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Large-format 3D Printing Crashes JEC World with New Partnerships

JEC World is the largest annual event for the composites industry. More firms are 3D printing short and long fiber composites, creating tooling for the composites industry through additive manufacturing (AM), and exploring ways to combine 3D printing with automatic fiber placement. Consequently, the overlap between AM and the composites industry is expected to grow. This trend is evident in the recent surge of partnership announcements we have observed at this year’s event.
Dutch large format 3D printing OEM CEAD has formed a partnership with 3D printing control software firm ADAXIS, leading to the creation of the ADAXIS AdaOne for Flexbot product. The two companies hope this tool will simplify robot operation. Additionally, the software includes an automated raft generation tool to stabilize prints and secure them to the print bed, which should also save users time. The tool also features a “scan-to-mill workflow,” which automatically scans and creates tool paths for milling tools—a crucial feature in large format printing, as molds and tooling components often require extensive milling to achieve smoothness.
“Cultivating shared values and a unified vision with the ADAXIS team empowers us to innovate swiftly, steering our collaborative efforts toward the entire ecosystem of large format 3D printing,” said CEAD CTO Maarten Logtenberg.
CEAD has also entered into a partnership with Belotti, an Italian machine tool manufacturer known for producing five-axis systems and similar equipment. Together, CEAD and Belotti have developed the BEAD, a machine combining a Belotti base with a CEAD printing head. This machine will also be compatible with the ADAXIS AdaOne product.
“The collaboration with ADAXIS enables us to offer our customers an integrated turnkey solution, comprising seamlessly integrated equipment and software, making our technology and expertise instantly accessible to a broader audience,” said Alberto Riganti, AM specialist at Belotti.
I consider software developers ADAXIS and Ai Build, which recently received funding from Nikon, to be kingmakers in the large format 3D printing sector. Numerous hardware companies are entering the medium and large format business, while many robotics integrators are also active in this field. Meanwhile, the large robotics companies view the sector as promising but too niche for their current focus. So, who unifies the entire medium and large format 3D printing space? It comes down to either ADAXIS or AI Build. Neither the OEMs nor the integrators possess the necessary software expertise to integrate everything, nor are they willing to invest the time and money required. Therefore, partnering and integrating with a firm that manages all aspects becomes the logical choice. Once a vendor is onboarded as the UI for your machine tool, it’s unlikely you’ll switch. Hence, these partnerships are critical moves that will help shape the future of large format 3D printing.
Another company that has been active in networking is Caracol, an Italian composite 3D printing robot arm OEM. Caracol has partnered with both CMS (also sometimes referred to as SCM), known for its hybrid milling 3D printing 5-axis machines, and Airtech. The partnership with CMS is set to evolve into a strategic and commercial alliance aimed at helping to commercialize the Heron 3D printer and other Caracol solutions. Such collaboration could, in a few years, potentially lead to a friendly acquisition of Caracol by CMS. However, without more details about the arrangement, it’s challenging to make a definitive judgment. This could be a sign of strength, as Caracol combines efforts with a larger firm for greater distribution and increased sales. Conversely, it might also be seen as a sign of weakness, indicating that the company is now less capable of striking deals in the future with other firms, such as Kuka.
Another partnership Caracol has entered into involves Airtech regarding the latter firm’s Dahltram material. Dahltram is a family of polymers designed for tooling and suitable for autoclaves, now available for 3D printing. The two companies plan to work together on optimizing settings, reliability, and process control for the Heron system, particularly when using Dahltram resins such as Dahltram T-100GF, a recycled glass fiber and PETG compound.
These partnerships signal a maturing of the industry and a significant shift. Initially, many firms attempted to independently provide the machine, print technology, software, and materials in order to capture high margins. However, a new generation of firms is now turning to partnerships to accelerate industrialization and share costs, aiming to make 3D printing more suitable for manufacturing. All the above partnerships serve as good examples of this trend.
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