Materialise to build Europe's largest and most modern 3D printing factory near Wroclaw in Poland

Aug 11, 2016 | By Alec

Belgian 3D printing specialists Materialise hardly need introduction. The largest provider of high quality 3D printing services in Europe, they are especially known for taking on the hardest and largest 3D printing challenges – such as this 3D printed medical grade replica of Ötzi the Ice Man. They are also experts when it comes to medical 3D printing innovations, which is perfectly illustrated by this life-saving 3D printed tracheal splint. But Materialise is now ready for the next phase in their career, and are about to start construction on Europe’s largest and most modern 3D printing factory. Built in the Polish village of Bielany Wrocławskie (near Wrocław), it will allow them to cope with 3D printing projects of a much larger scale.

It’s a huge project that will cost several million zlotys (or several hundred thousand dollars) to complete. Construction, which is set to begin later this year, is planned to end in mid-2017. Once open, this 3D printing factory will employ about fifty people. Aside from 3D printing, the factory will also house a state-of-the-art post-production facility, where all kinds of manufactured items will be perfected in-house – making this a truly comprehensive 3D printing factory.

But of course you might wonder: why is a Belgian 3D printing specialist building a factory in Eastern Europe? In part, it will allow Materialise to become a leading player in the Eastern European 3D printing market. But more importantly, it’s because they already have a strong presence in Wrocław. Two years ago, Materialise acquired e-Prototypy, the leading Polish 3D printing provider at the time, who was known for providing a very wide range of 3D services.

That move in 2014 was already seen as an attempt to establish a strong presence in Poland, after  Materialise previously did the same in the Czech Republic. “We see a lot of opportunities for growth in the Polish market and by joining Materialise, the e-Prototypy team looks forward to helping even more people in the region realize the benefits of the services and solutions we have to offer,” e-Prototypy co-founder Grzegorz Sworobowicz said at the time. “As part of Materialise, our customers will be given access to even better service with a larger range of 3D Printing technologies and they can benefit from Materialise’s 23 years of experience in this industry.”

As a result, Wrocław is already home to sales, accounting, IT and research and development departments, making it a logical location for this expansion. But according to local Materialise branch leader Piotr Adamczewski the effects of this new factory will be felt far beyond Poland as well. “We are concerned with maintaining a leading position in the global industry,” he said. “We expect to benefit from offering attractive prices, allowing us to more strongly compete in international markets while we are simultaneously improving our own technological and digital solutions.”

This new factory is thus a perfect opportunity for Materialise to extend their presence in the automotive, aerospace and medical industries. Materialise is already working with Airbus on 3D printed aircraft parts, and a larger factory will only contribute to the development of similar innovations. It will doubtlessly also strengthen their foothold in the consumer and design sectors.

But according to Adamczewski, they are particularly focused on medical care as well. “We are helping to develop new life-saving medical care solutions, in close collaboration with the surgeons themselves. One example of what we already achieved is the production of cardiac models for two patients in India – thanks to the 3D printed models, hitherto impossible surgeries could be meticulously planned and executed.” A lot more medical tools, all adapted to the individual needs of the patients, can thus be expected. Materialise is about to enter the next phase of their 3D printing life.

Posted in 3D Printer Company

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3D Printing Analysis of Automotive Market Shows Europe as Forerunner in Near Future

publisherlogoKeeping an eye on what’s going on in the 3D printing market on a daily basis, as well as perusing and publishing the monthly reports from 3D Hubs (which are extraordinarily helpful), it’s plain to see that while North America is still in the lead in terms of 3D printing, Europe is close behind. And while 3D Hubs reports more on the smaller production front, it’s interesting to see how that parallels with larger markets worldwide and projections–specifically for automotive, which is one of the biggest industries embracing 3D printing for affordable, high-quality components.

orangeAs a leader in the industry of providing 3D printing services, 3D Hubs is indeed a great indicator of what’s going on all around, from what equipment makers are using, right down to what colors they are using. But in examining locales, while New York is still the forerunner in terms of having 3D printing hubs, Milan is not far behind, along with London, Paris, and Amsterdam. This similar data is also fully represented and translates to the larger scale nearly exactly as well, in a recent report by MarketsandMarkets, called “3D Printing Automotive Market Applications by Technology (SLA, SLS, EBM, FDM, EBM, LOM, 3DIP), Material (Metals, Polymers), Application (Prototyping & Tooling, R&D, Manufacturing), and by Region – Global Trends and Forecast to 2020.

From the small stage to a larger one, data seems to run concurrently. North America indeed is still the forerunner while the European and Asia Pacific markets seem to be held back for obvious reasons, such as lack of exposure to the technology–and as is expected in the beginning–an initial reluctance by many.

According to this report by MarketsandMarkets, however, in the future, as far as automotive is concerned, we will be seeing a seismic shift in the current scenario. Europe will pull out into the forefront, with North America projected to fall into at least third place, behind Asia-Pacific. This concept has been brought to the surface before regarding patents that soon expire and allow for new manufacturers to step into place. In Europe, it is indeed expected to be the automotive 3D printing market that sees the huge spike–predicted at 30.29% from 2015 to 2020.

automotive-3d-printing-marketAs for what will be driving the market, exciting new 3D printing materials will drive activity up, as well as innovation, along with affordable product development. The report does indicate that some of the same issues we see in 2015 may linger, such as:

  • High initial investment
  • Lack of standards in processes
  • Quality materials

Affordability has been a big topic regarding the 3D printer and its subsequent and continual rise in popularity. While at first it was an intimidating technology with an intimidating price tag, much of that has changed with a much more mainstream attitude nearly everywhere as well as a 3D printer that can be matched to nearly anyone these days for both price and skill level. Not surprisingly in terms of material, metal 3D printing is expected to overtake that of 3D printing with polymers. A process using a material that allows for great durability and strength, its attributes speak for themselves.

The report sees sales for 3D printers rising quite exponentially, to the tune of 36.03 % in the next five years. Who will be buying all these machines? Everyone, pretty much. From engineers to hobbyists, it’s going to turn into a question of who does not have a 3D printer at the desktop.

According to the report, also, we will see in these next coming years, some of the same big names leading the way in the 3DP market for automotives, to include:

  • Stratasys
  • Optomec
  • ExOne
  • Arcam

All in all, aside from the pretty startling projection that Europe may soon exceed us in 3D printing interest and activity, the report holds few big surprises. The general consensus all around seems to be that we have plenty more to explore with 3D printing–and the sky continues to be the limit.

GE To Build 3D Printing Facility Near Pittsburgh

IMPERIAL, Pa. (AP) – General Electric plans to build a $32 million facility near Pittsburgh International Airport to develop three-dimensional printing and other high-tech manufacturing processes.

The company plans to employ 50 high-tech engineers at the Findlay Township facility, which will break ground in March and should be completed in September.

Three-dimensional, or 3-D, printing refers to a process in which digital images are fed into a machine which can “print” – or make – products that correspond to the image out of plastic, metals or other materials.

General Electric is already using the process to create fuel nozzles for new jet engine models it is producing.

GE chose the location because Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University all have research programs devoted to 3-D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies.

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