At first glance, 3D printing is a broad, horizontal technology. But each industry has unique requirements. Sometimes a company turns a specialized technique into a large niche market.
The technologies in 3D printing provide value to many industries. Stereolithography and curing of resins, DLP and photopolymers, Fused Deposit Modelling (FDM) with thermoplastics, inkjet techniques using binder agents (binder jetting) or photopolymers (material jetting), and direct metal laser-sintering (DMLS) share the characteristic of being additive manufacturing processes, but the techniques and the materials vary significantly which makes certain processes more applicable to one application or another.
Voxeljet in Germany manufactures 3D printing products which focus on printing casting molds for industrial applications. With this focus, it is not surprising that voxeljet uses the binder-jetting method and print using sand and plastics. Their printers can generate either plastic parts or sand parts in very large sizes, or many parts of a more modest size. The key point being the industrial target for casting production molds.
At Frankfurt's Formnext 2015 trade show, voxeljet presented their range of printers, including the VX1000. With a price of $1 million, it is not surprising that the company also provides a 3D printing service using the technology. In fact the parts on demand business is running ahead of the 3D printing systems revenue for 2015. And while Formnext in Frankfurt is a perfect event to meet German customers, voxeljet's service department would have been interested in meeting international customers as the company has established service centers in the USA and in the UK.
The VX1000 is not the largest printer in the voxeljet stable. That award goes to the VX4000. In fact, the company says:
The VX4000 is the world's biggest industrial 3D Printer including the cohesive build space of 4,000 x 2,000 x 1,000 mm (LxWxH). The machine is very fast, easy to operate and permits the economical production of very large individual molds, many small-series components or a combination of the two.
The VX4000 comes in at a price just over $1.5 million. It has a very large build envelope, and most importantly, the printers create mold casts efficiently for industries like the automotive industry where competing technologies & solutions are expensive. The service arm of voxeljet for parts on demand is a critical path to monetize their technology with customers which do not need to, cannot afford to, or simply chose not to invest in their own in-house printing capacity.
The result? Voxeljet has established itself in a niche market within the extremely large and horizontal 3D printing industry.
Content for this article originally appeared on Engineering.com