The French AM industry, perhaps even more so than Southern European European markets such as Italy and Spain, sometimes appears to be self-referential and enclosed. Interesting and innovative French companies tend to emerge very slowly onto the international scene. There are many historical, anthropological and geo-economical reasons for this – which we won’t go into here – but the main one is probably that they usually don’t need to. At least not right away. France is a large country with a huge economy and a mostly thriving industry. In this context, French 3D printing companies can grow, especially in their early stages, without having to address a global audience and the additional difficulties associated with international exports. That may be changing as more than a few French 3D printing startups and even larger companies have achieved the critical mass necessary to expand internationally. At the same time, the French market is increasingly interesting for new and traditional industry leaders, from Stratasys and GE to Carbon and HP. That’s why we decided to take a trip to 3D Print Lyon, the longest-running, pure 3D printing trade show in France, to see where the French AM industry stands today.
In and out of France
At 3dpbm we have been following several French 3D printing companies for years and we have seen some, like AddUp, BeAM and PolyShape grow (and merge) in the metal AM segment, or 3D Ceram setting standards for advanced ceramic SLA production, or Prodways building its ecosystem. Interestingly, neither of these companies (with some exceptions) was present with a booth at 3D Print Lyon, which remains a very French-focused event, attracting mostly resellers and local 3D printer manufacturers. However Prodways was still present through the service provider Initial and we also met with 3D Ceram’s Marketing Manager Kareen Malsallez, who was visiting the conference as a member of the France Additive association.
Now it seems as though a new generation of companies is ready to take the international leap. Some of these stand out by targeting challenging, unique and complex materials and processes, such as ceramics, rubber and silicones, innovative thermoplastic powders, high-temperature filament or pellet plastics and relative processing capabilities.
At the same time, American, German, and Italian companies are looking at the French market for the country’s Aerospace, Automotive, Dental, Medical, Cosmetics, Luxury goods and even Fashion industries. Both Carbon and HP presented case studies for luxury goods and cosmetics, including both packaging and final products, developed through the local experts at Erpro Group. Formlabs’s booth was among the show’s largest to indicate a strong market presence with its SLA systems although Sinterit was present through at least four distributors with respect to the key benchtop SLS segment. Stratasys has a consolidated presence here, showing off the newest SAF machine along with the latest in PolyJet capabilities. Metal AM market leaders GE, EOS, SLM Solutions, and TRUMPF were also present at the show through their own booths or through distributors.
Desktop Metal hardware’s presence was harder to identify, as many of the Group’s brands are still currently scattered across multiple resellers, but both ETEC and Desktop Metal machines were present. Also present was Belgian company Aerosint, now part of the group and winner of the 3D Print Show show award for its multi-metal printing PBF technology.
Vive le silicone
Among about 100 exhibitors of various sizes, as many as 4 companies targeted silicone 3D printing. This is the highest concentration ever seen at a show for this family of thermoset materials, which presents many challenges as well as important potential business opportunities. Among the companies that are now looking to expand beyond France, extrusion 3D printer manufacturer Lynxter showed a solid delta extrusion system capable of producing very precise parts with the COPSIL 3D real silicone materials from COP Chimie, as well as ceramic pastes or filaments from Nanoe and Nanovia.
Silicone 3D printing seemed to be a unifying trend in this edition of 3D Print Lyon, with large silicon and silicone materials manufacturer Elkem also showing the progress and unparalleled precision of their pure silicone AM capabilities, shown to us (in the photo below). Leading French 3D printer distributor Multistation presented the Arburg InnovatiQ LiQ 320 system, that the company sells in France, and its liquid silicon rubber (LSR) 3D printing capabilities.
Local startup 3Deus brought a prototype of its radical new system for producing silicone parts, developed in partnership with Elkem. In 3Deus’ Dynamic Molding technology, Additive Manufacturing Deposition (AMD), the building environment is composed of a controlled granular phase (powder), behaving like a dynamic molding system in which manufacturing materials (inks) are dispensed. This dynamic molding system radical vision brings AMD techniques into support-free and builds table-free processing.
Yet another very interesting AM system for flexible, soft materials, was presented by EPEIRE3D. The company’s LFAM systems are able to produce producing very large and soft, flexible parts using real rubber feedstock. At their booth, we saw rubbery parts that are as tall as 30 cm, something we had not yet anywhere else.
Nice-based 3D printer manufacturer Volumic was more standard in terms of products, but still worth mentioning for the unique style (and value proposition) of its 3D printer designs. Besides the bright STREAM series of 3D printers, the company presented a very interesting and useful application case with ValorYeu, a French startup located in the remote L’Isle D’Yeu, an island on France’s Atlantic coats, that makes nylon 3D printing filament from recycling fishing nets, and uses it to make products in a perfectly circular and sustainable approach.
Les coqs s’envolent
Among materials companies, Fabulous stands out as one of a few third-party materials manufacturers developing thermoplastic powders for SLS with unique and innovative properties, different from most other materials on the market. Their newest material, Detect, is a biosourced PA11 that enables metal detection via X-ray (for example for applications in the food industry) and can be magnetized.
