The integration between CAD software and 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) technology will help shape the future of manufacturing in the next five years as more designers and engineers embrace the new technology. But we still have a few barriers to overcome, says Danny Weber, Vice President, Strategy and Strategic Alliances at Stratasys.
Stratasys, a leading manufacturer of 3D printers, recently partnered with PTC, with both companies agreeing that engineers need design for additive manufacturing to be more straightforward from the very start of the development cycle. Recently, we asked Weber to tell us more about 3D printing today and in the future, the PTC relationship, and overcoming the remaining barriers to adoption.
3D printed objects (Image: Stratasys.com)
Briefly, how do you think 3D printing is reshaping manufacturing today?
Weber: With 3D printing, we are capable now of economical low-volume production. We can enable the production of parts that can’t be produced in any other way. 3D printing can drive more product customization and personalization. It can enable disruption throughout the supply chain (for example, by enabling just-in-time production and reduced inventory). 3D parts are also more lightweight and less wasteful to produce than subtractive methods—leading to better environmental sustainability. [Ed. See one of the newest printers from Stratasys in the video below.]
Where do you think manufacturers will be 5 years from now with this technology?
Weber: I expect dramatic improvement in several areas. 3D printing quality and speed will continue to improve. In addition, I think the integration of 3D printing companies like Stratasys and companies such as PTC will allow optimization of design processes for additive manufacturing, allowing the design and production of better parts.
What barriers to adoption of 3D printing are you seeing today?
Weber: Many designers and engineers still don’t understand the capabilities of the 3D printing technology, and how to design for additive manufacturing. And of course we’ve been held back by the lack of design software that can support those designers when they do begin to use the technology.
Another issue has been that the technology has been inconvenient to use. I think we needed a much better user experience.
How do you think the relationship between Stratasys and PTC can address these barriers?
Weber: With the integration of our printers and PTC Creo, we provide the design software that’s been missing. It provides a direct connection from the CAD system to the printer, so manufacturers no longer have to use intermediate steps for validation, tray placement, etc. The process is more streamlined. Plus, as designers work with the new capabilities in PTC Creo, we can better expose the technology and raise awareness of what’s possible with 3D printing.
Since PTC and Stratasys announced the collaboration, a new release of PTC Creo 3.0 has come out that includes many features to support design for additive manufacturing. What can we expect in the future from this relationship?
I can’t disclose the exact roadmap, but I can tell you that we’re very excited about it and the value we can bring users. We expect to continue to increase the ease of use from PTC Creo, providing users with a direct connection to the entire Stratasys and Makerbot portfolio directly.
This is a very strategic partnership for us, and we’re proud of it. We think the collaboration between two market leaders will benefit both our customers and the entire industry.
[Ed. The video below is a great example of parts that are easier to print than to produce via subtractive manufacturing. To learn more about what’s possible with PTC Creo and additive manufacturing, visit the PTC Design for Additive Manufacturing page.]