This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
product development | Opinion

Gordon Styles is managing director and owner of China-based Star Prototype and has been involved in the prototyping and rapid tooling business for more than 20 years. Here he shares his personal view with Injection World on the future potential of 3D home printing

Looking beyond the hype

Right: Gordon Styles predicts 3D printing in the home is

still at least 10 years away

When I bought my fi rst stereo- lithography apparatus (SLA) in 1993, 3D printing as an industry was a mere six years old. The SLA machine, along with selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), laminated object manufacturing (LOM), and a smattering of other fl edgling technologies, were all ‘workshop’ rapid prototyping machines.

In the 1990s, SLA proved to be

the only platform that provided stable and accurate prototypes that could take a coat of paint with ease. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that other technologies such as SLS and FDM really got a foothold at all. By 1997, people were talking about and launching

the fi rst 3D offi ce printers. These were mostly based on some kind of ‘multi jet modeling/printing’ or MJM/MJP. But some of the technologies such as SL, LOM and FDM made their way into this industry as well. But again, it took ten years for these technologies to stabilise. We recently saw the two front-runners, Z Corp and Objet, get swallowed up by 3D Systems [Jan 2012] and Stratasys [Dec 2012] respectively. Now here we are in 2013 with the whole world

talking about 3D home printing. The planet is alive with talk of the ‘democratisation’ of manufacturing – what- ever that’s supposed to mean. Governments all over the world are earmarking large sums of money to get into the game, no more so than the Chinese with an estimated US$1bn budgeted to ensure that the country becomes a leader in 3D printing of every kind. Everyone is now launching a 3D home printer. I have

just returned from TCT 2013 [the Time Compression Technology show at Birmingham in the UK] where there was an entire zone dedicated to personal printing. Two private equity companies have recently interviewed me

32 INJECTION WORLD | October 2013

wanting to get an inside track on which technology or company is going to ‘win’. Where should they put their $50 million? All this activity just gives you an

idea of how in vogue 3D printing has become. Investors are looking at the 60 to 120 P/E ratios in this market, and it is making their mouths water. So, are we about to have a home

invasion of 3D printers? My personal view is no. Today, I think any industry insider would

consider that 3D home printing, and 3D printing generally, is experiencing the mother of all bubbles. Home printers are great fun for innovative people

who like to tinker at home; but they are at least fi ve years away from being suffi ciently stable and appropri- ate for unattended home use. As sure as day becomes night, 3D home printing will mature and it will become mainstream, but I think we are still at least ten years away from that happening.

About the author: Gordon Styles has been working in the prototyping industry for more than 20 years and was a pioneer in what was then known as rapid product development. He set up Styles RPD in the north east of England in 1993, growing it to become the UK’s largest rapid prototyping company with sales of more than US$6m. He sold the business to Arrk in 2000 and embarked on researching the Asian prototyping industry, resulting in the forma- tion of a new business Star Prototype in 2005. What started out as a representative offi ce in Yihua has grown to become a complete factory at Zhongshan Port with more than 3,500m2

of production and offi ce space. The

company employs more than 100 people, including technical specialists witin and outside of China. 

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82