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Formnext 2021, Day Three: 3D Printing and Haribo Golbären FTW

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It’s day three, I think. My bloodstream consists almost entirely of Haribo Golbären. I’ve been living exclusively off of things that come in disposable plastic packaging and disposable cups, while having conversations about sustainability. My heart is pumping around a suspension of gummy bears, caffeine and hypocrisy. I’m going to explode if I hear one more person address eco-friendliness while clutching a disposable water bottle.

And, please, don’t ever give me Nespresso coffee. It’s horrible. It’s low quality. It tastes like distilled barbecue ash. It’s bad for people and bad for the planet. I’d rather you just go out and slap a koala out of a tree than give me that dyed dishwater. I refuse to be your accomplice in destroying the planet because you refuse to make a decent cup of coffee for yourself or your guests.

Now that griping is out of the way, it’s time for more 3D printing-related coverage of Formnext 2021. Amid the haze some things have become clearer to me today.

3D Printing-Specific Trends

There are a surprising number of larger fused deposition modeling (FDM) systems, some of them using granulate. which is interesting. At first glance, they look quite impressive, but there are often flaws in material handling, material conditioning, extrusion or in the motion stage. A lot of the parts aren’t as good as the ones my friends make at home with their Prusas. One machine had so much vibration and motion in the chassis that I was reminded of an old, half-broken college washing machine on an endless spin cycle. I swear I thought the printer would walk itself out of the hall. Some of these systems may survive, but I’m wondering what they are made for exactly? With what application in mind were they designed? What do they excel in? I think that a lot of these firms could benefit enormously from working with clients and materials companies more closely to develop more of a fit with applications and needs.

Contrast this to high-temperature FDM printers, such as those from miniFactory and Roboze, which are much more accurate and let you condition material and manage just these settings that you need to. These systems are more reliable and very suitable to production applications, as well.

There were greater refinements and improvements to existing processes, such as digital light processing (DLP) and stereolithography (SLA), which was good to see.

Formnext Specific Trends 

There is a host of new companies from across industry introducing 3D printing products. A lot of these firms just set up a big stand and lean back. I see little in the way of them actively trying to engage the 3D printing community or learn. There should be a good opportunity for these people to get their feet wet in the community and understand the dynamics. I also worry about their futures in this industry if they don’t know what people want to make and what good business cases exist around their technologies.

There were a lot of region, association, country and national clubs with stands. Whereas I like the idea of this, the showcase areas were often too small to notice or engage individual exhibitors. I often found myself walking past these booths without noticing much of anything. This was in contrast to the startup area, which was made up of small individual stands with much more space around them. That space made them much more noticeable and easier to engage with. A cluster of individual loose stands would be much more effective than a country pavilion, as well.

I kind of think of Hall 11 as Siberia now. It feels inconvenient to go there and I keep forgetting about it. I spent far less time there than in 12.0 and 12.1. I’d recommend getting a stand in 12. The footfall seemed higher.

There was an area in Hall 12.1 that had Twikit, which was a draw because of the coffee, and everybody knows DyeMansion. It also had rather open stands in the form of dp polar, Formlabs, and Graphy. This made it a much more comfortable place to be than other, more closed areas. More people should think about stand neighborhoods really. Others near you may bring in a lot of traffic or may reflect well upon you. Also, some stands blocked others or towered over others.

Perhaps neighbors at Formnext should be more open about stand designs and plans to those next to them so they can optimize it for all parties? You could do the same for events. For example, venues it so that there is always something to do at X corner at 17:00, for example.

Around the edges, we can find a lot of random stands which were not very expensive. New things and new companies tend to be found there. So, it’s an area well worth exploring thoroughly.

I’m still amazed at how few people give away parts that showcase their products or services. We make things, dammit! Imagine going to a 2D printing show and no one having any flyers. It would almost make you believe that paper and ink are too expensive.

Some companies, such as DyeMansion and Twikit, kept coming up at other people’s stands in conversation or because they showcased parts made together. Materials companies, especially metal powder firms, should be much better at encouraging people to showcase their names on stands next to products made with their materials.

The Champs bar at the Marriott should probably be in the top 100 revenue 3D printing businesses. It’s also a lot more profitable than most of y’all. Also, reseller stands were often super boring.

Overall, everything was super-well organized and clean. The online ticketing beforehand was not great and I wished everyone’s company names and names were half of the ticket so you could see who is who better. I still get lost in the building.

Read my coverage of day one and day two of Formnext here.

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