Objet has appointed Objective 3D to distribute its 3D printer range, with the vendor aiming to double its market share in Australia in the next three years.
Objet's 'PolyJet' products are inkjet-style 3D printers that use photopolymer to produce three-dimensional objects, which are then cured with ultraviolet light. "You can look at our printer as an inkjet printer but instead of two axes we are adding a z axis into the printer so we are printing a model layer by layer," said Winnie Chu, regional sales director for Asia Pacific.
The company's products target the rapid prototyping market; however, according to Chu, "last year especially we saw a big growth in particular in the dental market; instead of using a 3d printer as a rapid prototyping machine they are using it like a rapid manufacturing machine, so they scan in the mouth, the teeth and the jaw then they just print the model out. [Dentists] are using it for doing their bridges, crowns and things."
With alternatives to 3D printing, such as CNC, "there is a lot of manual work and some of the machines require a skilful operator", Chu said. "Nowadays with just a few hours, or half a day of training anyone can operate a 3d printer."
"In typical mould shops or patent shops you might have a team of people gluing and machining and fixing all these different pieces together to make a prototype," said Matt Minio, Objective 3D's managing director. "It can take a really long time and be quite labour intensive, so that's where 3d printers really come to the fore in the marketplace"
According to Chu the company has had a worldwide accumulated growth rate of over 30 per cent since 2004, with an even faster rate of growth in the Asian region. "At the moment we estimate Australia is a market of around 60, 70, 80 units a year, but we see that this is definitely going to grow. The way I look at Australia is: It's a very mature market. In a way it's very similar to Europe and the US in terms of the technological know-how… But also being in Asia it can benefit from the growth in general in [the region]…"
Australian customers include medical equipment manufacturer ResMed; worldwide Objet customers include Jaguar, Nokia, HTC, Adidas, 3M and Logitech.