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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Additive Manufacturing Speculation & Anticipation is Rife Ahead of Formnext

Formnext powered by TCT is taking place in Frankfurt next week, and don’t I know it! My inbox is groaning (or is that me?) under the weight of press conference invitations, interview confirmations and itinerary reminders. I’m attempting to maintain a modicum of control by following the example of a very wise contemporary of mine, and translate everything onto a single, at-a-glance spreadsheet that will be my lifeline next week. The realist in me suspects I will still be tearing around hall 3.1 of the Frankfurt Messe like a headless chicken and winging most of it, spreadsheet or no!
An increasing tradition ahead of Formnext though, is for the vendors in the AM sector to introduce their big announcements in press releases ahead of revealing them IRL on the show floor. Another reason my inbox is overflowing. A few trickled through well ahead of the game over the last few weeks but there has been a flurry of them this week. And for those visitors to Formnext making lists of must-sees at the show, (there’ve been a fair few across my social media channels), I thought I’d add mine here, but please note this is by no means exhaustive. There is already a distinct theme emerging in terms of many of the new developments from AM vendors with many of them focused on increasing speed and productivity — directly within the process and through automation — prepare for a few ‘ands’ and ‘alsos’.
Renishaw’s announcement that it will fully unveil its new RenAM 500Q platform at Formnext is one example here — this new four-laser system is said to significantly improve productivity together with a new process monitoring system. SLM Solutions is also focused on increased productivity, and just today has revealed that through a cooperation agreement with Authentise the company aims to integrate real-time production data from SLM Solutions machines into Authentise's 3Diax software platform and enable SLM Solutions customers to evaluate real-time production data to automate process flows.

Staying with metal, but with a completely new process, Spee3D is top of my formnext must see list to find out more about this new metal 3D printer using “supersonic 3D deposition (SP3D) technology.” The pre-formnext press release is claiming limited materials but “manufacturing grade printing at production speeds,” specifically “metal parts in a matter of minutes, compared to the industry standard of multiple hours or days.” I have questions, lots of questions, on this one and excited to find out more from the CEO next week.EOS is also in the increased productivity club – but not with a metal platform. The company is lifting the curtain (literally I believe) on the EOS P500 system. Specs have been kept tightly under wraps, so I will be at the press conference next Tuesday to see the curtain go up and find out more.  HP’s already fast (high speed) Jet Fusion process (notice they’ve dropped the Multi) is getting an upgrade in the form of the Jet Fusion 3D 4210 printing solution. Announced today, but available to view at Formnext, this platform is said to unlock economies of scale for industrial 3D manufacturing, raising the break-even point of large-scale 3D production to up to 110 thousand parts.” The “up to” is where I have questions, which I will be asking, obviously, because likely it comes courtesy of a trade off with something else — but even so, these production numbers are impressive. I’m sure the Carbon peeps will have something to say about this too, although they’re keeping their formnext news quiet ahead of time, at time of writing at least. There are a few doing it that way it seems — nothing has come out from Stsratasys yet either. Back to HP for a second, and they also say they have more materials and I do want to understand more about the move into metals.

Another plastic AM hardware vendor that has indicated ahead of Formnext it will be developing metal platforms is Ricoh. So, another must see on the list. Along with OR Laser, the German company that stormed Formnext last year with its accessible (cost and usability) metal AM platform the ORLAS CREATOR. Keeping their foot on the pedal, this week the company has announced it will be unveiling a hybrid version of the machine, with additive and subtractive processes. Looking forward to seeing parts off that.

XJet’s Carmel platform, now installed at Oerlikon, will also be there, along with Desktop Metal’s production machine and they’re high on my list too. But, like I said, this is in no way an exhaustive list.
Formnext is a fantastic place to get a feel for what’s new now within the additive manufacturing ecosystem as well as what is on the horizon. Important to keep that distinction clear though.
It really is the most wonderful time of the year – see you there.

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