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Our kind of show, the Formnext is

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According to Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide by IDC “3D printers and materials will account for roughly two-thirds of the worldwide AM spending total, reaching $6.9 billion and $6.7 billion respectively in 2021. Services spending will reach $5.5 billion in 2021. “With this numbers in mind, let’s sum up Formnext 2018, the most significant industry show for additive manufacturing professionals. This year edition was the biggest ever with 632 exhibitors from 32 countries and 26 919 visitors. Sinterit, the manufacturer of SLS 3D printers, was one of them. Paraphrasing the Sinatra song “My kind of town”, we would like to say “Our kind of show”.

“This year’s formnext was a valuable experience for all attendees, with business deals and announcements to be seen throughout the four days.” – says Sarah Goehrke, Managing Editor of Fabbaloo.  “Serial production, simulation, and end-to-end solutions were key trends in focus this year as 3D printing continues to evolve. Each year, conversations are better informed and technologies further advanced, and formnext has become a definite must-attend industry event.” – she adds.

Trends across industries

Formnext crosses the ways of professionals from various industries. From automotive to medicine, from design to engineering. It is fascinating, that this show is so diverse and it creates opportunities for specialists in various fields.

Automotive

Companies from various industries are looking more closely into rapid prototyping. One of them is BMW, which has set up a roadmap on a strategic level to enter series production using 3D printing both metals and plastics. According to Peter Mischke, company’s Technical Specialists, the group uses additive manufacturing to substitute small batch tooling and to optimize the designs for end-use parts.

BMW is not alone in the automotive sector. Martin Bock, another keynoter, joined Audi AG this year as the Project Lead Metal Additive Manufacturing. He talked about using SLM (selective laser melting) in the company’s dedicated Metal Additive Manufacturing Center. For a broader view of the whole automotive industry, Christian Foltz, Partner at PwC Strategy& (Germany) Gmbh, described driving forces behind 3D printing advancements. “To fully benefit from the advantages of AM, it is crucial for established organizations to integrate 3D printing into their current business models” – Foltz stated in his presentation.

Aerospace

The aviation industry has benefited from the achievements of 3D printing for many years. During the TCT Conference at Formnext 2018, Martin Hanisch and Matthias Stiller from Premium AEROTEC GmbH showed the design process of the Airbus A320 Auxiliary Stabilizing Point. They highlighted the requirements and possible solutions for an already under development engineering data management (EDM) system as well as an automated design process. Just after this presentation, Andy Vanaerschot from ASCO Industries talked about the recent pilot project focused on additively manufacturing ‘gooseneck’ bracket of the airplane kinematics system.

Medicine

For all of the industries which benefit from additive manufacturing, medicine is probably the one which matters the most. Saving lives or making them less painful and more comfortable is priceless. And now, thanks to rapid prototyping it is easier and cheaper the one could think.

On the second day of Formnext, TCT conference was mainly about the medical applications of 3D printing. One of the lecturers, dr Lars Brouwers, Surgical Resident in Training and Ph.D. Candidate from the Elisabeth-Tweesteden hospital in Tilburg, the Netherlands talked about the added value of 3D printed models in the extension of X-ray and CT for preoperative work, as well as the cost-effectiveness of 3D printing.

Shortly after this keynote, Saeed Khademzadeh, Researcher at the University of Padova, examined the production and characterization of the porous scaffolds made from biocompatible materials such as titanium and shape memory alloy.

On the other hand, Thomas Prock, Patent Attorney, and Partner at Matts & Clerk discussed some challenges when it comes to intellectual property laws in MedTech. Manufacturers from this sector have to know whether the existing patents cover the distribution of additive manufacturing files.

Design

Using additive manufacturing technologies becomes more and more popular not only among engineers. The impact of 3d printing on future design and aesthetics will be probably more significant than we could imagine at the moment. Additive manufacturing affects how new devices and objects look, feel and how they are used.

At the TCT conference, Pascal Hien, a designer at Steelcase and Moritz Dörstelmann, a Managing Partner at FibR GmbH showed some future possibilities given by combining design and technology.

Futurecraft4D is an entirely new and very innovative shoe by Adidas, created with the assistance of AM technologies that eliminated some traditional prototyping stages. Companies using AM for design, experience its benefits not only during the process of creating a new product. For some businesses implementation of 3D printing technologies becomes a reason to revise or update the business model. This topic was covered by Dr. Andreas Seefried, Senior Manager Engineering at Adidas during the last day of this year’s Formnext Fairs.

Industrial challenges

The third day of the TCT conference started with a lecture by Kai-Uwe Mietzner from Siemens Mobility, showing the examples of using advanced FDM AM in the rail industry to overcome common problems in providing spare parts.

Albert Sutiono, head of Singapore’s NAMIC, addressed the challenge of integration AR, VR and robotics into AM series production. Augmented and virtual reality used in combination with modern CAD software is a powerful tool for engineers and designers taking advantages of additive manufacturing technologies.

New materials

At the same time Konrad Głowacki, a Sinterit co-founder presented at the press conference the new materials dedicated for small SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printers. In powder bed fusion sector of additive manufacturing, desktop-sized devices are still the rarity. Only a few manufacturers decided to give a chance to small and medium-sized companies to buy a machine for less than 10k USD. Sinterit chose to go even further and broaden the range of its powders to seven different materials.

As PA12 nylon is an industry standard, with PA11 Onyx it opens the possibility for more impact resistant and stronger parts. The specter of rubber-like materials is the largest on the market. It starts with Flexa Black and Flexa Grey – the company’s flagship TPUs. Followed by Flexa Soft, with the lowest hardness in Shore A type scale and Flexa Bright, the first white powder by Sinterit which can be easily dyed into colors. The last powder launched at Formnext 2018 was TPE, which is a combination of elastomer and thermoplastic material. It opens the new category in Sinterit’s powder portfolio.

Post-processing

The last part of Friday’s TCT conference was dedicated for the topics involving printouts post-processing. Sarah Reichelt, a research scientist at Airbus showed examples of roughness reduction methods that could be used for products in all AM technologies.

An evaluation of post-processing for 3d printed parts was a subject of interest of Jochen Loock from Fraunhofer Institute for Additive Production Technologies

This year’s formnext fairs abounded with new ideas, solutions, materials, and technologies. Year by year additive manufacturing reveal their new applications and benefits that all branches can get by adopting 3D printing solutions in their workflows and business models. After the overwhelming amount of inspiration, we’re looking forward to next November and the upcoming Formnext 2019.