The growth in 3D printing is undeniable as the technology takes hold in businesses and labs around the world. 3D printers have made their way into the world’s top research facilities and many of the largest global corporations ever to exist, as well as — though to much less an extent than earlier hype might have suggested — into homes and more casual use. From extrusion-based desktop machines churning out baubles to industrial versions of the same working on production lines, from precise metal machines to sleek resin-based technologies, 3D printers relying on a variety of technologies and materials have been seeing an increase in adoption as the industry around additive manufacturing surges. Industry watchers regularly report on trends, market leadership, and milestones — and today, Wednesday, December 6th, we see a new major milestone marked: the sale of the mllionth desktop 3D printer.
Sold in the Netherlands at Eindhoven-based 3D printing retailer Lay3rs, the milestone machine is a FELIX Tec 4 3D printer from FELIXprinters, purchased by Vera de Pont, a Dutch designer specializing in fashion tech. And yes, there were balloons to celebrate.
“The Millionth Desktop 3D Printer is a huge milestone for the 3D printing industry,” Lay3rs owner Albert Falck tells 3DPrint.com.
“The desktop 3D printing industry is only around ten years old today and to have across, so relatively few years have already sold a million machines is astonishing. Of course, some people were saying that everyone would have a printer so compared to that a million printers may be a disappointment to some. At Lay3rs we support lots of customers from large manufacturing companies to people who 3D print at home. With such a broad selection of 3D printers and customers, we see all kinds of people. Across the board, we notice that people are becoming much more professional and demanding. When we began Lay3rs, people saw 3D printing as a novelty. Now customers are using it in production and manufacturing. Desktop 3D printers themselves are becoming better as well and increasing in functionality. People such as Vera are using this technology to as small businesses compete at the very edge of new technology, this is just one of the things that is 3D printing fact, not 3D printing hype.”
Small businesses, such as those de Pont runs, benefit from desktop 3D printing as it allows for new possibilities. The 26-year-old Dutch designer has been working for a few years with an Ultimaker Original 3D printer in her work, but was in search of a new machine that would allow for her to try conductive filaments and PCL filaments to make directly 3D printed wearables. In addition to wearables, she also works with designs such as 3D printed shoes and digitally manufactured apparel, and is engaged in a multi-year research project devoted to developing her own 3D printed smart textiles. Her work is further informed by her interest in zero-waste patterns, slow fashion, and digitally manufactured form-fitting clothing. A 2015 gradute from the Design Academy, de Pont speaks and presents about design worldwide.
The new 3D printer represents an opening door to new possibilities for de Pont’s work. She tells us that she “can’t wait to get my printer so I can use it to make wearables.” 3D printing brings new possibilities into her designs, and working with a newer model machine opens up additional opportunity for advances in her work.
“3D printing gives me the freedom to develop and manufacture in my studio. Clothing is now made through very environmentally damaging ways and shipped around the world before being worn and then thrown away quickly. There must be more sustainable ways to make clothing. This is what attracts me to where fashion and technology collide,” she tells 3DPrint.com.
“I’m using 3D printing to try to develop a more sustainable way to make good clothing. This printer, the FelixPrinters Tec 4, will really help me make new flexible 3D prints for wearables I’m experimenting with. I like the large build volume and the fact that it is open which makes it