2017: 467 exhibitors, 21,492 visitors, 28,129 square meters of space.
2018: 632 exhibitors. 26,919 visitors. 37,231 square meters of space.
Formnext 2018 saw unprecedented numbers with a 35% increase in exhibitors against the 2017 show, exceeding any of its former years with figures which reflect nothing but success. We didn't allow the soreness of our feet to affect our pleasure of attending such a fantastically collaborative show. Each step unveiled how the 3D printing industry has advanced from last year. One notable feature of the exhibition was the 'International Start-Up Area', dedicated to the new-comers of the industry, which highlights AM's willingness to provide opportunity the start-up community. Yet again, the event didn't disappoint from a synergistic perspective as companies with different specialties in additive manufacturing came together to help meet the needs of their customers; for example, HP are now partnering with Autodesk to utilise the software company's Generative Design tools for their Multi Jet Fusion users. These partnerships are essential in driving AM forward as they allow companies to add value to their end-users.
An observation was that more automotive companies are adopting 3D printing technologies, there is also more realism around the fact that additve is not here to replace more traditional manufacturing methods but to complement them. It is evident that more automotive OEM's are seeing the benefit in utilising AM processes and materials. For example Volkswagen will now be using HP's Metal Jet Fusion tools to manufacture the new T-Cross SUV. With this in mind, for automotive to fully incorporate additive manufacturing rather than traditional, the barrier to entry currently focuses on price of mass production - as current processes are well established and more cost-effective, so AM may need to consider their series production prices in order entice more traditional industries.
One industry which has fully grasped AM now, is medical. With the ability to print bespoke parts on customer demand, there is no doubt that using 3D printed parts are both time and cost-efficient for the medical industry. Polymer specialists, Solvay have introduced three medical grade fillaments for industrial additive manufacturing as a reaction to the lack of choice for high-performance filaments that meet regulatory requirements in the healthcare industry, which they revealed at Formnext last week.
In comparison to last year, it is clear to see the move from prototyping to mass-production, and the buzz around AM is starting to calm. The industry is now more interested in talking business, and assessing how they can establish additive manufacturing over current processes to add value for their customers. The sector displays a willingness to move manufacturing forward, if you think about the industry's history, we are still utilising the systems from the industrial revolution, and AM has been a major disruptor to this. The next step is to now become established across all manufacturing sectors, by focusing on value-adding. In addition, the adaptation into commercial production is important in developing the industry, for example Adidas and Carbon have announced they will be printing 100,000 pairs of the Futurecraft4d trainer by the end of 2018. These collabs are key in exemplifying the use of AM on a global and commercial scale.
Some noteable advancements for companies were...
- Divergent advertised at the SLM booth showcasing their 3D printed chassis solutions for automotive.
- EOS partnered with 'The Gravity Man', Richard Browning to supply 3D parts for his jet suit, which he exhibited to attendees.
- We attended the Women in 3D printing networking event, which is a great movement by founder Nora Toure, and was sponsored by Raise 3D and Carbon. The women in these companies led the event - but it was great to see a mixture of genders attend.
- BigRep announced the introduction of their new industrial sized printer, as well as their airless bike tire.
- XJet can now dissolve support structures, which means users won't have the extra process of man-handling the structures, proving to be more time efficient.
Overall, there does seem to be reduced optimism from when AM began, as people have seen the reality of the value proposition within the industry and the legitimacy to new investments geared around production, application and series production. In order to achieve this it seems more companies are developing a consultancy approach to help clients understand the benefits and adopt additive manufacturing. Once again, Formnext provided a great reflection on the past year of the 3D printing world, and how much it continues to strive to disrupt and innovate. A special thank you to all of those we met, we are grateful to have built and cemented relationships with our clients, and are excited to continue to build partnerships as the industry grows.