Formnext: The Real World of 3D Printing

Formnext attendees looking only for familiar vendors wasted their time. Formnext was not just evolutionary improvements but – more importantly – it also featured revolutionary 3D printing advances. 

And therein lies the rub.

3D printing is real. We have moved far beyond the hype of 8-10 years ago. Real, practical and game-changing applications abound and were on display in Frankfurt, Germany last week. More on that in a little bit.

First, I was struck by the number of exhibitors who did little to differentiate themselves from the growing pack of competitors. They focused on “feeds and speeds,” on materials and quality assurance tools. Which is fine, certainly, because at its core 3D printing of industrial and medical products is an engineering-based manufacturing process that requires great precision and high performance. 

That marketing approach doesn’t help buyers differentiate vendors when so many providers offer similar results with similar technology implementations. And there were more than 850 vendors spread across two halls with two floors each.

But attendees who ventured outside the box, so to speak, who went looking for novel technologies and applications, were rewarded for their inquisitiveness.

I had a conversation at Formnext with Dr. Phil Reeves, a highly regarded analyst and consultant with years of industry experience. Phil told me how he makes it a point every year to go to a trade event outside of his coverage areas, such as a convention for surgeons. Why? Because there could be something at the event or in its conference sessions that cross-pollinates with 3D printing, if not now than in the future. 

Fortunately, for those of us who cannot get to non-industry events, trade shows such as Formnext can fill the gap, if we are willing to look outside the box while walking through the halls. After all, uses of 3D printing’s seven core technologies cross all industries. People in automotive, for example, should make the time to look at the hardware, software and materials used to produce 3D printed medical devices. 

What follows are ten Formnext exhibitors whose offerings will encourage you to look outside the box: 

6K: Plasma technology production of nano-powders, micro-powders, and advanced coatings – including turnings as well as expired powders from powder bed fusion devices

AMFG: End-to-end additive manufacturing execution system and workflow automation software

Anisoprint: Lower cost continuous fiber printing for reinforced composite industrial-grade parts

DMG Mori: Introduced the massive LASERTEC 125 3D hybrid – laser deposition welding combined with 5-axis milling for large parts with a workpiece weight of up to 2,000 kg.

LEO Lane: SaaS service that ensures 3D printed items part are produced correctly and securely regardless of where they are manufactured and by whom

Medical IP: 3D medical imaging and printing for surgery, medical education, doctor/patient communication and software that visualizes complex pathological and anatomical images

Siemens: Relaunched the Additive Manufacturing Network, an online order-to-delivery platform for buyers, suppliers and partners that is an alternative to in-house manufacturing

Stratasys: Introduced GrabCAD Shop, 3D printing shop management workflow software for designers, engineers and shop operators

Tritone: Patent-pending technology that employs a variety of metal alloys dispensed from sealed cartridges into a jetted mold (itself 3D printed) on a turntable at a rate that can exceed 1,000 cc/hr

Xerox: With inkjet printheads and multi-nozzle extruders used in 3D printing for decades, about to introduce a 3D printer that uses liquid metal technology and off-the-shelf alloys

Let us help you look outside the box – whether learning about 3D printing, convincing management to invest in additive manufacturing or developing new products and services, we are here to enable you.