For the past 28 years, 3D Systems has been delivering manufacturers, engineers and innovators some of the best plastic-based 3-D printers on the market.

Chuck Hull, company co-founder, CTO and inventor of its defining stereolithography technology, was instrumental in the birth of the whole 3-D printing industry, giving the world its first taste of rapid prototyping way back in the 1980s and then helping to bring that additive polymer system into its place in today's hype-fuelled spotlight.

But now the company is up to something new.

At IMTS 2014 next week, attendees will catch a glimpse at 3D Systems' first industrial-grade direct metal printer.

Designed to meet the demands of the manufacturing floor, the ProX 200 Direct Metal Printer is capable of producing chemically pure, fully dense metal and ceramic parts that produce parts with accuracy compatible with EN ISO 2768 machining tolerances and with a repeatability of about 20 microns. It does so across a range of materials spanning from titanium, steel, aluminum and ceramics.

It marks a major jump from the days of rapid prototyping into the hardcore manufacturing demands of the machine tool world.

"In a fiercely competitive world, it is vitally important for manufacturers in every industry to incorporate the most advanced production tools available today," explains Avi Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems, who will be speaking at the show.

"Our 3D design and manufacturing products and services enable manufacturers to become nimbler and transform their businesses by shortening their time to value."