Despite its name, the largest trade show in the U.S. (the Consumer Electronics Show) is not just for consumers. There were hundreds of companies who introduced product innovations that were equally (or even more) applicable to the Industrial and B2B markets.
In early January, over 170,000 industry professionals attended CES 2016 to see as many of the 3,800 exhibitors spread across multiple venues in Las Vegas as they possibly could in a mere three and a half days.
- Unlike in the past, this year nearly one third of booths had Chinese manufacturers and services aiming to broaden their global exposure.
- Many small companies were still in start-up or fund raising mode, often showing off prototypes of products that will not actually be brought to market until later this year.
The number of 3D Printing manufacturers, materials suppliers and third party services nearly doubled from the 35 just a year ago when a separate space was first set aside for this growing industry. And that number more than doubled from 2014!
In the coming months, buyers will see faster, less expensive machines capable of printing even larger objects with more precision and a greater variety of materials to choose from.
3D Systems again had a dominant footprint on the show floor. Among other printers, they promoted their new ProX DMP 320, capable of producing very large objects with a variety of metals such as aluminum and stainless steel. Another model, the ProJet 5500X, can even use several different materials and colors at the same time to create very complex items. In both cases, real production quality parts (not just prototypes) can be created with 3D printers.
Then there was the robot (SLAbot-1) that can print objects in minutes instead of hours. This was introduced with special credit given to none other than one of the pioneers of additive manufacturing, and co-founder of 3D Systems, Chuck Hull.
Demonstrating another new capability, for the eyewear market, DDD introduced a one-piece eyeglass frame that could be customized based on a facial scan – and which contained no metal at all!
And for the fashion industry, there were many intricately designed dresses, footwear, and jewelry pieces on display.
NewPro3D, a Canadian company, introduced a machine capable of reducing the time to print an object to a fraction of the time for conventional machines!
Another Canadian, and relatively new company, 3D Printler, is launching a valuable new service that will provide a website at which a user can upload a (CAD) drawing and search for a third party provider that among other things, can print it from a specified material, at the lowest cost, and nearest location.
This year, more of the exhibitors showed scanners, some of which were integrated into printers. Likewise, many more suppliers such as NinjaTek and Hatchbox presented materials and capabilities. And for the environmentally conscious, there was even a filament made from algae introduced by 3DFuel!
There were prosthetic hands everywhere, such as these from Colido, demonstrating a growing use for these custom-printed items.
A significant number of exhibitors at CES were engaged with UAVs. Many such drone manufacturers are moving from consumer/recreational uses to military, agricultural and industrial applications. And not surprisingly, quite a number are being prototyped with 3D printers.
Other product introductions ranged from low-priced (under $400) small printers from China, such as from XYZPrinting to high-priced, much larger format ones such as from Titan.
For the first time, there was even a “toy” (though at about $400, it is hardly that) aimed at young children. It is probably not too early to introduce this technology to pre-teens who are already using smartphones, tablets and apps on an everyday basis.
Outside of the dedicated 3D Printing pavilion, there were a lot of companies with products of interest to the industrial and B2B markets.
One was Intel who showed an application where a plant engineer or maintenance crew could combine infrared problem detection (i.e. Flir) with virtual reality (VR) solutions and instructions.
From Untethered Labs in Maryland, a software product called Gatekeeper was shown that automatically locks your computer when you walk away — and unlocks it when you return. Shown below is the personal version. There is also one for enterprises at a nominal cost (about $50) per computer.
While many attendees felt it was more a year of evolution than revolution, it nevertheless had plenty of new products and mind-expanding applications to satisfy anyone’s desire to see cutting edge developments before they hit the mainstream.
Contributed by: Ira Schloss