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Sony Discontinues SL Business in NA

May 21, 2006

Filed under: additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:17

Early last week, Sony Manufacturing Systems America quietly began to shut down its stereolithography (SL) business in North America. After nearly three years of presence in this part of the world, the company had sold four systems. The machine, called the Solid Creation System, is based on mature technology that was first commercialized in 1989. The hardware is rock-solid and builds excellent parts, but the system software was never fully finished. It was one of several obstacles the company faced in penetrating the U.S. market.

In Q2 2003, I had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Ichiro Mihara, president of Sony Manufacturing Systems, and other company executives at the SMS manufacturing facility in Japan. This was at the time when they were about to launch the SCS machine in the U.S.  Mr. Mihara asked what I thought about the idea. I was candid and told him that his timing could not be much worse. The sale of large frame systems were then on a decline—and the decline has continued—as lower cost additive systems (e.g., 3D printers) were increasing in popularity. The decision to enter the U.S. market had already been made.

It’s unfortunate that Sony’s SL business did not succeed in the U.S. Competition is healthy and now there’s less of it. Sony received a license to sell SL in the U.S. from 3D Systems in 2002 when the U.S. Department of Justice required 3D to license its technology to another company. Sony may try to sell it. All SL manufacturers, except for 3D Systems, are located outside the U.S., so it would likely take months (best case) for another manufacturer to ramp up. And, given Sony’s experience, SL manufacturers are not waiting in line to enter the U.S. market.

RAPID 2006

May 15, 2006

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 08:03

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing 2006 Conference and Exposition is next week. I hope you are planning to attend because it promises to be one of the best ever. Pre-registrations for the conference sessions and exhibits are among the highest in years. The May 22 tours and workshops are also receiving a good number of registrations.The main conference begins on May 23. I have the genuine honor of giving the State of the Industry address for the 14th consecutive year. I will do my very best to share the most exciting developments and trends from the recent past. Much of the one-hour presentation will come from Wohlers Report 2006, a global market study developed with input from 47 co-authors, 53 service providers, 27 system manufacturers, and many others worldwide. This new report will be released the same day. Lauralyn McDaniel of SME and her team have put together four outstanding days of activities. Among them:

  • A conference program packed with interesting topics and speakers from around the world.
  • Two special conferences that run in parallel with the main conference: one on CAD data exchange and the other on 3D scanning and reverse engineering. 
  • The Bright Minds Mentor Program, now in its third year. See the February 19, 2006 commentary titled Bright Minds for details. 
  • Representatives of the Global Alliance of Rapid Prototyping Associations (they meet on May 23 and speak on May 24). 
  • Many important system and material manufacturers and service providers will exhibit, making the exposition one of the most impressive showcases on additive fabrication and related technologies. 

To see a list of sessions, speakers, exhibitors, and related events, visit RP&M 2006. I hope to see you next week in St. Charles (near Chicago), Illinois.