When we look at the number of decades it took to manufacturers to acknowledge additive manufacturing as a serious manufacturing process, we would have never imagined that this technique of fabrication and its related technologies would have created such a euphoria in the industry.
We are very far away from the feelings of hesitation companies and users had five years ago, when Mesago first opened the doors of Formnext. From a single Hall 3 in 2015 to 4 halls, 852 visitors and over 34 000 visitors in 2019, Formnext has established itself, as one of a kind show in the entire world.
What does it therefore mean to be part of this AM world?
Whoever tries to compare the previous years and this 2019 edition will agree with this simple fact: it feels good to be and to get into AM now. AM is growing exponentially and it will certainly continue to grow over the upcoming years.
If this growth percentage reflects on the one hand, the broad range of developments across the sub-sectors of the AM/3D printing technologies: hardware, software, materials, services and post-processing, on the other hand, the introduction of new companies and AM business units into the market, for Formnext, it means creating an environment that everyone will recognize as the premiere event for exhibiting additive manufacturing technologies; in a nutshell, the place to be to take AM one step further.
In this vein, this article does not aim to spread the individual launches that occurred last week – as a matter of fact, it would have simply be impossible to do in one single article -, but rather to unveil the main trends and impressions that have been observed during this fifth edition of Formnext.
Being part of the AM world means a lot to several stakeholders and in different ways:
For the new wave of newcomers
Providing a product or service to the AM world is one thing, dedicating a new company or a complete business unit to an AM activity is showing the industry you are one step ahead. This year at Formnext, several companies made their official entrance into the AM industry: Xerox, the brand “AM Solutions” of Rösler, Meta Additive, One Click Metal, Tritone, 6K, and many more…
Apart from those who supply 3D printing services, this new wave of newcomers comes with one goal in mind: to enable industrialization of AM, a long-term vision that is shared by existing AM companies.
Both groups, newcomers and existing leading companies, whether there are software editors, material specialists, 3D printer manufacturers are working on various areas for improvements that consist in enhancing throughput in terms of repeatability, reproducibility and traceability as well as increasing part volume throughputs.
The growth of Formnext is also marked by the development of activities that were given second-rate treatment
One reason why Formnext has reached new heights is because, operators are increasingly realized the importance of the full lifecycle of 3D printing/AM. The production does not start by 3D printing and does not end at the end of the 3D printing process.
As a matter of fact, the post-processing stage is often the most expensive part of the process and the stage that is often given second rate treatment.
Formnext revealed an increasing number of post-processing systems, services and interestingly networks dedicated to support AM operators during and after the printing process. Furthermore, some exhibiting companies simply displayed non-3D printing workload optimizations to show manufacturers the various options they have at the end of the manufacturing. A few companies that specialize in this increasing sub-sector include the AMP+ network, Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) Ltd, AMPRO, Rösler, PostProcess, 3DWash, DyeMansion and many more.
The rise of specific sectors of activity
The AM world also comprises specific verticals that aim to address challenges of specific industries. In this vein, medical 3D printing companies such as 3DSide, Kumovis, were particularly well represented at Formnext. Furthermore, we also note the increasing interest of machine tools companies in AM. Apart from leading companies like Trumpf and DMG Mori, we also note the presence of other giants of the conventional manufacturing technologies like Ermaksan that unveiled its latest metal AM technology.
Addressing specific challenges
Contributing to the advancement of the AM world inevitably requires to address the challenges faced by the industry.
A number of companies at Formnext addressed the challenges raised by pure copper. GE, EOS, Spee3D, Optomec and Farsoon brought pure copper AM solutions at Frankfurt.
In the same vein, addressing sustainability is still nascent but it is already the concern of several companies that showcased products specifically designed to be biocompatible and/or eco-friendly.
The sense of belonging to a community
We often tend to forget it, but behind these companies, stand a wide range of teams that are doing their best efforts to make this industry work. And Formnext is also the place to celebrate this willingness and this community.
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