The EWI additive manufacturing (AM) team attended and exhibited at AMUG 2019, the annual conference for users in all industries, across all levels of experience. EWI Director of AM Programs Mark Barfoot made note of several key innovations and applications at this year’s show. As immediate Past President of AMUG, he is in a unique position to spot AM trends and follow development of this dynamic technology area over time.
New AM technologies and existing companies expanding their offerings
According to Mark, this year a new realm of AM players was present. “Velo3D’s new Sapphire system can print at low angles and overhangs below 10 degrees without the need for supports. Although Stratasys started the FDM technology this year they moved into SLA printing and showed their new Stratasys V650 Flex SLA printer which is their first machine offering fully open-sourced control of your SLA printing.”
Greater Speed, Greater size
Continuing from last year’s trend the metal vendors in particular are increasing their print speed either through more lasers or faster tracing algorithms. “The push to have larger build sizes was a challenge for this year’s vendors as their machines are now getting so large that they can’t fit in the show floor,” says Mark. “Additive Industries had to resort to a sample crate to showcase their product.”
Big Rep’s new machine boasting 5X the build speed as well as Essentium 3D’s new machine can perform 10X faster “FFF” printing.
The new Form 3 and 3L machines from Formlabs boast 5 times the build volume and 2 times the laser power than earlier models.
Another trend on the upswing is more third-party software offerings to assist with the shift into AM for production. “Dyndrite launched their 3D print software at AMUG. It features a Python API that lets you back-end program/automate your build setup. 3YourMind offers end-to-end workflow optimization solutions including a smart feature that can examine a bunch of parts and recommend which ones are best suited for printing.” Mark expects to see many more offerings for new and augmented software this year.
More Low-cost Options
“As AM becomes more broadly adopted, we see less expensive systems entering the market,” Mark reports. “One example is a lower-cost powder bed fusion system from Xact Metal which offers all the performance of the larger systems but with a smaller build size and at a sub $150k price point. This brings LPBF into the similar price point to the “FFF” based Desktop Metal & MarkForged binder jet printers.”
Mark observed that more material companies are coming to light to offer powders for metal and/or plastic printing. This has also spawned new innovative materials such as Essentium’s new, innovative 3D carbon nanotube-coated material which provides superior ESD protection for jigs and fixtures.”
Mark also observed a higher profile for ceramic printing at AMUG 2019. “Specific sessions on ceramic AM were held this year, and there were more ceramics exhibitors.”
New Innovative Applications
Mark pointed out that some of the most interesting innovations at the show were in the realm of applications. “Brian McLean from Laika talked about how they utilized 3D printing to print over 100,000 faces for their new movie, The Missing Link, which eliminated the need for hand sculping and painting. Brad Keselowski, race car driver and owner of KAM solutions spoke about how 3D printing has potential in auto racing. Medical experts also talked about how they can now digitally plan surgeries, 3D print all cutting guides and even create representative models for training that even have the same feel as when they perform the actual surgery. These kinds of applications are amazing.”
Beyond all the cool stuff, Mark feels that AMUG is unique as a forum for networking in the AM community. “No other show allows you to sit down and have in-depth conversations with fellow additive people. It is an exhausting week of engaging with AM professionals, but no other event gives you that same feel or amount of knowledge.”