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Laying the foundations for the future of AM in the UK at TCT 3Sixty 2023

The 30th edition of the show focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors

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With the AM industry becoming more of a global phenomenon and trade shows happening all over the world, the competitive scenario has become more crowded. However, as national markets also continue to grow, local shows are experiencing a new phase of growth. These trends were particularly evident at TCT 3Sixty 2023.

Few geographic areas have undergone such significant economic changes as the UK has in the past three years, and new industries like AM are more impacted. But AM is also helping to usher in a new age of growth for UK companies, both nationally and internationally.

TCT 3Sixty is the place where the most consolidated local distributors and service providers show off their most impactful brands and capabilities. At the same time, OEMs mostly look to consolidate their presence on the UK market via informational booths or their executives’ presence at the local distributors’ booths. It also remains a place for a few companies to launch (or pre-launch) their products. In the evening, the industry can also celebrate itself at the TCT Awards, one of the longest-running and most recognizable prizes for AM professionals, together with the TCT Hall of Fame, which celebrates the careers of those who have helped to build the industry as we know it today.

Distributors and services

Like many other important national markets, the UK AM market continues to see a certain level of consolidation in terms of a select group of distributors emerging as representatives of the strongest brands. Laserlines with Stratasys, Matsuura UK with HP, EuroPAC with Mimaki, and more. Service providers offered some of the most evident indications of growth and consolidation. 3DPRINTUK just became part of the Tri-Tech network after the acquisition by Solid Print) and – as CEO Nick Allen told VoxelMatters – the company intends to “continue to operate as it did before, providing SLS and MJF for series production services while benefiting from the strength of a larger group to facilitate the next phase of scale-up.”

The market for low-volume (up to a few thousand parts) seems to be getting ripe and the presence of numerous other service providers confirms it. Just before TCT 3Sixty, VoxelMatters visited BEAMIT, the company that acquired 3T’s metal 3D printing business to see how it has now turned around after a challenging period. Right next door is 3T’s polymer 3D printing business, which is not part of Prototal, the large Scandinavian group (which also has a presence in Italy after acquiring Prosilas). Viki May, Head of Sales and Marketing for Prototal UK, confirmed the company is the “UK AM industry’s best-kept secret and now looking to scale both in terms of productivity and visibility.”

Other virtuous examples include PLG Engineering, a company that started with just a few basic printers and now offers ISO 9001-certified manufacturing services in the UK market, including 3D printing, 3D scanning, reverse engineering, low-volume manufacturing to industries such as automotive, motorsports, medical devices, electronics, and consumer goods. Similarly, 3D People was established in 2015, growing from a basement with a few desktop machines to a state-of-the-art factory specializing in industrial polymer additive manufacturing.

The 30th edition, TCT 3Sixty 2023, focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors
The Laserlines booth

Services are also offered by companies that have been present in the UK market as distributors for many years. For example, Europac3D, a company that emerged as a 3D scanner first and then a 3D printer distributor, offers low-volume production runs of components with HP Multi Jet Fusion printers running both PA12 and PA11 nylon as well as full-color parts using Mimaki technology.

Europac is a player in the UK distribution market which is led by companies such as Laserlines and Matsuura. Laserlines was founded in 1975 and has grown to become one of the UK’s leading suppliers of 3D printers, additive manufacturing systems, laser processing solutions, laser photonics products and associated accessories. It is the longest Stratasys UK reseller. On the other side, Matsuura, which started as a distributor of products from the Japanese machine tool system OEM (which also makes metal 3D printers) has become a major player in the polymer 3D printing market by distributing HP systems (among others). Below, are some white parts 3D printed on the new 5420 system: smoothly finished samples on the left-hand side and custom medical parts on the right.

New products and OEMs

At the Matsuura UK booth, we met with Steven Wilcox, Head of Go-to-Market Northern Europe at HP Inc. who was very excited about the growth of HP’s business and the adoption of polymer AM systems in the UK. “Growth is driven primarily by segments that we decided to focus on early on, such as medical devices, automotive parts and general industrial components,” Mr. Wilcox told VoxelMatters. “We are seeing a lot of enthusiasm and growth among many of our customers and we feel that being present with massive displays in collaboration with our local distribution partners, such as Matsuura, at TCT 3Sixty is the best way to support them and their customers.” Mr. Wilcox went on to show us examples of white production parts made on the new 5420W, including medical devices which, he said is “one of the segments where we are seeing the most growth.”

Other consolidated OEMs present at the show with stand-alone booths included EOS – primarily to promote the Additive Minds consultancy business and Trumpf. Among newer companies, it was interesting to note that both Wayland Additive and JEOL, two manufacturers of EB-PBF systems were present with a booth at the show, demonstrating the renewed interest in this technology as the first solid competitors to GE Additive continue to develop.

The 30th edition, TCT 3Sixty 2023, focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors
New composite filament from Airtech, based on the same market-leading Dahltram tooling resins of the pellets.

