Disrupting a disruptive industry.
For the last two decades, laser powder bed system manufacturers have been in a race to develop the next better system -- more power, more lasers, sensors, and larger sizes. This progress has been fueled by the advancement of fiber lasers and scanning optics, which have drastically improved in performance and decreased in price over the years. This evolution has led to maturation of the technology, going from curiosity, to prototyping tool, to real production for the most demanding industries.
While the advancement of LPBF systems has been profound, and industry adoption is firmly beyond hype, significant hurdles have hampered wider proliferation. First are the typically high costs -- not just up-front acquisition, but added costs of parameter sets, software licenses, consumables, and service plans. The closed design of most systems has also been a major hurdle. For an industry spawned by the promise of unlimited design creativity, the tools for production have imposed stringent limitations on configuration, materials, process control, and available add-on technologies.
To reach its full potential, a disruptive industry requires platforms that enable rapid incorporation of new advancements. These advancements can't be planned by a few market leaders, but emerge from an active user community with affordable tools to develop and adopt new technologies on demand. We already saw this in the polymer 3D printing world. While big organizations with big budgets were active in 3D printing before 2009, the emergence of desktop printers sparked an explosion of new players, new tools, new applications -- once the genie was out of the bottle, there was no putting it back.
The metals AM industry is at a similar crossroads. In today's competitive marketplace, suppliers, researchers, and training organizations can't afford to sit back and wait for system manufacturers to figure out and deliver their next advantage. Users need a voice in system designs, and must be able to create and integrate add-on technologies. Open-architecture systems allow such freedom. While there will always be a place for closed systems, there is also clearly a need for a fresh approach.
This is the Open Additive™ vision. But it's about more than just open-architecture systems. It's about thinking like users, because we are users. It's about next capabilities, not next models. It's about configuring a system for your application needs, not restricting your business to current system limits. It's about enabling an involved, empowered user community, not growing a base of beholden customers. It's about easy access to available data, and no hidden costs. All while having fun doing it.
Join in the adventure, and spark your own revolution!