What are the Additive Manufacturing highlights from Formnext 2021?
What were some of the main highlights this year at Formnext, you might wonder? Which technologies are making a break-through, or what companies are interesting to follow in the future? Not to mention what new materials have been uprising and new software developed? These are some of the questions that we will answer in this article, together with our team’s impressions from this years’ largest event showcasing Additive Manufacturing. We hope that you will find this article inspiring for new ideas and developments in Additive Manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing Technology Highlights
by Johannes Karjalainen, Managing Director at AMEXCI Oy
Quite often news media is writing stories about a new emerging technology called 3D printing. It must be a shock for people who come to Formnext in order to get a better understanding about this new technology. Such a thing as 3D printing doesn’t exists. Additive manufacturing is not a technology, but rather an umbrella term covering different technologies consisting of multiple main categories and even a bigger number of subcategories. Even for a more experienced person Formnext can be an overwhelming experience if they are trying to find a suitable manufacturing process for their needs.
Old technologies like L-PBF are developing at a rapid pace, and differences between machines are increasing all the time. Machine manufacturers have developed application and industry specific printers. Some printers are meant for R&D, while others are fully automated production systems. Lasers and scanners have also taken a leap forward, and some companies were presenting new ways to control the profile of the laser beam.
The number of different machines based on sintering technologies is growing every year, and these are starting to be the established machines at fairs. Same applies also to DED technologies. New companies are emerging and releasing interesting machines which are always years ahead of their competitors – at least in sales talks.
The sheer amount of different AM technologies is just overwhelming nowadays. It’s extremely hard to know which companies and machines are here to stay and which horse to bet on? I believe that we need to use proven machines and processes for existing applications, but at the same time, constantly scan for the best possible technology for each application, while carrying out evaluation / benchmarking of new machines and technologies. For me, this is also the reason why I’m excited to work in AM industry. We already have proven AM business cases, but on the other hand AM is a rapidly evolving and growing industry, still providing endless amount of challenges and opportunities.
Additive Manufacturing DED technologies highlights
by Benjamin Delignon, Head of Innovation at AMEXCI AB
During this Formnext edition I spent some time looking at the different DED technologies trends.
While some well-established players such as the American Sciaky had rather modest stands this year– or were diluted within their LPBF sister-companies, such as the German Trumpf or the French BeAM – others wanted to highlight the specificities of their solutions.
The South-Korean Insstek, for instance, keeps on pushing the limits on multi-material printing, and their R&D cell, to test various powders and printing parameters. It seems to be a polyvalent and cost-efficient solution for laboratories.
Talking about materials, wire-Copper printing is also getting easier with Pro-Beam. I am eager to see what their larger machine will look like in the coming two years.
The Dutch company MX3D made quite a buzz at this fair – and apparently a really good use of their long experience with Steels-wire and Arc printing to develop their first standard DED printer, the M1.
It was also interesting to see Meltio, considered as a newcomer a couple of years ago, now having one of the largest stand and confirming the potential of their solution.
Impossible to list all the DED companies, but it is also worth mentioning that the 3 main actors for Cold spray machines and equipment were also here: the Australians Spee3D and Titomic but also the German Hermle.
A clear technical objective for most of these actors was to develop their material portfolios in order to reach out to more diverse markets, while consolidating the Marine and Aerospace industries – well-known DED users.
Once again the key international players were gathered at Formnext, and I hope we will see even more concrete applications next year in the booths, as an illustration of this strong dynamic.
Additive Manufacturing company highlight
by Manja Franke, Head of Research, AMEXCI AB
After two years, Formnext finally took place in person again in Frankfurt in a bit of a different light than usual. The whole format of Formnext was somewhat smaller, companies reduced their booth size and it wasn’t as crowded as in the past years. Nevertheless, there were good discussions, face-to-face meetings, and some newcomers on the market.
One of the most interesting things I have seen was the company Headmade from Germany. They have developed several different metal material for a process called Cold Metal Fusion. The principle idea is to fuse a metal powder already combined with a binder under low temperatures (around 55°C) in a SLS system. Since there are several machines available on the market, it should be an easy entry point into the additive manufacturing world. The print part design has to be 15 % bigger than the final one and once printed the parts have to be cleaned in a water-jet cabinet and afterwards debindered in an oven. So what makes the difference to already existing Metal Binder Jetting systems? That is something that needs to be proven over time, but for sure the investment cost is low and the part throughput high. Curious to see how this technology will evolve in the additive market.
A glimpse at the Future in Additive Manufacturing of High-Performance Polymers
by Merve Canalp, Researcher at AMEXCI AB
During FormNext2021, I had the chance to closely witness that the technological and material developments in additive manufacturing of composites and high-performance polymers have reached a peak in this year. From high performance polymers like ULTEM (9085, 1010), PEEK, PEKK to sheet-based or continuous fiber based composite materials, which can be used in desktop printers or 1m3 printers, my experience with FormNext2021 was clear: this will be the future.
Some of the prominent OEMs have announced new printers to print high temperature polymers in various part sizes and dimensional accuracies. For instance, Markforged developed FX20 machine which can print ULTEM 9085 in black color.
Roboze, on the other hand, showcased their new printer, ARGO1000, which has a build volume of 1 m3 to print large components in high performance polymers like PEEK, ULTEM, ceramic reinforced PEEK, chopped carbon reinforced PEEK to replace large metal parts. Bond3D specialized in printing high performance polymer Victrex PEEK, demonstrated a variety of samples and how their FFF technology allows void-free parts production. Other than extrusion technologies, Impossible Objects, based in the US, had their CBAM technology printed composite parts demonstrated by Ricoh’s booth, their reseller in the UK and EU. Among others that caught my attention during my three days of experience at FormNext2021, these were only some of the highlights.
All in all, it is evident to me that the utilization of such materials can pave the way for replacement of metal parts, assisting various companies in the industrialization of key components for high performance applications. This will only take place with the advancements in different AM technologies and materials, which I am eager to follow closely in the upcoming years.
Additive Manufacturing Software Highlights
by Srikanth Purli, Design Engineer at AMEXCI AB
My main highlight at FormNext21 is the tremendous growth in the AM software market. The existing tools have matured even more, with their capabilities, and, on the other side, there has been a growing number of new software releases targeting different areas of the process chain. Beginning with the design tools to the process management tools, for instance, CARBON has come up with their new Design Engine tool for creating sophisticated lattice structures with ease for various consumer applications. GE Additive released their new process management platform called AMP, during Formnext, which has an integrated print, simulation, and a compensation module. AMSIS has also released their new GENESIS 2.0 which has the capabilities of simulation-based hatching to print support free parts.
Overall, the software market is growing, and I personally feel there is a certain level of automation being realized along the process. This would further enable the applications to fully utilise the value add with Additive Manufacturing.