“MultiFab’s enhanced multimaterial capabilities, open platform, and order-of-magnitude cost reduction potential are high-value, high-impact challenges to the status quo among leading 3D printer companies and offer a clear path to affordably printing polymer parts with a much wider range and combination of properties,” said Lux Research analyst Anthony Vicari.
Lux Research analyzed key implications including:
• Stratasys, 3D Systems, and EOS need to raise their game. If MIT’s claims hold up, then MultiFab beats incumbent polymer printers on price, performance, and adaptability. Today’s giants will need to follow suit or watch new entrants quickly capture market share.
• Computer vision shows cheap path to higher reliability. MultiFab’s optical 3D monitoring system uses low-cost hardware and standard computer vision techniques to self-calibrate and prevent errors. This increases part-to-part consistency, which has historically been one factor limiting adoption of 3D printing for manufacturing end-use parts.
• Open platforms will accelerate development. Just as the open source RepRap project led to low-cost consumer printers, MultiFab’s open hardware and software platforms will lead to cost reduction, material selection expansion, and more experimentation with new printer design modifications in industrial polymer printers.
MultiFab is no panacea – it is limited to photopolymers and does not solve the problem of poor mechanical performance of printed plastics – but it paves theway for many more researchers to put their minds to solving those challenges.