The first Inside 3D Printing show of the year is bound to set the stage and the general direction that the 3D printing and AM sectors will take for the remainder of 2016. Judging by Inside 3D Printing Düsseldorf, which is now taking place together with the METAV Metalworking Technologies show, there is some stable growth ahead — which is a benefit for any industry and for 3D printing in particular.
Dozens of high level talks cover practical 3D printing applications within the industrial workflow. Just about every major company took up a stand at the Inside 3D Printing pavilion, which functioned as the AM Section of METAV. The first impression is that, while AM companies still represent a minority compared to high-end metalworking technologies, this difference is getting smaller.
Another aspect that is becoming clearer is that metal 3D printing and high-end plastic 3D printing companies are beginning to understand that they need to take the 3D printing industry on their shoulders and that the availability of low-cost technologies is an advantage for them as well. Due to the synergies with METAV, the Inside 3D Printing show was also very much focused on metal. For those who missed Formnext last November, this was a great chance to see some of the top new technologies up close.
Meanwhile, the conference lets show visitors hear directly from the people who work on these technologies what the future holds in their Digital Factory 4.0 visions. These went from Additive Industries and Concept Lasers’ fully automated factory visions, to SLM Solutions’ quadruple laser SLM 500hl system. Arcam and EOS also intervened, as did representatives from several 3D printing services, materials manufacturers and even adopters such as BMW.
The first booth that appears when taking the escalator down to the show floor is 3D Systems’. The German branch of the American company showed off many of its products and primarily its newest ProX 500 System. The machine’s door was left wide open to emphasize the fact that 3DS offers a fully open materials system. This means that its metal machine adopters can use any material with full support from the machine’s manufacturer.
Concept Laser picked up Inside 3D Printing show’s award for its Meltpool Monitoring system. We can also exclusively anticipate that 2015 has been a record year for the company (the official results will be disclosed soon), in anticipation of the XLine 2000 full release. This time the 3D printer on the show flow was the MLab, the smallest one that the company makes. It is also one of the most affordable on the market, ideal for anyone that is just getting started in metal 3D printing.
This idea of (more) accessible metal 3D printing was made even clearer during the presentation by SLM Solutions. When talking about the powerful quadruple laser SLM 500hl, Dieter Schwarze, Head Additive Processes, showed a video in which the machine was 3D printing its own parts, recalling the idea of RepRap 3D printing. The differences are, of course, enormous, however the idea that a metal 3D printer can now make many of its parts is a powerful one.
Renishaw brought its newest top of the line system, the RenAM 500 (500 stands for the 500 Watt ytterbium laser) to the show, while Trumpf was present with its new small size system, the TruPrint 1000. One more aspect that is very promising about metal 3D printing is the fact that laser cladding/directed energy deposition 3D printer manufacturers now want in.
We mean giants like Trumpf itself as well as DMG Mori and, now, the IBARMIA ADD+PROCESS hybrid system for laser cladding and machining. Even Hoganas, which has built its business on additive production of extremely precise and small metal components, is now working to expand its 3D printing size capabilities, not so much for larger parts but in order to print many more small parts in one process.
A number of German and Swiss 3D printing and product development services were also present on the exhibition floor. Some, like Lazer Zentrum Nord, are already eyeing the possibility of evolving into full metal 3D printing factories (the Bionic Production project). That’s due in part to the increased availability of software such as Altair (present with a stand at the show) that make development and production of trabecular and topologically optimized structures easier and more intuitive than ever to implement.
While metal was dominant (we are in Germany, after all), plastic 3D printer manufacturers also played an important role. However the industry has come to the point where there has been a drastic selection and only those who are more solid can compete. These include Formlabs, whose business has been booming in Europe since opening the Berlin HQ, and of course Stratasys, which was present through some of its German distributors, including, of course, Alphacam.
After the roller coaster of the past couple of years, the industry as a whole is starting to take take its final shape and thus gaining stability. Only the strongest survive and a lot of big companies are getting ready to get into the mix, in many different sectors of manufacturing. If this is the premise, then it’s a good enough reason not to miss the next Inside 3D Printing taking place in São Paulo, Brazil, April 4th and 5th, or in New York City April 10th through 12th. Remember 3DPrint.com readers can save 10% off registration by using discount code ‘3DPRINT’.