Innovation

Stratasys unveils new 3D printers for designers that could speed up the prototyping process

The Stratasys F123 Series claims to be a cost effective, easy-to-use 3D printing option that allows designers to do rapid prototyping right in the office.

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The new Stratasys F123 Series 3D printers allow for rapid prototyping in the office.

Image: Stratasys

A new series of Stratasys 3D printers aims to put easy rapid prototyping into the hands of design teams, the company announced Monday at SolidWorks World 2017 in Los Angeles.

The new F123 Series 3D printers address the complete prototyping workflow, from initial concept verification to design validation and final functional performance, Zehavit Reisin, vice president and head of rapid prototyping solutions at Stratasys, said on a media briefing call. This can help users make sure product designs are evaluated adequately in the office before manufacturing.

No 3D printing expertise is needed to use the machines, Reisin said. Almost any CAD file can be used.

The market for these new printers are design workgroups, which make up 63% of the total prototyping market, Reisin said. These groups include the head of product design, engineers, research and development leaders, and industrial designers.

SEE: Stratasys launches two new 3D printers, partners with Boeing and Ford on applications

Stratasys found that about 90% of its rapid prototyping customers were using their systems for multiple rapid prototyping use cases, Reisin said. More than 60% of customers were using them for all of such use cases.

And workgroups prioritize accessibility, ease of use, and material choice when considering adopting 3D printing for rapid prototyping, according to a recent Stratasys survey. "The F123 Series addresses these and other rapid prototyping requirements to potentially accelerate the adoption of 3D printing for product design and development," according to a press release announcing the new printers.

The F123 Series is available in three models, with build sizes ranging from 10 to 14 inches. The printers accept up to four material types in 10 colors. Stratasys filed 15 new patents to improve engineering and reliability on the new machines, Reisin said.

Shipment of the new printers starts on March 20, and pricing will be available at that time.

The Center for Advanced Design was selected to test the new printers. The design firm specializes in complex surface geometry for the plastics industry, and has used the F123 series printer to build clamps and prosthetic legs, Jesse Hahne, partner at the center, said on the media call.

"It's pretty powerful having this much capability in a single system that sits right in our work space," Hahne said in a press release. "We've tried lower-end 3D printers in the past, and to be honest, they're dimensionally inaccurate. The Stratasys F370 matches the CAD input every time with accurate, high quality prototypes."

Time will tell if the new Stratasys series will make 3D printing more common among businesses users. A recent survey from Tech Pro Research found that 3D printing in the enterprise increased only slightly between 2014 and 2016: Some 12% of businesses said they were actively using 3D printers as part of business operations in 2014, compared to 18% in 2016. Two-thirds of businesses that were not using 3D printers said they simply see no reason to do so.

However, among companies that do use 3D printing, spending increased between 2014 and 2016, the Tech Pro Research survey found. Enterprise attitudes toward 3D printing are also shifting: In 2014, 19% of respondents said 3D printing would have a strong positive effect on their industry, increasing sales, profits, contracts, or jobs. In 2016, that number rose to 28%.

As companies increase their use of 3D printing, it's important for them to remember the potential security risks involved. For example, university researchers were recently able to sabotage a drone by hacking the computer controlling the 3D printer that made its parts, as TechRepublic's Conner Forrest reported.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Stratasys announced a new series of 3D printers, the F123 Series, which address the complete prototyping workflow to put easy rapid prototyping into the hands of design teams in an office setting.

2. The F123 Series is available in three models, with build sizes ranging from 10 to 14 inches, and will be available in March.

3. While enterprise attitudes toward 3D printing have recently made a positive shift, the number of businesses using 3D printing increased only slightly between 2014 and 2016, according to a Tech Pro Research survey.

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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