If Stratasys' vision plays out the manufacturing facilities in the future may just resemble today's data centers with racks and rows of systems.
Stratasys is launching a technology demonstrator--an additive manufacturing system that's not available for sale, but being developed with customers--that takes cues from data center and cloud designs and could scale custom part making.
The demonstrator signals a new approach to additive manufacturing that offers multiple cells, 3D printers in a rack, minimal operator intervention and architecture that resembles modern IT formats.
Tim Bohling, chief marketing officer of Stratasys, said that the demonstrator "is designed to expand the additive manufacturing market." Stratasys is developing the technology using various tools it already has on the market. Those tools go include the Fortus FDM print engine, GrabCAD 3D management software and knowhow from other projects.
Stratasys' demonstrator prints plastic parts in a scalable and reliable way. Stratasys claims 99.9 availability with automatic failover and redundancy in 1x3 cell and 3x3 cell configurations.
According to the company, the technology being demonstrated is being developed with a series of customers tackling several use cases.
Roger Kelesoglu, director of global sales enablement at Stratasys, said the company's modular approach to its demonstrator is important for scale as well as distributing workloads. As demand increases so can capacity.
While Stratasys' approach takes cues from cloud computing and clustering, the additive manufacturing system doesn't require any special cooling or power systems.