The motto of modern 3D printing equipment appears to be “easier, cheaper, faster, better”. Additive technologies are developing at an extremely rapid pace, and this growth is really exponential — developers and manufacturers in this area manage to achieve more with each and every year.
A while ago, the use of 3D printing was affordable only for large companies with significant financial resources; today, additive technologies have become widespread even in home use for personal needs.
This has a significant impact on the range of applications for 3D printing and additive technologies in general. So what are the benefits of modern 3D equipment?
3D printing technology does get easier every year. If earlier, to make use of the equipment, one had to be a specialist, today even many schoolchildren know how to use it. Simplification contributes to the popularization of additive technologies and their consequent introduction into various spheres of life.
This explains the growing popularity of additive technologies not only in the commercial sector but also in home use. For example, according to official statistics, in 2014, 110 thousand 3D printers were shipped worldwide (this does not mean that they were sold, though). More than 400,000 home 3D printers alone were sold in 2018. In 2021, these indicators increased a lot.
In recent years, the final cost of 3D printing has significantly dropped. This opens up great prospects and makes it possible to use 3D printing technologies not only for an increasing number of companies and enterprises but also in everyday life. Today, 3D equipment and consumables for it are often even cheaper than popular branded gadgets.
According to analysts, ten years ago it was difficult to find 3D printers costing less than 4–5 thousand dollars, but today you can find models for about $100 on the market.
The quality of 3D printing has by all means improved, too: modern devices are capable of printing with micron accuracy, which makes it possible to produce high-quality final models that are not inferior to the conventional serial production at large enterprises. A good example is the new product by Anycubic — the Photon Ultra DLP 3D printer. Although this printer has a nominal resolution of 720p, the print quality exceeds even that of 2K/4K monochrome LCD 3D printers. This is because DLP printers use a different curing technology than LCD/MSLA devices. DLP 3D printers use a projector that reflects light onto a pixel through a micromirror, which eliminates light convergence and provides sharper blacks and whites. LCD 3D printers confine all the light to pixels, which can lead to bumps and shadows at the edges of models. DLP machines provide finer lines and clearer texts than MSLA 3D printers, with better color purity and greater layer saturation, resulting in models with smoother texture and sharp edges.
To a great extent, it was the increase in 3D printing speed that made the widespread commercial use of additive technologies possible. Modern devices print at way higher speeds than models of the past. This makes it possible to carry out both serial conveyor printing and expeditious single-piece production. The first FDM/FFF 3D printers on the mass market printed at speeds of up to 35 mm/s. Today, the print speed of, for example, the Delta WASP 2040 Pro 3D printer can reach 500 mm/s.
The first models were quite bulky, but many today's printers are known to be very compact. For example, one of the earliest 3D printers, the Actua 2100, covered an area of several square meters. Most modern devices can easily fit on the desktop, while their build volume allows users to print large objects.
Although the additive technologies market has recently made a real breakthrough, experts say this is just a beginning. In the near future, 3D printing equipment will become an integral part of every home — as ordinary as, for example, a laptop or refrigerator. And the introduction of additive technologies in production and businesses will be developing even more actively.