The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), the largest and longest-running industry trade show in the Western Hemisphere, returned to Chicago this September. And as pandemic-related supply chain issues remain prevalent, manufacturers gathered in the halls of the McCormick Place for the first time in four years looking for agile manufacturing solutions to help their businesses survive and thrive in challenging production environments – and digital technologies took center stage.
Additive Manufacturing 2.0 solutions for metal, polymer, sand, wood, and more were on display, with over 350 3D printed parts presented by Desktop Metal spread across two booths. Over 85,000 attendees visited IMTS and were greeted by experts ready to discuss solutions with those new to additive looking for easily integrated systems as well as expert users discussing scaling operations and the latest innovations in advanced production.
Interest in metal 3D printing remained the driving force of traffic throughout the week, and Desktop Metal, with the most experienced team of metal binder jetting and sintering experts in the world, showcased the broadest range of scalable printing systems and material capabilities.
One highlight of many discussions was the Shop System, the plug-and-play binder jetting system designed for the easy adoption of metal 3D printing. The Shop System is an ideal solution for anybody who wants to produce metal products quickly with an outstanding surface finish and resolution at scale, such as MIM houses and service bureaus. With production rates up to hundreds of green parts per day, the Shop System produces parts up to 10x faster than laser powder bed fusion and many visitors discussed investing as a doorway into the future of metal production. Revealed just before the opening of the expo, the expanded offerings of the Shop System to include discounted pricing on powder and binders for production-level users or expanded access to printing and sintering parameters for advanced metallurgical users to process third-party or proprietary powders meant the Shop System was a viable solution for users with a range of binder jetting experience and requirements. Even more, during the show Desktop Metal announced Nickel Alloy Inconel 625 was now qualified on all its metal 3D printing offerings, including the Shop System.
For the production of metalcastings with faster turnarounds, improved quality, and less labor requirements, Desktop Metal company ExOne featured the S-Max Flex, an all-new robotic sand 3D printing system. The printhead end effector attached to an industrial robot creates sandcasting molds and cores without traditional tooling, saving costs and months of lead time. The easy-to-use system focuses on providing easy, affordable integration into digital casting with a faster payback for foundries of every size and caught the eye of many attendees who hadn’t before considered digitizing casting operations.
For visitors in the market to produce polymer parts, the Xtreme 8K was a must-see at the show. As the world’s largest production-grade digital light processing (DLP) system, the Xtreme 8K showcased the process and material breakthroughs of Desktop Metal brands ETEC and Adaptive3D. The two-projector top-down design unique to the Xtreme 8K provides an extremely large build area and better material properties without sacrificing surface quality and part accuracy. With the ability to 3D print a range of industrial photopolymers from widely trusted brands, such as Loctite, the proprietary breakthrough DuraChain™ resins from Adaptive3D stole the show. The all-new category of resilient and durable photopolymers includes Elastic ToughRubber™ and FreeFoam™, and the 3D printed then expanded foam car seat on display was a discussion piece all week.
And aligned with the company’s mission of delivering production solutions across a range of digital technologies, albeit not additive manufacturing, Desktop Metal introduced the first commercial platform to shape sheet metal on demand directly from a digital file. The Figur G15 uses the patent-pending Digital Sheet Forming (DSF) technology in which a software-driven ceramic toolhead on a gantry shapes standard sheet metal into parts with up to 2,000 lbs of force. This unique eliminates high startup costs and long-lead time associated with custom tools, molds, and dies to unlock the benefits of digitization for sheet metal manufacturers, improving their business agility and making sheet metal forming accessible to new applications across a range of volumes. Live demos were performed at the booth twice each day, drawing a crowd eager to learn more about the Figur G15, which started accepting reservations during the show.
The theme throughout the week in Chicago was finding production-capable technologies to deliver the combination of speed, tolerance, surface finish, and material properties for high-volume production that competes with conventional manufacturing methods. The tooling-less solutions on display from the Desktop Metal portfolio during IMTS look to deliver parts on demand to help manufacturers of all sizes to move into the next era of digital production.
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