Revolutionary Innovations in Additive Manufacturing at Formnext 2023

15 November 2023
Formnext

Report by Danny Weller

This November saw revolutionary innovations in Additive Manufacturing at Formnext 2023. After another successful year, Formnext closed its doors on Friday. Almost 900 exhibitors attended the event, fifty more than last year. Companies from across the world addressed a wide array of trends and developments from across the manufacturing industries including, medicine, transportation, and defense. Moreover, Formnext enjoyed 32,851 visitors, an increase of 11.1% from last year.

“With the unparalleled concentration of innovations, decision-makers, and AM experts, the event offered a unique trade fair experience. In the context of an extremely dynamic sector Formnext provides a roadmap for the evolution of cutting-edge manufacturing industries,” said Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President for Formnext at event organizer Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH.

AMFG at Formnext 2023
Image: AMFG

On Display

The show’s four halls unveiled various machines, with a significant focus on hybrid solutions. Increasing numbers of manufacturers are merging additive manufacturing with conventional machining and other traditional production methods. Formnext reaffirmed what we already knew – the synergistic relationship between these production methods. The integration of additive manufacturing is now viewed through a broader lens, with manufacturers actively seeking all-encompassing solutions. This shift is evident in the prevalence of machines equipped with swiftly interchangeable tool heads and the increased presence of robotic arms.

Formnext’s impressive showcase of innovation extended across both established players and emerging startups. Bosch, D3-AM, Reinforce 3D, and Venox Systems were among the contributors, presenting the latest technological developments in additive manufacturing (AM).

Revolutionary Innovations

Exhibitors showcased cutting-edge robotic 3D printing systems tailored for polymer, metal, and even concrete, with envelopes capable of printing entire boats. Furthermore, Renishaw, the renowned British engineering company, has unveiled TEMPUS, a cutting-edge technology designed to significantly enhance build speeds for its RenAM 500 series metal 3D printers. With this revolutionary innovation, users can now experience up to a 50% boost in print speeds while maintaining uncompromised part quality. 

Revolutionary Innovations Tempus
Image: Renishaw

Renishaw has also introduced the RenAM 500 Ultra, a model pre-equipped with TEMPUS and featuring advanced process monitoring software. This addition complements the machine’s existing capabilities, including high-powered lasers (either one in the 500S or four in the 500Q) and automated powder and waste handling systems. Explore the enhanced efficiency and advanced features of Renishaw’s latest offerings for optimal metal 3D printing experiences. Louise Callanan, Director of Additive Manufacturing at Renishaw, stated; “We’re excited to bring TEMPUS technology and the new RenAM 500 Ultra system to the market. We believe the time and cost savings that both TEMPUS technology and the RenAM 500 Ultra system bring will open AM up to mass production applications where the technology would previously have been unviable.”

Venturing into nanotechnology, notable exhibitors like BMF and Nano Dimension unveiled innovative solutions, paving the way for 3D printing electronic components and more. These advancements promise a multitude of new applications and products in the future.

In addition, HoliMaker showcased its innovative HoliPress, a machine designed to melt plastic granules and inject them into molds. Notably, it seamlessly integrates with 3D-printed molds, highlighting the complementary relationship between these two manufacturing processes. This synergy was a prevailing theme at the event, with a growing trend of 3D printing applications for casting and molds. The HoliPress is compatible with an extensive range of pellets, emphasizing its versatility. Additionally, this year has witnessed increased excitement around pellet 3D printing, with more dedicated machine manufacturers compared to previous editions.

Materials-Focused

The show also featured a diverse array of material specialists showcasing filaments, powders, resins, silicones, and ceramics. This year there was a clear emphasis on machines designed for material characterization, particularly focusing on powders and their manufacturing processes.

 Dr. André Klicpera of industry leader Microtrac MRB, highlighted, “In the realm of 3D printing, the significance of particle size and shape for quality control is paramount, spanning metals, polymers, and ceramics. The demand for such work is steadily rising, especially in the domains of research and development.” Material characterization plays a crucial role not only in ensuring quality but also in powder recycling, aligning with the industry’s growing commitment to sustainability.

Revolutionary Innovations 3d printing machine
Image: Kadir Celep

Machines and Printing Speed

Formnext 2023 showcased an impressive array of printing machines, catering to various sizes and preferences. Notably, exhibitors like BigRep and Hage3D grabbed attention with their expansive stands featuring large-format parts and machines, coinciding with their merger announcement. On the flip side, UpNano stood out by opting for micro-printing. Materials manufacturer Polymaker was also showcasing its high-speed filament range, PolySonic™ PLA, designed to meet these challenges.

What caught our eye this year was the resurgence of FDM desktop solutions, specifically those emphasizing higher print speeds. Users are evidently seeking rapid and repeatable models, making these desktop solutions a focal point at the event.

