Formnext, Stratasys, HP and Major Announcements Mark New Era for AM
Ever since the name 3D printing was adopted globally a few years ago the AM industry has been on the verge of entering a new era. In a way 3D printing has been on the verge of entering a new era since it was invented in 1986. The risk here is that it “is, was and always will be the future of manufacturing”. The reality, fortunately, is that while that may be so, the industry is really coming into its own and the hugely successful 2016 edition of formnext is a clear indication of what that may mean.
With support from the TCT powerhouse (the magazine and even network is now partner or owns almost every major 3D printing event in the world) – and with the enthusiastic participation of every major company and innovator in the world of 3D printing – the 2016 edition of formnext was a borderline perfect show (inlcuding the closing party in the huge areas which could represent next year’s show floor expansion). Exhibitors were satisfied with the amount and quality of the attendance; attendees were entertained by a huge number of product launches, announcements, new developments and evolutions in technologies and strategic visions.
Many people in the AM industry had grown sentimentally attached to Euromold since that had been the reference event for many years. However, much like the entire industry has changed dramatically through the centrifuge that the past two years have represented, the reference industry show had to change too. Euromold had become (or actually had remained) and old show, unable to the changing demands of a highly dynamic industry such as 3D printing is now.
Manufacturing processes are not computers. They used to take centuries and then decades to evolve. Now they evolve at a Moore’s Law rate, doubling in efficiency every two years of so just like any other digital process. The difference here is that this is not just digital content. This is real, digital and phsyical matter. AKA the era of “voxel” as HP and many other companies have been emphasizing.
Just like Gartner predicted, the hype spike was followed by a period of disillusionment. However we are now clearly entering the next phase of real and controlled yet rapid growth. Stratasys’s (and even 3D Systems’) stands were larger than thos from the peak of the hype and yet now this is what the market requires. Especially because now the likes of HP and GE (and Ricoh and even Michelin) are getting involved heavily.
3D Printing Media Network published an initial overlook of the first interesting news and announcements we ran into on Day 1, here we are going to go over everything else that you just could not miss if you attended (or if you did not attend) the show, starting from the beginning of formnext day 3 with
Stratasys for Breakfast
While the current market leader did not present any huge technological news – other than a few solid industrial case studies and highly strategic partnership – the fact remains that the company is still the current market leader. Beyond the specific relevance of the announcements (you can find everything here), such as the high profile partnerships with Siemens and SAP targeting industrial production and professional education respectively, Stratasys limited its innovation to a new top of the line Fortus 900mc and a new nylon 6 material for FDM. The biggest news coming out of Stratasys, however, is that adopters are finally ready for its advance color capabilities with the high-end J750. Thanks to GrabCAD print, among other things, companies like Safilo and even several services, are finally offering voxel level color capabilities.
Prodways Presents New Top of the Line and Entry Level SLS Systems
One real game changes in the AM industry may be that now materials manufacturers have access to not one but two very serious SLS platforms. One, clearly, is Ricoh’s and the other is represented by the Prodways/Farsoon partnership. Prodways has signed material development partnerships with Arkema, BASF, Somos and more, and the company has now finalized its zirconia ceramics offer on MovingLight DLP technology (now with 20% higher productvity rates). Prodways has also launched the new high end system, the P4500 HT, capable of using high temperature nylon 6. The company has also finally presented its own, internally developed, entry level system, the P1000, which is the first result of the Norge Systems acquisition and will be available starting at $100,000.
The 3DP Platform is Getting (a Lot) Bigger
Americans like things bigger. American company 3D Platform has made this its main objective by expanding its system capabilities to almost infinite production capabilities. The new pellet fed top of the line 3DP Excel 100 system has an impressive 45 to 55 Kg/hr deposition rate, way more than current record holder BAAM. This could be further expanded in custom systems with multiple serial extruders.
Sisma Triple Productivity SLA 3D Printer
We already covered Sisma’s new large size metal 3D printer (that was impossible to miss) however another new product (show only at the Vicenza Gold show this year) is the company’s very first SLA 3D printer. The Myrev100 is not just any 3D printer but a triple rotating platform system to increase productivity without sacrificing precision.
Yes, HP’s 3D Printer Prints
When a giant such as HP enters the market it just comes natural to try to find some weakness in what seems like an all-powerful competitor. One criticism moved to the company is that its 3D pritners on display at previous shows were not running. However HP always maintained that the reason was that it would be impossible to show the inside of the machine while it is running. This time – at its huge movie-theatre like stand – HP had three systems on display so one of them could run. And continued to print for the entire show at its current breakneck speed. SLS adopters argue they can be competitive with MJF speed through process and post process optimization. However SLS has had two decades to improve processes, and MJF is ultra fast from the start.
Michelin Presents its Metal 3D Printer
Together with the most important and historic French industrial association. Michelin is the main investor in AddUp, a french startup that developed and launched a new SLM 3D printer. The machine leverages over 10 years of Michelin experience as a leading adopter of the technology, which it used to produce tire molds. The machine has thus been optimized to be as intuitive and easy to use, with a modular approach to cleaning and sieving stations.
Nano Dimension 3D Prints Flexible Circuitry
We’ve seen the PCB (actually you can see it in the photo) now Nano Dimension is also 3D printing geometircally complex and even flexible circuitry. The sample flexible circuit is just the beginning. Soon it will be even less frail. The machine is now available in beta but it is expected to hit the market next year and seems to be eagerly awaited by the entire electronic prototyping and engineering industry.
Realizer Shows off the Cartridge System for its New 300i
When you are working with precious powders – and also with reactive one – the ability to change them easily is of fundamental importance. The new 300i system has a sleek new design and a unique cartridge based, completely sealed, powder recycling system. This enable the machine to change the type of powder in less than two hours.
New Affordable Metal 3D Printers
Although the largest companies are still plastic based 3D printer manufacturers, formnext is a show for primarily for metal. OR Laser – a laser manufacturer – introduced its own accessible metal 3D printer and so did China based Sentrol among others. Germany based InnTek went as far as introducing a desktop system for DMP (DED) based technology.