Custom sporting equipment manufacturer Athletics 3D was the most fun 3D printing application company at the show. At its booth, visitors could test the custom 3D printed carabines developed specifically for top Biathlon World and Olympic champions. The company’s business model is a winning one and president Athletics 3D founder Clément Jacquelin told us that demand has been growing rapidly. These roosters (the French national mascotte) are ready to take off or, as Alice in Chains would say, “They’ve come to shoot the rooster”.
A notable business opportunity was presented by 3D printer extruder manufacturer Dyze Design. The company, which makes advanced extruders for a variety of large and small extrusion 3D printing systems, is from Canada and now looking to expand in the European market as well as North America. The company, which develops pellet extruders that can work with systems such as Ai Build’s, as well as filament extruder and accessories is about to launch new products: the HoriZon and the Orthus.
For those who don’t know Aniwaa, the largest and most accurate online catalog of 3D printing hardware, the company was founded by two French ex-pats (who often move around). 3dpbm has known and occasionally collaborated with the team so it was great to physically catch up with co-founders Martin Lansard and Pierre-Antoine Arrighi, and content writer Ludivine Cherdo, for the first time in a few years.
Many large companies are taking the opposite route, the one that goes across the Alps or the Pyrenees, or through a beach in Normandy, or across the Rhine river, depending on which direction you are coming from, and leads into the French-speaking regions of Europe. France is traditionally a very large market for French AM industry leader Stratasys, especially for PolyJet technology, its systems and its applications. The Stratasys booth, where we met with Regional Marketing Manager France & Iberia Anaïs Martin, presented the latest in PolyJet, Origin, SAF and FDM systems. One application, in particular, caught our attention. Stratasys has been working with the Italian D-Loan group (which includes the 3D printing specialists Shapemode) on producing color PolyJet applications for textiles and entering the high fashion industry in France and Italy. Gloria Gutierrez from Bond Factory, also part of the D-Loan project, showed us some of the test products.
The Franch AM industry is also becoming an increasingly important market for new polymer 3D printing leaders such as Carbon and HP, especially in light of very visible, profitable and forward-looking deals with L’Oreal and Chanel and Peugeot (as well as European sporting equipment Decathlon), on product packaging and digital manufacturing. In many of these cases, Carbon and HP work on these projects with the local experts at Erpro Group, like they do, in Germany, with OECHSLER or in Italy with Dedem Group.
The next large American company to make a move into the French market is Xerox, which chose 3D Print Lyon to show off its new ElemX metal 3D printing technology for the first time in Europe. We met with Matthew Sozio, in charge of Business Development & Strategy, and Tim Schniepp, Director of Applications Engineering & BD, at Xerox Additive Manufacturing. During our meeting, we had the opportunity to learn more about how the ElemX liquid metal technology works, cost-effectively pushing drops of molten aluminum wire onto the build plate via a magnetic field, and see some of its first aluminum parts (the company said they are already working on aluminum 6061).
At the same time, the French AM industry looks set to become a battleground between Benchtop SLS hardware manufacturers. On the one hand, Poland’s Sinterit seems to be the clear market leader with as many as four distributors showing off its LISA and NILS systems. On the other, Formlabs has a massive booth and its Fuse1 continues to gain adopters worldwide. France is expected to be a major market for it.
Said of all the German metal AM companies looking at the French Aerospace market for major metal AM adopters such as Airbus, Safran and LISI, some Italian companies are also looking for a larger presence across the Alps., in the French AM industry The main one is Roboze, one of the largest generalist suppliers of large extrusion systems for high-temperature materials, wìth the ARGO line of products. The company was present with its own booth to help develop its presence in France while also actively working on US expansion.
Spengler is a French AM consultancy company, founded by two former Prodways engineers from Italy. Co-founder Stefano Rebecchi told us that the company has found France, and the France Additive association, as the perfect environment to build their startup. Spengler’s business model consists in working with AM adopters to develop optimized post-processing workflows – through their new IntegrAM service – and develop custom-made AM systems for specific parts.
Another large Italian AM company was present, although indirectly, by signing a strategic partnership with local aerospace-specialized DfAM studio Volum-e. According to the terms of the agreement, Volum-e will provide design capabilities for aerospace parts while Lincotek will provide large metal AM production capabilities (currently focused on medical applications).
…. And Fraternité
One element that emerged from the 3D Print Lyon show, which was vibrant but still had some shortcomings in terms of size, organization, and ability to reach major AM end-users, is that French companies are able to collaborate and come together to help advance the entire segment. The ideal representation of this is the France Additive organization, which effectively brings together the entire French AM industry sector. The key players in industry, research, innovation, creation, and start-ups joined forces to pool their skills and move forward together, while also attracting government investments. This is a good model to follow at a time when AM worldwide really needs to climb out of its nest.
Below, enjoy a few more shots from the 3D Print Lyon show.