Blog Menu

Collapse in Japan

June 22, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:18

Sony Manufacturing Systems (Japan) stopped producing its stereolithography machine, called the Solid Creation System (SCS), in March 2007, after 18 years. Sony was a partner of D-MEC, also of Japan, who markets, supports, and manages the business associated with the sales of the systems. It is believed that the SCS product line has not been a financial success, with average sales of only 23 units per year for the past 10 years. I was surprised to hear that D-MEC plans to continue the SCS business without Sony. 

Meiko has been in the business of manufacturing and selling stereolithography systems for 12 years and suspended its business in late 2006. The company offered systems that could produce small, but impressive parts with intricate detail. The company sold fewer than 13 systems annually, on average, over the past 10 years. By comparison, Stratasys and Z Corp. have sold an average of 654 and 301 systems, respectively, over the same period.

The Japanese Rapid Prototyping Symposium is next week (June 25-26), followed by the large Design Engineering & Manufacturing Solutions Expo (June 27-29) in Tokyo. I’m attending both and looking forward to discussing the business climate in Japan and who might be next. None of the 10 or so additive system manufacturers in Japan have done particularly well, even though many Japanese manufacturers have the reputation of producing some of the best products in the world.

Layer-at-Once Plastic Sintering

June 13, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:12

Speed Part (Sweden) has developed a process called Selective Mask Sintering that sinters an entire layer of plastic powder at once. The company uses glass-filled nylon powder, an infrared lamp, and masks to produce each layer. The masks are generated using a Xerox photocopying process and represent the inverse of the cross sections being produced. The time to produce a layer is 10-20 seconds, which is fast. Using an IR lamp instead of a laser and galvanometer significantly reduces cost. The current system builds parts up to 300 x 210 x 500 mm (11.8 x 8.3 x 19.7 inches) and sells for €149,000 (~$198,000). Parts from the system are impressive.

Loughborough University (England) is also working on a layer-at-once plastic sintering process. It is called High Speed Sintering and it jets dark liquid (likely black ink) onto the surface of white nylon powder. The darkened regions represent the cross section that is to be sintered. The surface is then exposed to IR radiation. The dark regions are sintered because they absorb much more heat than the white regions, which is a clever approach.

As these processes are refined, they could impact the sales of laser sintering machines due to their potential speed and cost advantages. Loughborough University has not yet commercialized its process, but Speed Part sold its first three systems last year. It will be interesting to watch the development of these two systems.