The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is positioning itself as a leader for additive manufacturing (AM) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with many ongoing projects making the news, particularly in the construction industry. And as interest in the technology grows in the Middle East, so do the number of conferences. The latest conference focused on 3D printing technology in the area is AM Conclave, organized by AM Chronicle.
I visited the debut AM Conclave conference in the emirate of Abu Dhabi recently to see what the latest developments are in AM, both locally and internationally.
Abu Dhabi – The 3D Printing Emirate
The UAE is made up of seven emirates, with Abu Dhabi being the capital emirate, and also the largest. While Dubai gets a lot of press attention for construction 3D printing projects, Abu Dhabi appears to be the emirate’s hub for more research-focused activities and 3D printing innovation in the UAE. So, what better place to stage an AM conference?
I arrived at the venue, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), on the first day of the conference and quickly headed inside to the air conditioned halls, to escape the 40°C heat outside.
The AM Conclave Expo
The expo featured representatives from international players such as EOS, Caracol, Stratasys, ADDiTEC, Markforged, and Phillips Corporation. While not every company has a dedicated office in the UAE, many of them have a presence in the region, either through resellers or some sort of service agreement with local clients using their machines. Several vendors I spoke to were interested in expanding their presence in the UAE and found the conference as a good exercise in networking, and to get a lay of the land.
In addition to the international presence at the expo, there were multiple local entities from Abu Dhabi, such as Immensa (which has the largest robotic plastic printing system in the world), the Technology Innovation Institute, and Epitum (a local industrial 3D printer manufacturer).
Naturally, being a 3D printing expo, there were many physical examples of printed objects on show, including a variety of aerospike and rocket engine bodies (seen above).
Of particular interest were the exhibits from ADDiTEC, who were demonstrating some parts printed on their liquid metal printing (LMP) technology, recently acquired from Xerox. The LMP tech uses a metal wire feedstock, which is heated until molten, and then jetted with magnetohydrodynamics onto the part. What makes this process notable, is the fact that it does not need to be cut from the build plate, as with other metal printing processes. According to the representative at the conference, the printed part just pops off the build plate, much like an FDM print. This alone could contribute to reducing post-processing costs associated with metal printing.
The AM Conclave Conference
Adjacent the expo, the conference kicked off with a look at the work of the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), who announced the release of a new aluminum alloy powder, locally developed for AM. The powder, designed for LPBF systems, is named AMALLOY, and is notable for its high strength and high temperature resistance.
EOS’s Markus Glasser gave a presentation on amplifying sustainable product design through additive manufacturing, illustrating with a case of the Airbus A380’s latch shaft redesign which led to significant cost, weight, and carbon emissions reductions. A notable emphasis was on a digital production lifecycle enabling efficient tracking from concept to production, aiding in identifying environmental impacts proficiently.
The two-day event concluded with a delegate’s tour of Al Seer Marine’s factory in Abu Dhabi, to see the world’s largest robotic large-scale AM operation along with an additional knowledge-building experience. The facility at Al Seer Marine has a 36-meter-long robotic 3D printer (as seen in the image above), developed by CEAD Group. The printer is named “Mega II” and uses a pellet extrusion process to create composite parts. It is capable of printing parts up to 36-meters-long, four-meters-wide, and three-meters-high.
Al Seer Marine has been in the press before, most famously for designing the world’s first 3D printed surface vessel. The focus of Al Seer Marine, as you can tell by the company name, is indeed maritime engineering, and other projects were on show, including the aforementioned Sukoon water taxi.
In conclusion, the AM Conclave seemed to be a strong start for an inaugural conference, attracting a good mix of industry, academics, and of course, potential clients for companies selling their wares and services. The UAE is aiming to become a leader in AM in the region, and AM Conclave seems well positioned to serve as a venue for industry experts to share ideas and make connections. It will be interesting to see how the conference evolves as 3D printing in MENA grows, especially as it is located in Abu Dhabi, which is going to produce some interesting and innovative AM-themed stories in the coming years.
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