10 Hottest 3-D Printer Systems To Watch In 2019

Vendors that are teaming with channel partners on 3-D printer sales include HP Inc., Markforged and Formlabs.

A New Dimension In Printing

Demand for 3-D printers and materials continues to surge, according to IDC. The research firm predicts that spending in the category will reach $13.8 billion this year, up 21 percent from last year--and will ultimately hit $22.7 billion by 2021. "We’ve seen a lot of development on the 3D printing technology side in 2018. Rapid increases in production speeds combined with major advances in 3D printing materials is enabling the use of 3D printing in manufacturing across a wider range of applications," said Tim Greene, research director for hardcopy peripherals and 3-D printing at IDC, in a statement. "As more users recognize these benefits they are looking for more ways to use the technology, which drives higher levels of equipment utilization for prototyping, tooling, and real manufacturing."

However, 3-D print systems bring new complexities and often require vertical expertise, as well as a solutions-oriented selling approach. Solution providers are thus playing a critical role in the growth of the 3-D print market, and vendors such as HP Inc., MakerBot, Formlabs and Markforged are all working hand-in-hand with channel partners.

As part of CRN Printer Week 2019, we've rounded up 10 of the hottest 3-D printers that are available through channel partners.

Formlabs Form 2

Using Formlabs' breakthrough stereolithography technology, the Form 2 allows users to print high-resolution 3-D objects at far lower pricing than in the past. The 3-D printer provides highly detailed layer thickness, with between 25 or 300 microns are possible. The Form 2's build volume can go up to a height of 6.9 inches, and up to 5.7 inches for both length and width. Innovations for the Form 2 have included the introduction of a color-mixing solution for stereolithography, to enable the 3-D printing of color parts with the device.

Formlabs Form 3

The Form 3 represents a re-engineering of Formlabs' approach to 3-D printing for enhanced print quality and reliability. The Form 3 uses low force stereolithography (LFS) technology rather than the stereolithography (SLA) technology of the Form 2, which Formlabs says "delivers consistently flawless parts." LFS leverages a flexible tank that reduces the forces of the peel process—"providing incredible surface finish and detail, and linear illumination to deliver accurate, repeatable parts," Formlabs said. The Form 3 offers layer thickness of between 25 or 300 microns, and build volume of 5.7 inches width, by 5.7 inches depth, by 7.3 inches height. The Form 3 uses a Light Processing Unit (LPU) to ensure a uniform and accurate prints. A second LFS model, the Form 3L, includes two LPUs and offers a build volume of 13.2 x 7.9 x 11.8 inches. Shipments of the Form 3 will begin in June, while shipments of the Form 3L will begin in the fourth quarter of 2019, Formlabs said.

MakerBot Method

Launched in December, the MakerBot Method is a "performance 3D printer" targeted at professionals, MakerBot says. The Method "bridges the gap between desktop and industrial 3D printing by bringing features that were previously only available on industrial 3D printers to professionals at a significantly lower cost," according to MakerBot. Those features include a circulating heated chamber (which controls the temperature and quality of each layer), dual-performance extruders (for high-speed printing that doesn't decrease accuracy) and an "ultra-rigid" metal frame for lower flexing and more consistent prints, MakerBot said.

MakerBot: Replicator+

The Replicator+ brings together a range of features and functionality for strong performance and usability, in both businesses and schools, according to MakerBot. The Replicator+ offers print speeds that are 30 percent faster than the predecessor model, along with a 25 percent larger build volume than in the past (with a length of up to 11.6 inches, width of up to 7.6 inches and height of up to 6.5 inches). The Replicator+ allows for 100-micron layer thickness and comes with features such as the Smart Extruder+, which aims to keep performance strong over time.

Da Vinci Color Mini 3-D Printer

XYZ Printing's Da Vinci Color Mini aims to print high-quality, full-color objects for prototype makers. The Da Vinci Color Mini combines recently developed 2-D inkjet color printing technology with 3-D printing technology, applying CMY ink to a color-absorbing PLA filament as a way to offer "millions of color combinations," XYZ printing said. The 3-D printer offers layer resolution of 100 to 400 microns and a maximum build area of 5.1 x 5.1 x 5.1 inches, and weighs 52.9 pounds for easier portability. XYZ Printing is pitching the Da Vinci Color Mini as a solution for small businesses that up until now haven't had access to high-quality 3-D printing technology.

HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210

The Jet Fusion 3D 4210 uses technology that HP Inc. honed in the inkjet market to control prints down to a precise level, known as a "voxel" level. While it's typically cheaper to develop injection molding for large runs of parts, HP says the Jet Fusion 3D 4210 makes financial sense when doing production runs of as many as 110,000 parts. That's more than double the run of 50,000 parts that made sense for printing on the preceding model, the Jet Fusion 3D 4200. HP also says the 4210 has the lowest cost-per-part in the industry (up to 65 percent less than competing 3-D printing methods) while also offering prints at higher speeds than competitors.

HP Jet Fusion 300/500 Series

HP Inc.'s 300 Series and 500 Series Jet Fusion 3-D printer models feature the same technology of the company's 4210 model, but with a smaller footprint and a focus on printing prototypes. The expanded Jet Fusion lineup includes models that can print full-color objects as well as models that just do black-and-white. Capabilities include printing at high speeds—up to 52 parts in 15 hours. The latest Jet Fusion 3-D printers also differ from the original models by having a more compact size—they are all-in-one machines, in comparison to the three systems of the original Multi Jet Fusion—ultimately helping to allow Jet Fusion 3-D printing technology to reach a broader set of customers.

HP Metal Jet

HP Inc. recently released the first details on its plans for expanding into production of metal 3-D printers, with the announcement of the Metal Jet printer. The Metal Jet printer will focus on stainless steel parts and on industries including medical, industrial and automotive. The technology uses HP printing technologies along with a method known as binder jetting to offer up to 50 times better productivity than existing metal 3-D printing systems, according to HP. The Metal Jet also produces parts at half the cost of other binder jetting systems, HP said. For production runs of 50,000 parts or less, Metal Jet will be cheaper than other manufacturing methods, according to HP. The company is taking reservations for the Metal Jet, with plans for a limited release in 2020 and general availability in 2021.

Desktop Metal Studio System

Aimed at making 3-D printing of metal objects more accessible, Desktop Metal's Studio System aims to offer fast printing of prototypes and low-volume production parts—without the need for special facilities or dedicated operators. The Studio System is also cost-effective by offering a 10X larger sintering volume than competitive systems, according to Desktop Metal. The Studio System is targeted at users such as offices and shops, and as such, it prevents users from exposure to solvents to users and doesn't need external ventilation. Desktop Metal recently announced the expansion of production on the Studio System for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Markforged Metal X

Markforged says that its Metal X 3-D printing system is capable of printing fully functional metal parts at a cost that is 10X less expensive than competing technologies in additive manufacturing. The Metal X allows for printing with materials such as stainless steel, tool steel, titanium and inconel (a nickel-based superalloy). Build volumes of up to 11.8 x 8.7 x 7.1 inches are possible with the Metal X, and the machine offers layer resolution of between 50 and 200 microns.