On Wednesday 27th September 2017, Kensington's Additive Manufacturing team ventured into the heart of the country to attend this years renowned TCT Show at the NEC, Birmingham. The 22 year running event, is the ideal opportunity for industry influencers to network, and exhibit current and future technologies within AM, demonstrating to the audience, what's to come and how implementation will take place. Although a youthful industry (regarding manufacturing), a wealth of expertise has already generated some of the most revolutionary technologies to-date, and this was bouncing from wall to wall in the buzzing atmosphere of the NEC on Wednesday.
As attendees to many previous events across the globe, it was great to see the growth of the UK show since last year's event albeit not to the same magnitude as FormNext or RAPID (Pittsburgh). From our unique position, we noticed a shift in companies looking to invest not just in direct AM technical resource but also across sales management, supply chain and projects. We also had a number of discussions with companies with traditional routes in the US looking to develop European facilities and also EMEA and BRIC organisations looking to develop operations in the US which is an interesting development in the market.
Firstly, it was pleasantly noticeable to witness everyone's willingness to discuss and share ideas and knowledge on the future of AM - as an emerging market, some information could be quite sensitive to expose, but the appetite to share remained despite this. From a business providing services into the industry, rather than products, this was very informative and allowed us to understand what was in the minds of the industry experts.
As modern manufacturing, the intrigue with 3D printing continues as it excites the possibilities of the industry's future; however, one of our main observations was actually the question of whether these technologies add value for their customers - and many businesses at the NEC were acknowledging this. Companies are starting to recognise the need to demonstrate the benefits of digital manufacturing and how it adds value to their end users' needs and requirements. AM should be used to provide an answer to an area in your process which is missing/or needs to be improved, therefore AM technologists need to ensure justification for products are clarified to avoid interrupting already established supply chains. It should also be clear, exactly where AM sits within the value chain when considering factors such as revenue generation, increase productivity and reduce manufacturing lead time, in order for the industry to improve early adoption.
Overall, it is clear to see the manufacturing revolutions which have taken place via the 3D printing world, however the general feedback was that the sector has room to grow, as it is starting to hit a peak financially, as many experts described the industry's demand for technology to be "steady". In order to steer out of this maturity phase and dive back into growth, product development and defining the added value of these products is what we identify to be key in encouraging AM to strive to it's full potential.