As expected, 3D printing continued to grow in popularity during 2020 with an increase of new machines, techniques, materials and resources. Here's a look at what we saw this year.
First off, some information: MakerBot released a 3D Printing Trends Report featuring statistics gleaned from "over 1,200 responses from professionals across multiple industries, including Aerospace, Industrial Goods, Military & Defense, Medical, and Automotive." As one example, we learned that most designers prize reliability over accuracy when it comes to choosing a machine.
And there were plenty of machines to choose from. In March Stratasys rolled out their J826 model, a new, mid-range, lower-cost version of their high-end J8 series of 3D printers.
Just a few months later, Stratsys released the J55, an "office-friendly 3D printer for designers" that's about 1/3rd the price of the big-boy PolyJet machines.
The same month, MakerBot launched their Method Carbon Fiber Edition. The upgraded machine can handle carbon-fiber-reinforced nylon, making it suitable for printing parts that can replace metal ones.
In August, Formlabs announced their gigantic 3L large-format 3D printer. The build area is an absurd 11.8" high, 13.2" wide and 7.9" deep.
In November, Creality Kickstarted their Infinite-Z 3D Printer, an unusual machine that can print objects of infinite length. It garnered a whopping $1.4 million in pledges.
On the techniques front, Swiss researchers developed a new 3D printing method that allows super-fast, high-resolution prints in soft or hard materials.
A collaboration between the Wyss Institute and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences yielded a new technique called Multimaterial Multinozzle 3D printing. Their revolutionary method can change the filament's color as it's being extruded.
Only got one nozzle? A collaboration between Meiji University, Osaka University and Texas A&M University developed a new trick called Programmable Filament. Their hack allows you to print multimaterial objects using a single-nozzle 3D printer.
Jack Forman of MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media group developed an "underextruding" technique for 3D printing flexible fabrics using an inexpensive, unmodified printer.
Industrial designer Jiani Zeng and computational designer Honghao Deng have been using multimaterial printing to create lenticular effects in their "Illusory Materials" objects.
On the resources front, Thingiverse gained a competitor in Thangs, who hopes their "geometric search" function will give them an advantage over the incumbent.
This year the NASA 3D Resources website posted hundreds of 3D models, images, textures and visualizations that you can download for free. The Printable section has .stl files you can use to print things like their Multi-Purpose Precision Maintenance Tool.
Here's a weird 3D printing trend we didn't see coming: Apparently, 3D printing sprue cards for model airplane kits has become a thing.
If you're looking for some 3D printing eye candy, check out these time lapse videos by Wild Rose Builds.
Lastly, a bit of bad news: A new study revealed that FDM 3D printers produce toxic emissions--and that those aged nine years old and younger are at higher risk.
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