Last week we had the pleasure of attending Formnext. While most of the time was dedicated to meetings and talking with the many people that stopped at the LEO Lane booth, our team still managed to walk around and absorb some of the 852 (!) booths spread over an exhibition space of 53,039 sqm. There was much anticipation prior to the event, and it seems it was well worth the wait. Here are some of our highlights from Formnext 2019.
A Recurring Theme
A recurring theme across the show was repeatability. It’s been well established that repeatability is an absolute must for industrial production, our latest installment in our #AMneeds series discussed just that. We questioned whether AM can measure up to traditional manufacturing when it comes to repeatability, and how can AM repeatability be enforced? Formnext 2019 provided some answers. Of course, there isn’t just one answer, or one solution, for optimal results repeatability must be set as an objective across the board, in every aspect of industrial additive manufacturing.
More Software than Ever
One of the ways to enforce and ensure repeatability is software solutions. Formnext presented a wide range of software focused on automation, workflow, and repeatability (including LEO Lane). GE Additive on the Arcam/EBM side announced a new software solution aimed at troubleshooting printing problems. The Arcam EBM Build Performance Analyzer – is said to provide customers with predictive data and information, and equally important – you don’t need to be an expert to use it. Simufact announced a software solution for the optimization of metal-based AM processes, which includes cost estimation. MSC launched its MSC Apex Generative Design, also focusing on optimization. Their solution is said to improve the quality and productivity of the design processes through automation. With this software, the design can be ready for AM production within a few hours – up to 80% improvement compared to other topology optimization solutions. And this is just a drop in the Formnext bucket.
For a repeatable and dependable production line, the entire workflow needs to be consistent, up to the finish line, post-processing. At Formnext we had the opportunity to see (and touch) the Chanel mascara wands. The wands are produced using EOS’s P396 and standard EOS material (PA 1101) but they appear to have proprietary post-processing: the wands in the EOS booth (pictured above) felt different from the finished mascara wand in the Erpro booth. Just one example of the importance of post-processing and the repeatability it must reach for production. Another example showcasing repeatability and versatility at once is AMT who built their entire booth with white AM junctions connected to tubes with red and blue connectors (below). The company also launched its new Digital Manufacturing System (DMS) at Formnext 2019, addressing the entire workflow including manual stages between the build phase and the post-processing phase. DyeMansion also launched its new Powerfuse S solution which is based on a technology called VaporFuse, a chemical smoothing solution for post-processing. As you can see, even post-processing solutions boast automation and repeatability, aiming to minimize the unknown and the unstable variables within the workflow.
Machines = Performance
Of course, in any AM show and in particular Formnext, machine announcements will abound. Again here, it was clear to see that many of the machines were focused on repeatable consistent machine performance. Just to name a few – Prima Additive, exhibited for the first time at Formnext, with 2 new machines, GE Additive also presented 2 metal additive manufacturing systems, as well as an automated powder recovery station (up top bracket for aerospace printed on Arcam EBM Spectra L), and Xerox made its debut at the event with both metal (above) and polymer solutions. Our fellow Israeli start-up, Tritone, came out of stealth with a new metal technology (below) that is said to be suitable for a range of materials from titanium to ceramics. Essentially, the technology molds each layer and at the end of the printing process, the mold material (with binder material) is washed away and the green items are sintered in a furnace. Tritone is backed by Fortissimo and Yuval Cohen, founding and managing partner of Fortissimo, was spotted at their Formnext booth. In general, a large number of booths were metal related. Several attendees noted that there is a disproportionate number of metal AM machine manufacturers, especially in SLM/DMLS technologies. Everywhere in the show and especially in the outer booths of the halls, we saw many Chinese metal powder suppliers, something new this year.
On the polymer side, there were also many new announcements. Just a couple of examples are EOS who showcased their new Fine Detail Resolution (FDR) polymer-based 3D printing technology (below), and 3ntr who presented a new printer which was developed as part of the Clean Sky project aiming to develop technologies that reduce CO2, gas emissions and aircraft noise levels.
Materials are always important in AM both for versatility and for consistent industrial use. It’s one of the key drivers of the ecosystem and large material companies are taking note. More and more material companies and chemical companies are taking part in the AM ecosystem efforts and in specific industry events such as Formnext. Evonik had a booth for the first time as did Henkel. BASF had an impressive booth and announced a metal material for desktop printers such as Ultimaker which could open up many applications. Another interesting large company with a booth was 3M who offered a material called PTFE which has such a complex process, including specific post-processing, that they are only offering it for production at 3M, rather than just selling the material. Smaller machine vendors also had announcements. 6K announced its Onyx In718 premium additive manufacturing powder, and Covestro launched a new 3D printing brand named Addigy® which will focus on providing material solutions used in industrial 3D printing production. In addition, many machine manufacturers highlighted the many materials their machines work with. Ultimaker had a wall of material providers, and Carbon also showcased materials. Materials are an integral piece of the repeatability puzzle, the bigger the range of materials for industrial use the wider the scope of potential applications achieving repeatability in AM production.
Applications and Collaborations
We’ve highlighted collaborations before, and this Formnext, collaborations were especially evident in use cases of industrial applications, combining knowledge from several sources for each of them.
You can see it in Trinckle and Audi‘s tooling solutions for car assembly (above), also in the customized rim lug nut (2nd above) by Trinckle with EOS for Ford, the handlebars from Twikit, Tarform, and Formlabs (below), and the exhaust finisher made for Bugatti with APWORKS (2nd and 3rd below). The latter enabled Bugatti to break the 300MPH speed record. A very exciting idea, especially to one of our co-founders… There were so many applications worth mentioning, we promise to show you more in our upcoming #AMapplications posts.
Here, at LEO Lane, we are big fans of coming together and working together, and in the end, this is what these events are all about. One specific event that is close to our hearts was the Women in 3D reception, where both our co-Founders (Lee-Bath Nelson and Tessa Blokland) participated. These events show not only the business potential but the social impact of collaboration.
What were your impressions from this year’s show and events? Tell us about it in the comments below or email us. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.