3D printing is taking off, and so are the events surrounding the industry. With formnext 2016 now having concluded two weeks ago, we’re wrapping up our coverage of this mighty and quickly growing conference. I will be presenting in this three-part series details from more of the conversations I was privileged to have there, focusing on updates in business, hardware, and software.
Many of the companies we saw at formnext this year had similar reports: the event was bigger for 2016, their booths were bigger (with many companies having appeared in 2015 in the startup area and having expanded to full-sized booths), and the visitors were definitely interested in what they were seeing. Several booths told me they had taken numerous orders from new customers right on the show floor, while others noted an uptick in interest from resellers and buyers alike. Each company I spoke with had something to show, and something to say — and it was great to be at a conference where so many of the 3D printers were actually functional on the floor. While we’ve already shared looks at several companies with new technology to showcase, including BeAM, XJet, 3devo, Optomec, atum3D, and Stratasys, and while HP’s MJF 3D printers were in action at their booth, these were by no means the only companies showing off their hardware.
This has been the third show in as many months where I’ve seen 3D Platform‘s massive 3D Workbench in action, as they’ve been taking it around the road. It was at IMTS in Chicago, TCT Show in Birmingham, and now at formnext in Frankfurt. I had the opportunity to chat with Jonathan Schroeder, President of 3D Platform, as he filled me in on some of the company’s updates.
“The Workbench is selling very strong,” he told me. “It’s gained global acceptance. The series is doing very well.”
The company has already sold more than 400 units of their large-scale machines, and formnext saw many visitors inquiring about their delta and XL machines. It was a good show, Schroeder told me, as their booth saw a good deal of foot traffic, leading to new sales and new distribution inquiries, with many people approaching them first in wanting to act as distributors. 3D Platform will be introducing new extruders in December/January, he told me, powering up from their 40W hot end to 300W and 900W hot ends.
“The hot end is the limiting factor; the goal is that the machine can ultimately move faster than it’s allowed to with these hot ends. Speed printing really allows users to do what they want to do,” Schroeder explained.
Looking around the company’s booth reminded me yet again just how large their 3D printers are capable of creating. While 3D Platform’s Marketing Specialist Kecheng Lu was not present in Frankfurt, I did have the opportunity to say hello to her 3D printed selfie at the booth, where she was stationed near some of their other large-scale prints, including a massive Frankenstein’s monster head and a full-sized chair.
At EnvisionTEC‘s perpetually busy booth I had the opportunity to catch up with Sarah Webster, Global Marketing Director, and John Hartner, COO of EnvisionTEC. The booth also showcased Robotic Additive Manufacturing (RAM) from partner Viridis3D, showing this tech off for the first time in Europe; the impressive RAM technology works with a unique binder jetting head connected to a robotic arm allowing for the 3D printing of molds and cores for foundries, created with ABB Robotics as a partner.
“This is less than half the price of comparable systems,” Webster told me of the Viridis3D system, noting a price point around $350-$400K. “Several have been installed in the US. It’s been very popular at the show. It lays sand down, then a binder jetting agent, and needs just half an hour for the catalyst to cure.”
Last year at formnext, EnvisionTEC had their Vector 3SP; this year, they introduced the high-resolution verison, the Vector Hi-Res 3SP. This redesigned version puts the laser closer to the vat and features a 22″ touchscreen monitor, as Webster showed me, and the company indicates that the Vector Hi-Res 3SP has twice the resolution of its predecessor. EnvisionTEC has been seeng a real boom in the dental market in particular lately.
“Interest has been high,” Hartner told me. “We have an expanded team now, especially in Europe. We’re seeing new applications and really positive growth, double-digit growth. We’re always adding more tools to our toolbox.”
Hartner additionally spoke on “The Next Big Thing: 3D Printing with Composites” during a session at formnext, as the company has noted definite interest in composites. EnvisionTEC has certainlly been keeping busy lately, with other recent appearances at IMTS and TCT Show as part of their very busy Made to Matter Tour — and we’ll see them again in two weeks at Inside 3D Printing San Diego as their next stop in the US
One booth I was particularly interested to stop by was that of Nano Dimension, the Israel-based manufacturer of printed circuit boards (PCBs), as they had their highly-anticipated DragonFly 2020 3D printer on display. I had the opportunity to chat with Galit Beck, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, who showed me several of the PCBs on hand that had come off the DragonFly 2020. Their 3D printer, which is moving ever closer to full market launch, holds incredible promise as a valuable tool in the production of multilayer PCBs, with intricate 3D circuitry possible. The 3D printer, known already to be so powerful, is impressively compact when seen sitting on a countertop. Its carefully thought-out design houses impressive technology that creates functional electronics — and quickly.
“The DragonFly 2020 system brings together an extremely precise inkjet deposition printer, high performance silver nano-particle conductive and dielectric inks as well as dedicated software, in order to bring the benefits of 3D printing to electronics professionals,” the official product sheet explains. “This advanced printing platform is dedicated to the production of professional multilayer PCB prototypes and other circuitry in-house, within hours.”