One of the most interesting new products seen on the show floor was seen at the Airtech booth, where the local branch (which recently adopted the name Airtech Advanced Materials UK), showed off for the first time a new line of composite 3D printing filaments made using its market-leading Dahltram tooling resins for additive manufacturing. These first products, which will be on the market soon (and will enable extrusion printing of finer details on large parts produced using LFAM pellet 3D printing), included both PC-CF and PESU-CF composite filaments, with more to come.

Triditive, a company that emerged by introducing the AMCELL 8300 system for serial extrusion 3D printing of polymer and bound metal parts (using a variety of metal filaments), offered a juicy preview of a new, small-size, metal binder jetting system dubbed AMCELL Jet. The company, which is in the midst a legal battle with former CEO and founder Mariel Diaz,  developed this system to use a water-based binder specifically for high-speed printing of metal parts, with support from the giant Foxconn that is expected to become a major adopter. The giant outsourced manufacturing contractor intends to use it for large-scale serial manufacturing of small and precise industrial components.

The 30th edition, TCT 3Sixty 2023, focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors

BMF is another company whose presence at TCT 3Sixty is growing along with its own progress in global markets. By offering Micro SLA technology for small and intricate parts, that cannot be produced with any other manufacturing method, BMF has sold more machines than many better-known companies and has now introduced the new microArch S350 is a 25μm platform to scale and automate the production of these precise parts.

Arguably the most innovative product seen on the show floor was presented by a small new Scottish startup called Defiant 3D. The company’s Defiant200 Cold Deposit and Sinter 3D printing system, powered by patent-pending technology, promises 200 x 200 x 200 mm support-free metal parts, with a 40,000 GBP price point. The technology introduces a unique process that leverages high-temperature metal powders as support materials with sintering happening after the build but still within the build chamber.

The new Defiant200 system presented by Defiant3D based on Cold Deposit and Sinter 3D printing technology, starts at 40,000 GBP.

And if we are talking about metal 3D printing in the UK we also must mention WAAM3D, one of the companies based that has done the most to truly industrialize and commercialize the wire arc additive manufacturing process, and Enable Manufacturing, the only company genuinely specializing in additive casting, with the ability to produce, steel, aluminum and even ultra-light magnesium parts by leveraging voxeljet sand binder jetting technology. Ricoh 3D is also very much focused on bringing aluminum binder jetting technology to the market via its UK-based

Celebrating an entire industry

The TCT Awards ceremony is the element differentiating TCT 3Sixty from any other trade show worldwide and VoxelMatters was invited to attend for the first time. This is among the longest-running awards in the AM industry to celebrate the very best innovations and applications of additive manufacturing technology. The exclusive gala dinner ceremony also celebrates the TCT Hall of Fame, which heralds individuals who have dedicated a lifetime of work to the additive manufacturing Industry, the TCT Women in 3D Printing Innovator Award, which recognizes the incredible work women are undertaking in the additive space and the NEW Sanjay Mortimer Foundation Rising Star Award, which recognizes an up-and-coming neurodivergent mind.

The 30th edition, TCT 3Sixty 2023, focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors
The winners of the TCT Awards 2023.

Presented by F1 legend Johnny Herbert, the dinner also offers a unique opportunity to network with other leading AM professionals and see some of the most advanced products and pioneering applications of 3D printing across eleven awards categories, ranging from Aerospace & Defence and healthcare to hardware, materials and post-processing. While some award finalists include large companies such as HP, GM, GKN, Microsoft, or other established AM technology companies, the awards also offer a global stage for young and innovative teams, products and projects to stand out.

For example Foundry Lab, a company that uses binder-jet ceramic molds and microwaves to cast production-identical metal components. Or Triastek, which worked with Eli Lilly, Merck KgA, Siemens, and Boehringer Ingelheim to develop Melt-Extrusion Deposition (MED®), a pharmaceutical 3D printing technology that ensures more effective drug delivery. And Theta Technologies, in the Post Processing category, received an honorable mention for its RD1-TT non-destructive testing machine. In the age of AI, London-based Ai Build also stood winning the software award for its “Talk to AiSync” ChatGPT integration that generates production-ready 3D print files using basic text commands.

The 30th edition, TCT 3Sixty 2023, focused on the essential: selected exhibitors and products for qualified visitors
The highlight of the evening, the TCT Hall of Fame, inducted Diana Kalisz, who has been part of 3D Systems for more than 30 years.

The highlight of the evening, the TCT Hall of Fame, inducted Diana Kalisz, who has been part of 3D Systems for more than 30 years and is a member of P.E.O., a women’s Philanthropic Educational Organization that has raised and given hundreds of millions of dollars to support women’s education. The second inductee, Professor Jean-Pierre Kruth began a career in AM in 1990 where his research on stereolithography led to him co-founding the AM company Materialise and other spin-off companies such as Metris in 1995 (now Nikon Metrology) and LayerWise N.V. in 2008 (now 3D Systems LayerWise).

For 30 years the global AM industry and its innovations passed through TCT 3Sixty. This edition is laying down new foundations to ensure that future ones will too.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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