Epson won't make a consumer 3D printer, but promises big, industrial ones within five years

Epson's presence at CES 2014 this year focused on its surprising push into wearables. But the company name remains almost a synonym for printers -- the two-dimensional ones at least. There are plenty that reckon the likes of Epson, HP, etc. will soon weigh in with their multinational clout on the 3D printer market, slashing the average price with everyman models, but Epson won't be doing that. President Minoru Usui told us that probably wasn't going to be the case, at least for them. "We are developing our own printers, but our aim is to change everything. When it comes to 3D printing... we want our machines to make anything."

Breaking it down into three issues he saw with 3D printing as it stands, he said that printing materials were not at a high enough standard, that the precision was simply not there for what the company would like to be creating and productivity was simply not efficient enough. We've had some experiences that mirror these criticisms. But wouldn't a printing giant like Epson entering the 3D printing arena make it more of a realistic proposition? Mr. Usui responded by describing how the company claimed a lion's share of the photo printing arena years earlier, citing better print quality and hardware. "Not many people need to print a plastic figure."

"Not many people need to print a plastic figure."

That said, Epson is working hard developing its 3D printing tech, but fixing that list of problems is going to take time -- especially when it comes to materials. Usui wants the company to be able to print "anything" and reckons that could take around five years from now. And anything really means anything: The president mused on printing cars, which would make that eventual manufacturing hardware a fair bit bigger than a Cube 3. The results need to be as precise as current (c'mon, more boring) moulding production, where templates are measured in microns: That's where Epson needs 3D printing to reach.