Last week members of LEO Lane’s management had the pleasure of attending yet another exciting event in the Additive Manufacturing (AM) ecosystem, Rapid+TCT 2019. At the event, we saw a few recurring trends that have been noticeable through most AM related events lately – the rise of software, material developments, collaborations pushing the ecosystem forward and automotive applications. Here’s an overview.
The Software side of Hardware
This isn’t the first time we noticed the growing importance of software in additive manufacturing. Software has the ability to tie the entire supply chain together and address the various needs surrounding the manufacturing process. This year at Rapid+TCT, software company Sigma Labs which specializes in computer-aided inspection (CAI), launched a new version of PrintRite3D, a patented quality assurance system. Another software solution that received a lot of attention at the event is Blacksmith developed by Markforged. According to the 3D printer company, Blacksmith is an AI solution that aims to make machines ‘aware’ – basically if the machine knows what it’s manufacturing and for what purpose it would be able to adjust and correct when needed.
Even with hardware becoming less prominent than software, in the AM world, there is always news regarding machines and it’s always impressive to see a machine in action or a ready print bed (up top Linear AMS‘ HP print bed). Rapid+TCT showcased Cincinnati Incorporated’s (CI) Small Area Additive Manufacturing (SAAM) machines, Chervona Hvilya presented its metal additive manufacturing technology – xBeam, Prodways pre-launched a new 3D printer, Essentium exhibited its 180-S platform in action for the first time, and VELO3D demonstrated their SupportFree solution for metal additive manufacturing (below).
Materials at Rapid+TCT
There is always a mix of metal and polymer material developments but it seems that this year polymers are on the rise, specifically, FDM and pellets had a growing presence at Rapid+TCT. In an interview conducted with Christophe Paulo of DuPont at Rapid+TCT, Paulo states that “the future of 3D printing is in series and mass customization,” Furthermore, “the bulk of the Material Extrusion market will be in pellet to parts”. While Dupont introduced a few new materials, both filaments and pellets, MakerBot showcased a PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) material designed for the company’s METHOD 3D Printer, Prodways presented two new materials, PP 1200 Polypropylene, and PLASTCure Denture resin, and Sandvik, showcased a new diamond composite designed for 3D printing. Beyond companies such as DSM, BASF and Evonik, more material and chemical companies are joining the AM ecosystem and expanding the portfolio of relevant materials. Dupont is one of those companies, another is Mitsubishi Chemical who teamed up with AddiFab. The two companies showcased a technology blending AM and injection molding (FIM), using Mitsubishi Chemical materials.
AddiFab and Mitsubishi Chemicals weren’t the only companies teaming up, there were a great number of exhibiting duos – Impossible Objects and BASF, Origin and DSM (above), another collaboration included Origin BASF and ECCO, Loctite worked with EnvisionTEC, EOS with DyeMansion, Jabil and Renault presented racecar parts, SmileDirectClub collaborated with HP, and many more. All of these collaborations are yet another testament to the power of working together in pushing the AM ecosystem forward.
Cars, Car Parts, and Machine Parts
In between machines, materials and software demonstrations, there were a number of cars, 3D printed entirely like the ORNL Shelby or additively manufactured parts such as the Lotus car with AM parts (below). Ford also showcased a concept car with AM carbon fiber barrel and titanium spokes from HRE3D+ and GE Additive (2nd below), as well as Ford components manufactured by Carbon (above). The automotive industry has been slowly but surely adopting AM, and while many of these parts are not visible parts, it’s always exciting to see how far AM can go.
Until next year, or the next event, tell us about your impressions from the event in the comments below. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.