Holding some of the 3D printed PCBs in my hand provided me with a look directly at the actual product. While I won’t pretend to be anything close to an expert in electronics or circuitry, I’m convinced of the quality this machine is capable of producing. The booth showcased myriad samples of fully 3D printed example pieces, and indeed Beck pulled one from the back of her lanyard to show me up close and without any glass between us. The DragonFly 2020 can produce rigid and flexible, multilayer, multicolor PCBs and is set to reduce PCB design and testing cycles down to a matter of days or weeks instead of months or longer. Having developed materials and software for their machine since its unveiling last year, Nano Dimension has been on a roll from its founding in 2012 to its most recent financial reports. We will continue to keep close watch on Nano Dimension as the DragonFly 2020 comes to market in the near future.
O.R. Lasertechnologie (OR LASER) was another highly anticipated appearance at formnext this year, and there I had the opportunity to sit down with Uri Resnik, Executive COO, as well as catch up with Rimon Ram from their marketing team to learn more about their just-introduced ORLAS CREATOR. According to Resnik, formnext was the perfect place to launch, and they received great feedback from booth visitors — including competitors who stopped by to see their technology.
“They said nice concept, nice machine, this is a real innovation in the metal 3D printing market,” Resnik told me. “It’s been much more than we expected.”
As of the time we talked, we were two and a half days into formnext — and OR LASER had already received 30 pre-orders. The company was offering a lowered price for pre-orders taken at the show, furthering their acceptance, as they took pre-orders for €80K, below their full price of €100K. Resnik explained that the price point now was below their margin, but was leading to clear success. In addition to the 30 pre-orders, they received 300 leads, which Resnik called “unprecedented market development.”
“There has been incredible interest since the announcement,” he said. “The formal introduction was here at formnext, and we’ve seen many inquiries. We haven’t seen interest and growth like this before.”
OR LASER had their first ideas for this technology around three years ago, Resnik explained, with real development over the last two years — and now they’ve spent the last half-year bringing their tech to market. Ram told me that they were taking a new approach wtih their ORLAS CREATOR, different from others’ approach to market. The size of the ORLAS CREATOR was intended to be user-friendly and to not have an intimidating size.
A prime example of year over year growth could be seen immediately at Roboze‘s booth — and not least because they had significantly upgraded their floor space for 2016 following their appearance in the startup area at last year’s event. It’s been an incredible year for this Italian company, as they’ve not only introduced — and then made fully industrial — their second 3D printer, but have formed partnerships to expand their reach around the globe, including the Balkan Peninsula, the UK and Ireland, the large EMEA region (including appointing Gil Levi to head this effort), India, and the Benelux region. On the second day of the conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Gil Lavi, VP Global Sales & Business Development, as well as Ilaria Guicciardini, Marketing Director, to learn more about Roboze’s stellar rise.
“The Roboze One changed the concept of the motion,” Guicciardini told me of the company’s entry into market with their first 3D printer. “Removing the belt added a lot of accuracy. We touch a lot of applications.”
While the first 3D printer from Roboze was capable of printing four materials, the Roboze One +400 can work with 13 materials. Maintenance for the new machine is simple by design, with no need to replace belts; there is also no time lost when changing the extruder, as there is only one screw. The machine has a filament control system located directly inside the extruder to control pressure, and features a ventilation system, which is important in a machine that reaches temperatures of 520 degrees when printing high-performance materials like PEEK.
Roboze was highlighting their partnership with Manor Racing at the conference, with many 3D printed components to show. They will be showing more from this partnership over the next year, as well. Guicciardini also told me that they were especially pleased at formnext 2016 as “the quality of visitors is very good; we don’t have to explain what is 3D printing anymore.”
The team at Roboze additionally noted at formnext that they hope next to expand to the large US market, and indeed are looking to open a branch here. To follow this up, Roboze today told me that they are now looking to hire both in the US, on the east coast, and in their HQ in Bari, Italy. Open positions are set to lead to establishing a new management team operating in North America, which will be supported by their central management; in the future, the company will seek to establish a sales branch as well.
“Our search aims to increase every day our technical and managerial skills and to deal with the strong demand for our products in strategic markets such as North America and Asia,” says Alessio Lorusso, Roboze CEO, “In Roboze strongly we believe that people are the basis of everything we do and of the technology we create. At the same the strong creative and competitive spirit time that reigns in the company pushes everyone to do their best and to seek bold solutions that often result in errors, sometimes lead to big results. Today Roboze inevitably must face the market with global spirit, and to do that we need to bring in the company new cultures, new languages and customized approaches to target market that we intend to attack.”
With 3D printers as far as the eye could see, formnext was a conference that showcased the remarkable growth of both the industry itself (keeping in mind that formnext 2016 was about 50% larger than the 2015 event) and the participants therein, as companies graduated to larger booth spaces with more machinery introduced and in action. The hardware at the heart of the additive manufacturing industry offers more options than ever before, and while the expansion is beginning to show signs of maturity, it is not showing any signs of slowing. From desktop industrial 3D printing to metal AM machines with a smaller footprint, and from robotic arms to PCBs, this event highlighted some of the very best to see — and, as company after company noted, growth as well in sales, distribution, and, importantly, more informed visitors.[All photos taken by Sarah Goehrke at formnext for 3DPrint.com]
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