• Harry

Day 2 of formnext 2017

The second day was just as busy as the first. Still, a sense of familiarity sets in. After all, most of the faces are the same as last year. eos, Stratasys, SLM Solutions, Renishaw, Conceptlaser, Arcam, Keyence, and most other hardware vendors have been there for a while. Even Formlabs can be considered an established player. Carbon3D and Desktop Metal are the new players on the block, and they show up ready to play.

It will be interesting to see whether the business model, software driven thinking of Silicon Valley is going to come out ahead, or the process and engineering mindset of european firms. It could be a fusion of all those ideas, like the cooperation between adidas and Carbon3D shows, one of the largest successes in the industry in recent memory.

The most important part of the 3d printed adidas futurecraft midsole may not even be the product itself, but rather how it came to be. The level to which Carbon3D has understood what matters for a use case like this, and then managed to find the right solutions for it, is inspiring. It is likely that we are going to see more sophisticated solutions like it in the future, from Carbon3D and perhaps from others.

The Sinterit Lisa has been a huge success at the show. Winning an award a few formnexts back for their newly designed SLS 3D printer hardware, the company has matures technologically and business wise. The Sinterit Lisa delivers amazing quality at an unbeatable price point. For less 6990 euros, companies can get a full set of equipment for SLS 3D printing. The Lisa could be to SLS printing what the Prusa i3 is to desktop FDM printing: great quality for an excellent price. So far the company was only know among expert circles. But its reputation is growing quickly, and the company is now firmly established in the mainstream.

But innovation does only happen at the small startups: Siemens is making a major effort to get its NX software solution ready for additive manufacturing. And it shows: the software integrates features from Frustum and materialise to deliver an integrated software product for design and pre-processing. The software includes topology optimization, lattice engineering and supports. The topology optimization has options to include additive manufacturing requirements, such as downskins and other constraints. The lattice engineering is still uniform, but there are plans to expand it. The software supports powder bed fusion, direct energy deposition, FDM and a fourth category that escapes me right now. This is an impressive lineup. While not an open software system, this means that many companies are going to find their hardware systems supported.

And because all those features are part of Siemens NX, they are empowered by all the features that are already there: great solid body CAD, many simulation and testing tools, machining solutions and more. Siemens NX aims to be an all in one solution for product data management.

In contrast to General Electric, Siemens has not acquired any major systems manufacturer.

So, even on the second day the expo floor holds plenty of surprises. As one last example, I came across the Igus booth to find their customizable solution for 3d printed gears. Igus is a component manufacturer. Their 3D printed gears are fully customizable to customer needs, and are price competitive up to lot sizes of 5000 units. And here is the kicker: their SLS printed gears are stronger than POM gears! Lack of strength and long term durability has often been a criticism of 3D printing technology, relegating the process to producing prototypes for the longest time. igus has adapted their SLS printing method to produce 3D printed gears that are stronger than conventionally produced POM gears! This is great news, and shows the validity of 3D printing as a production technology.

Tomorrow is my last day at the expo. It is both good to see an end at the tunnel of uncountable new impressions, as well as having another day to scout out the convention for those exciting technologies that need a second or third look to reveal their potential.

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