especially when the designs use lattice structures. The designs created through the generative design process often have more organic shapes. These shapes cannot be easily manufactured via the traditional manufacturing process. However, it is very easy to 3D print them. The ability to create new designs easily opens up many opportunities for innovation.

Quoting services for additive manufacturing are also becoming very popular, and the industry continues to grow fast. Since 3D printers are so expensive, it makes sense for many businesses to outsource the printing. Service bureau companies have many different types of 3D printers that can print anything from a small-scale prototype to a large production part. One of our partners, Xometry, is creating a platform that brings multiple service bureaus together for the consumer and gives them quotes on how much it would be to print the models they want.

Our partner, Link3D, also is in the 3D printing space. They offer an MES, or Manufacturing Execution System, platform. Their software helps optimize manufacturing and ensure repeatability when it comes to 3D printing parts. Like Xometry, Link3D uses Tech Soft 3D tools to upload a wide array of 3D models into their software, analyze those models for defects that would otherwise make those parts unprintable, and heal or prepare them to make them printable. The parts are then sent to a factory where they can be produced. Link3D makes it easy to track and adhere to strict regulations, quality controls, and acceptance checks in each part of the manufacturing process, making it a clear choice for many regulated industries like aerospace and automotive.

Tech Soft 3D has a unique position within the 3D printing industry. Since our HOOPS Exchange SDK focuses on bringing in multiple 3D formats, we are utilized by many companies that work with 3D printing. HOOPS Exchange is only one part of our HOOPS Web Platform and our HOOPS Native Platform. Both of these integrated platforms are built for rapid product development. HOOPS Visualize for the HOOPS Web Platform, and HOOPS Communicator for the HOOPS Native Platform are visualization SDKs that provide 3D graphics for visualizing parts, slicing, tessellation, errors, nesting, and support structures.

In some cases, we also license Polygonica to help those same companies ensure that their models are watertight for printing. With our partners, we have seen a shift from a focus on printer hardware to software that makes the 3D printing process easier. Additive manufacturing and generative design also appear to continue growing and evolving. It will be interesting to see where the industry goes and how it develops. Regardless of its direction, Tech Soft 3D will likely be helping to power those 3D printing software applications.

Return to Blog ⇾