3D Printing Introductions, Innovations, and Bling Galore at RAPID + TCT 2018

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This year’s RAPID + TCT event is coming to a close in Texas today, and I’m very pleased to call it my first big 3D printing industry event. There were so many things to see and people to meet, I can’t cover them all in just one article.

After attending Tuesday’s keynote, I was able to join the sea of people waiting outside of GE Additive‘s 50′ x 50’ booth for the live unveiling of the new EBM Spectra H 3D printer, which was designed specifically to handle high heat and crack prone materials. The system was hidden under gauzy fabric, above which hung a giant clock counting down the time until the reveal. With about 10 seconds left, a few people behind me started to count down along with the clock, until they realized no one else wanted to play and abandoned the idea.

Once the sheets were dropped and the impressive Spectra H was introduced to the public for the first time, Arcam EBM Manager Karl Lindblom addressed the crowd.

“We are very excited to introduce the Spectra H!”

Arcam EBM Vice President of Product Management Annika Olme

Unfortunately, that was one of the only sentences I could understand clearly, because the mic was very spotty and the crowd very noisy. But soon I was able to get a closer look at the machine, which features a 50% faster build speed and a 39% increased build volume.

With improved productivity and reliability and a focus on automation, the Arcam EBM Spectra H has increased safety with a closed powder handling system, and will support iAl and Alloy 718 materials immediately, with support for additional Ni- super alloys coming next year.

The company’s materials science team is also looking into future opportunities with more high temperature materials like stainless steel and tungsten, and the Spectra H is set to help continue the acceleration of high heat metal usage in the industry.


I also had a chance at RAPID to take a quick peek at the new large-format XPRO S by SLA leader DWS Systems, which first introduced the industrial-grade 3D printer at CES 2018.

The XPRO S was developed for large companies that need large printing areas for fast production of high-quality precision models, and with a price of $132,000, delivers the most cost-effective precision parts using DWS’ best purpose-made materials at convincing scale.

Right after lunch, I was able to sit in on the middle of a #3DTalk panel discussion, presented by Cyant and Women In 3D Printing, called “3D Printing Will Take Over Manufacturing: Dispelling the Myths and Realities in Additive Manufacturing.” Panelists included:

  • Stacey M. DelVecchio, F. SWE, Additive Manufacturing Product Manager, Innovation & Technology Development Division, Caterpillar
  • Amy Elliott, PhD, Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
  • Jennifer Fielding, Technical Advisor, Propulsion, Structures, and Manufacturing Enterprise Branch, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)
  • Miheala Vlasea, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo – Canada

The panelists discussed, and dispelled, some of the common myths and misconceptions regarding 3D printing that can reduce the adoption process. According to Fielding, it’s very important to educate senior leaders in regard to the technology, as “complexity is not free” and you can’t simply print out anything you want, while Elliott mentioned that 3D printing materials can be “a big question mark for a lot of people.”

Another important point brought up during the discussion was how important it is for researchers to not just generate data, but actually generate good data. Many people are repeating the same information, and not all of it is necessarily true. That’s why initiatives like SME’s ITEAM and the Standardization Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing by AMSC are so important – to help us sort out fact from fiction in this ever-growing industry.

Then it was on to the showroom floor for more interviews, including a visit with Ohio-based 3D printer manufacturer MakerGear. While more on my full interview with the company’s founder and CEO Rick Pollack is coming soon, I just had to share today about meeting Ringo the Ringtail, the mascot for American Hockey League (AHL) team the Texas Stars.

If you’re asking yourself why a hockey team’s mascot was attending North America’s longest running additive manufacturing conference, the answer is simple and amazing – MakerGear sponsors Ringo, voted the AHL’s best mascot, who offers a free school assembly called Ringo’s STEM Show that, according to his flier, “utilizes eye-catching visuals and interactive elements to create an unforgettable experience for students and teachers alike!”

The show teaches kids about STEM education and its applications, and was designed from the ground up, with help from schools in Austin, Texas, so that it can be customized for students’ needs. Ringo’s STEM Show includes a math-oriented magic trick, two chemistry experiments, an interactive physics demo and game, and a live 3D printer demonstration.

MakerGear also designed all of Ringo’s personalized bling, including a working watch big enough to fit on his large wrist. I told Ringo how much I personally love hearing about STEM education initiatives and programs designed to teach kids about all kinds of technology, including 3D printing, and this seemed to please him, as he excitedly clapped his paws together and gave me two big thumbs up. I also said I liked his 3D printed bling, and with some excited squeaking, he motioned me over to MakerGear’s table so I could have a closer look.

I had to move on then, and he bade me farewell with a big furry hug; sadly, though I kept my eyes peeled the rest of my time at RAPID, I did not run into Ringo again. I assume he was busy delighting other attendees and advocating for 3D printing at MakerGear’s booth.

Toronto-based Custom Prototypes also attended RAPID, and as I made my way down the maze of booths I was thrilled to see that the company had brought along its recent AMUG award-winning metal 3D printed Roman helmet, which Andrew Sliwa was kind enough to let me try on – once I’d removed my glasses so they wouldn’t damage the amazing work of art.

The replica of a 1st Century Roman helmet was 3D printed in seven different parts using 316 stainless steel, while small features like the gems and stones were made with Somos material. To replicate the finish of actual crocodile leather for the helmet’s interior, the company used a subtractive color removal technique. The plastic 3D printed pieces were dyed, hand painted, and finished to resemble real historical representations of First Century B.C. artifacts, and the red mohawk hair on top was made using the company’s special secret for 3D printing vertical substructures without using additional supports.

At the end of the day, I was able to enjoy a brief quiet time of wandering through the amazing 3D Art Gallery, which showcased many lovely pieces.

In the same general area, I also spied the 3D printed dress made by designer Danit Peleg that was worn by snowboarder Amy Purdy at the Rio Paralympics and the Luge Sled Layup Tool that was designed and 3D printed by Stratasys for the US Winter Olympic team.

Take a look below at some of the other pictures I took at RAPID this week!

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Sarah Saunders for 3DPrint.com]


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