Formnext is coming up next week and the 3D printing ecosystem is buzzing with anticipation. This year the reports say Formnext will reach full capacity with 550 exhibitors and an exhibition space of 36,000 sqm not including supporting events taking place parallel to the exhibition. The last month showed numerous lists on what to see at the exhibition covering the next generation of manufacturing technologies, new hardware, software, and materials. Going from one Formnext show to the other, each year we at LEO Lane see more and more companies, both on the software side and the machines side, that are focusing on end parts and the application of AM in serial production. From technologies for serial production to supply chain software, from combining AM with other production methods to IP protection, there is a lot to look forward to.
What would Formnext be without interesting new AM production technologies? There are a number of new technologies developed for serial production that will be showcased and announced this year. EOS will showcase its range of manufacturing solutions, including their LaserProFusion technology which according to the company can compete with injection molding in terms of volume production (up top EOS additively manufactured automotive spare parts for Daimler Buses – Photo by Tobias Hase). Digital Metal will exhibit an automation concept for metal 3D printing (below) “As we see it, the Digital Metal technology is now applicable for serial production of high-volume components,” says Ralf Carlström, General Manager at Digital Metal. BeAM will also exhibit industrial applications of their technology, the Modulo 250 Directed Energy Deposition machine, in a booth with AddUp which acquired the company earlier this year. And that’s just a drop in the bucket.
On the software side, there are many aspects to industrialized production, all geared toward streamlining the process from design, simulation, iteration to the supply chain. Stay tuned for some interesting announcements from GE Additive and Materialise which will show demos of its entire software suite (and host talks by partners including LEO Lane). Sigma Labs will launch an updated version of their PrintRite3D software, which according to John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs “presents a significant value proposition to OEMs and manufacturers, as it is designed to increase the production yield of 3D metal manufactured parts.” Altair together with APWorks, will display the use of simulation-driven design in modern manufacturing methods including additive manufacturing, while AMFG will present demos of its post-production management system (AMFG’s part catalog below).
Parallel Not Opposite Technologies
Part of the widespread adoption of AM relies on how well one company works with other companies’ technologies. This holds for software but also for materials. Developing materials that are paralleled to the materials used for conventional manufacturing is fueled by the understanding that manufacturing isn’t one tech or another. Arburg, for example, will debut the 300-3X, a larger model of its Freeformer additive manufacturing technology. The Freeformer uses the same plastic granulates as Arburgs’ injection molding technology, using the same material for both technologies creates a wider range of possibilities in combining both traditional and additive manufacturing in a production line, in the same product (below ARBURG APF standard color granulate).
Supporting and Facilitating
You can see this year that the industrialization of the technology goes beyond hardware and software into other supporting areas such as standardization, training, and consulting. Defined standards facilitate the industrial adoption of additive manufacturing, the organizers at Formnext and the US Commercial Service are addressing this need in the ‘AM Standards Forum’. Another hurdle on the way to industrial use of AM addressed at Formnext is the lack of skills and trained professionals. The AM4U platform which started in the previous show will provide an opportunity to create new contacts within the ecosystem, career opportunities, and training.
Last but not Least
The LEO Lane team will also be there to answer the needs of IP security, quality and quantity control, with a solution to securely managing additive manufacturing (come visit us at Hall 3.1, Stand B30A). There are invited presentations by LEO Lane throughout the show. Below is the TCT stage one, and on Thursday 2 pm there is a different, more detailed presentation at the Materialise stage highlighting our collaboration with Materialise and SAP but also giving some practical suggestions for engineers using AM.
I’m sure it will be an exciting week, and our team will post some pictures and revelations in real-time during the show. Follow LEO Lane on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for live updates from the exhibition and events and stay tuned for our report from Formnext in a couple of weeks.