Furthermore, Stratasys introduced its cutting-edge industrial extrusion 3D printing solution, the F3330, setting a new standard in speed and reliability. With twice the speed of competing models, the F3330 boasts multiple extruders and a redesigned head movement mechanism, ensuring enhanced performance. Accompanied by a spacious print volume of 600 x 600 x 800 mm, this innovation signifies a significant leap forward in industrial 3D printing technology.

Artificial Intelligence 

The manufacturing industry’s, and indeed the world’s, focus on Artificial Intelligence found expression at Formnext. The increasing reliance on this concept by companies is notable, as it empowers machines to emulate human intelligence, leading to reduced manual intervention and labor costs.

One standout example is Automation Acoustics, an Australian company pioneering sensors designed to identify defects in 3D printing by analyzing the machine’s emitted sound. Leveraging seven years of research and data, the company has honed its expertise in interpreting manufacturing machine noises, with a current focus on DED and WAAM solutions.

On the software front, the PRINT&GO solution is worth mentioning, utilizing AI to identify printing errors and collect data on completed prints. The objective is to leverage this data for a deeper understanding of machine behavior, streamlining workflows, and enhancing overall productivity.

Revolutionary Innovations Software
Image: Fotis Fotopoulos

The Software Market

In the realm of Additive Manufacturing Software, Formnext highlighted a potential missed opportunity for major software conglomerates. Notably, there was a conspicuous absence of Dassault Systèmes and PTC, along with the limited presence of Hexagon and Autodesk. The maturing nature of Additive Manufacturing (AM) as a production technology, especially in critical industry applications, is giving rise to increasing digital challenges. Consequently, many Formnext visitors emphasized a significant focus on addressing these software challenges.

Given the deep entrenchment of companies like Dassault Systèmes in the value chain of enterprise manufacturers, facilitated through Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and other associated toolsets, it was peculiar to observe this disconnect at Formnext. This is particularly noteworthy since many enterprises are actively seeking closer integration between these traditional platforms and the AM-specific software that drives 3D printing applications.

Integration was a regular topic at Formnext, but amidst a flurry of partnership announcements between hardware Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and software providers, there was a notable lack of tangible benefits for end-users. These corporate agreements might generate LinkedIn traffic, but if manufacturers cannot properly integrate toolsets, one must ask whether they are, in fact, self-serving partnerships rather than genuine creations of synergistic value for the end user.

Reinvention was a common theme in this space with 3yourmind showcasing their transitioning away from the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) space to instead concentrate on part validation. Meanwhile, there was significant interest at the AMFG booth, particularly in MAGICS integration and partner orchestration. With the additive manufacturers seeking deeper software integration and solutions to facilitate distributed manufacturing, these unique AMFG differentiators were a hot topic amongst visitors, particularly those with an ambition to scale their AM operations.

 

Alfa Romeo Race Car
Image: Alfa Romeo

Additive Automobiles

At Formnext, automobiles had a starring role, with 3D-printed racing cars from Alfa Romeo, for example, as well as from BWT Alpine in cooperation with 3DSystems. The University of Stuttgart’s GreenTeam, in collaboration with INTAMSYS, also left an impression with their 3D-printed, electric, self-driving racing car. These instances exemplify the unique applications and capabilities achievable through additive manufacturing (AM). While 3D printing stands out as a more sustainable alternative for crafting individual items, it’s crucial to scrutinize the ‘sustainability’ aspect of AM within the broader context of the automotive industry and mass production.

Formnext 2023 underscores the continued interest in additive manufacturing within the industry. Despite a tense geopolitical context with potential impacts on the market, there’s a dynamic and growth-oriented atmosphere. While some exhibitors scaled down their stands, others expanded, and new entrants placed their bets on the event. This marks a pivotal moment for the industry, and the upcoming months are poised to be decisive for numerous stakeholders.

“That’s the place to be to see the improvements in the AM market. Here at Formnext, we can explore and review all the various systems and materials efficiently in one place. That allows us to find and select the most suitable solutions for our production,” said Chip Gear, CEO of The Technology House.

Formnext banner
Image: Mesago

Broad and Varied Supporting Events

Formnext 2023 boasted a diverse array of supporting events, catering to a broad spectrum of user industries spanning automotive, construction, and mechanical engineering. The introduction of the service provider marketplace highlighted the pivotal role of service providers in broadening the reach of additive manufacturing (AM) within the user community. The well-received multi-stage concept not only showcased a myriad of AM applications, technologies, and innovations but also served as a platform for engaging discussions on industry-centric subjects like sustainability, cybersecurity, and investments. For example, Mélanie Chevé of Renault Group took the stage at the Twikit booth, giving a presentation on the future of mass customization in additive manufacturing.

Stay up to date with Formnext streAM

Content from the stage program will continue to be available on demand even after the event on Formnext streAM. Until the end of November, contacts made during the event can be cultivated online and discussions continued. Next year, Formnext is scheduled to take place from 19 to 22 November 2024, in Frankfurt.

 

Find out how AMFG can supercharge your automation journey today.

 

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