In the days of peak 3D printing consumer hype, back when the technology was a key portion of the Consumer Electronics Show line-up, there was one company for whom it wasn’t uncommon to use the Las Vegas event as a launch pad for a bunch of new hardware – we’re talking eight new 3D printers in one go.
These days, it continues to participate in the gadget magnet and release new products regularly. That may sound like a classic case of a jack of all trades, master at none, but a recent conversation with XYZprinting at TCT Show illuminated how the Taiwanese 3D printer manufacturer has a crystal clear vision around how and where it invests its R&D.
“If we release something, there needs to be a reason behind it,” Fernando Hernandez, EMEA MD of XYZprinting told TCT. Hernandez’s philosophy is, if you can’t improve on what’s already out there whether that’s in capability or price, why worry about it?
“We want to give the impression that we do everything but we do everything right” Hernandez said. “When we release a new technology or a new product, it’s not just to have something in SLS or something into binder jet, etc. We study the market, we see what we can do, we see if we can do better. And if we can do better, if we can improve, then we go ahead and we launch a product.”
Hernandez says the company’s R&D department is always busy and it’s not hard to believe so. At TCT Show, the company arrived on the show floor with a sizeable booth and a near-complete check list of 3D printing technologies from plastic extrusion to powder-bed; the “whole ecosystem” as Hernandez put it and many of those technologies are already in their second generations.
When XYZprinting, a subsidiary of electronics giant New Kinpo Group, emerged onto the additive scene in 2014, it introduced the first of several affordable (sub $500) desktop FDM systems; the da Vinci 1.0. This was quickly followed with the “all in one” AiO with in-built 3D scanner and then a resin-based stereolithography printer. Now with industrial-focused selective laser sintering and binder jet technologies also on its roster, it has kept its focus on being accessible.
“All of the printers we release always need to fulfil a few key factors; being affordable is one of them because this is our trademark. Keeping quality [that’s what’s] important. We try to give more than the printer. We try to deliver the whole ecosystem. So, in desktop we were very popular because we not only give you the printer, we give you the software, video tutorials, training … in industrial it’s a little bit similar.”
XYZprinting’s most recent products sit in the full-colour 3D printing category, and while “full-colour” has always been a bit of an ambiguous term in the industry, their affordability has positioned them to be fierce contenders in the desktop and binder jet market, promising “millions” of colours for $1,599 in the case of its da Vinci colour mini. On the other end is the PartPro350 xBC which is said to deliver 1600 dpi colour resolution for $30,000. The decision to keep costs down makes sense for appealing to the section of the industry which Hernandez believes is driving the adoption of AM technologies: small and medium enterprises. Having solutions that range from starter desktop machines all the way to large-scale industrial systems allows users to easily scale and grow their in-house capabilities depending on their production or prototyping needs.
While hardware is what the company is known for, Hernandez also spoke about the importance of materials. XYZprinting offers a number of in-house developed materials but some machines, like its powder-based systems, also benefit from an open material architecture, allowing users to choose their own compatible materials.
“We are doing so much hardware. When you jump into materials, that’s an even bigger world but we can’t cover everything and that’s always an internal discussion,” Hernandez explained, adding that he believes the increase in partnerships we’re seeing between hardware manufacturers and materials companies in AM shows a positive shift.
“They all want to play [their] music louder than the others… it’s a common error that we all want to make right. Of course we do have our own materials, we tailor our materials to our needs. That’s perfectly fine but by doing show, we also don’t listen what is happening outside,” he offers but suggests that we could expect to see some new alliances on the horizon soon to increase that cross-industry communication and deliver greater material options.
With Formnext just around the corner, the same place it introduced five new industrial platforms last year, XYZprinting is not planning on bucking its launch trend any time soon. Though Hernandez couldn’t say exactly what visitors to the Frankfurt event can expect, he did hint that there are several big announcements ahead. “There are quite a few bullets that we are saving” he added and several more planned for next year including yet another printing medium, so far untapped by the company; metals. XYZprinting is currently playing around with a few approaches to printing metal but is doing so with the same approach it takes to any of its other technologies. That means, the technology will only be released if and when it makes the most sense.
“We have quite a few announcements for 2020 and the following years,” Hernandez concluded. “We want to continue being the biggest 3D printing manufacturer in the world. We want to be into all the technologies that we can – of course, again, if we have something to say in that regard.”
Formnext takes place in Frankfurt on 19-22 November. Register for your showfloor ticket here and visit the TCT @ Formnext Conference website to register for your conference pass.