Prelude to Formnext Forum: Austin

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Formnext Forum: Austin is next week, August 28-30, in the Texas capital’s Palmer Events Center. This is my first time going and, incidentally, the event’s first ever iteration. This will be a test as to how the Messe Frankfurt, the world’s largest trade event organizer with its own exhibition ground, fares in the U.S. with its first go at hosting a 3D printing trade show in North America.

One thing I’ve learned from going to other additive manufacturing (AM) shows is that you need a game plan going into the event or you’ll end up too distracted by all the many sights and noises to formulate one once you’re there.

This seems to be more of a “break in the exhibit hall” kind of an event than a “walk around the exhibit hall all day” kind of an event, which I picked up from the fact that the schedule says there are breaks in the exhibit hall. In this case, it’s still important to pick out where you’re going to spend time in advance because the talks are the main emphasis, so you won’t necessarily have as much time to check stuff out as at, say, RAPID (where the challenge is more that there’s simply too much there to be able to see everything). With that in mind, here are some companies I want to make sure I see while I’m in Austin.

3D MicroPrint GmbH

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Micro Laser Sintering company at an event before, but I’ve also never been looking for one until now, I’ve still only been to about six events, and, as far as I know, this is the only micro laser sintering company out there. All good reasons for me to go to the 3D MicroPrint booth, and on top of all of that it is also the first company listed in the exhibitor list.

If this isn’t convince you, the company makes things simple for us in a brochure under a heading, “Why 3D MicroPrint GmbH?” For one thing, “Micro Laser Sintering combines the advantages of [AM] with those of micromachining,” which is actually why I was recently looking into the technology, and also, quite impressively, the company says it can print “Moving parts without further assembly — with our ‘print-as-one’ solution.” Finally, I’m just a big believer that the micro-platforms are the dark horse of the sector right now.

3D MicroPrint’s DMP60 Series Platform. Image courtesy of 3D MicroPrint

Mergeracolypse Companies

Stratasys and Desktop Metal won’t have exhibits there, which is kind of interesting in itself insofar as 3D Systems and Nano Dimension will. Also, they’re all companies I’d want to check out regardless of the merger intrigue, but the context obviously also adds to their appeal.

Both firms have been heavily involved in 3D printing applications for the electronics sector to different extents, and both are publicly traded companies in a sector where that’s still not very common. Additionally, both businesses are good bets to benefit from any ramp up of collective activity by AM Forward companies.

Companies from Outside the AM Sector Proper

I love this kind of company because their presence in the sector always helps shed light on the kinds of applications that are in demand by AM customers but not being fully met by existing pure play AM companies. Along those lines, 3DPrint.com editor-in-chief Michael Molitch-Hou pointed out to me that more and more X-Ray and CT scanner OEMs are at the AM trade events. One that is specifically targeting AM, however, is Cambridge, Mass. startup Lumafield.

In the vein of legacy manufacturing companies that have entered AM, I’m interested in Nidec Machine Tool America LLC, the offshoot of the Japanese electric motor manufacturer. I’d also like to see Indo-MIM, a metal injection molding company that has extensive AM operations as well, and seems like it could potentially make a bigger push in that direction.

Image courtesy of Formnext Forum: Austin

Software Companies

As I noted in a post yesterday about exhibitor 3YOURMIND, this area of the AM sector seems like it’s poised to draw attention in the near future that carries a particularly heightened sense of urgency, as the military and large corporations alike finally appear like they’re starting to pull the trigger on serial AM production. In addition to 3YOURMIND, I’m especially interested in SolidCAM Inc. and newcomer Metafold 3D.

The Large-Format Ecosystem

Caracol, ADDiTEC, Farsoon, Velo3D, Markforged, and SLM Solutions, among others, will be exhibiting. It seems like the rest of the sector is waiting for these companies to scale up in order to create enough aggregate demand for materials to lower the price point across the board. (More or less the same should be true for parts: bigger machines use more parts on average, which would again lower production overhead in the long run.)

Thus, newcomers like Seurat Technologies are just as important in this context for the same reason. A lot is riding on large format ecosystems right now.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the Keynote Addresses. These are “Supply Chain Resiliency: Through Rapid Qualifications, Workforce Development, and Turnkey AM Solutions”, which includes both Dr. Gregory Hayes from EOS and Matthew Sermon from the US Navy (on the 29th, 12:45-1:30 PM), and “How to Manufacture 25 Tons of Metal Per Year, Sustainably”, by James DeMuth, the CEO of Seurat. And all in all, I’m very impressed by the speaker’s list: the topics look especially on point for what the major issues facing the sector are right now.

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