3D printing is reaching industrial scale -- while still supporting human-scale enterprise. That's the goal of what is billed as the world's largest 3D printing factory, just opened in New York City.
Shapeways, an innovation incubator, recently opened a 25,000-square-foot "Factory of the Future" in Long Island City, in the Queens section of the city. The new factory will house 30 to 50 high definition, industrial-sized 3D printers, the company says. Each is capable of producing more than 100 products on a daily basis, and three to five million products on annaul basis, says Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways.
Customers will be able to create and print out newly designed products within a matter of days at the facility. The company hopes the factory will also serve as a "hub of innovation, research and development, and continuous community exploration."
When fully up and running, "our Factory of the Future will become the largest consumer facing 3D Printing manufacturing facility in the world," predicts Kegan Fisher, director of industrial engineering for Shapeways.
The 3D printing plant will have more than 50 engineers, craftsmen, 3D printing specialists, and industrial designers "fine-tuning and tweaking a Willy Wonka-esque system, in which pixels go in and objects come out," Fisher adds. The factory will support Shapeways' community of nearly 200,000 users.
Dave Mosher of Popular Science provides a video report on the plant opening, noting that the facility will print objects "out of a gamut of materials ranging from acrylic, nylon, and glass to gypsum, ceramic, and sandstone -- even precious metals such as silver." The facility will be open for business by January.
The privately funded New York center joins a recently announced government-supported center in Youngstown, Ohio, as part of the industrialization of 3D printing. The technology is poised to change the face of big industry. Ultimately, with its lightweight footprint, high levels of customization, and speedy delivery, 3D printing promises to make domestic manufacturing more competitive than overseas manufacturers.