It took about a day and a half, plenty of shut-eye and a decent movie marathon to travel all the way from little ol’ Invercargill recently to the sausage capital of Germany — but we made it to Frankfurt.
While it was no hop, skip and a jump to get there, being able to witness the world’s largest and most renowned 3D printing and additive manufacturing expo in history was something so many in this industry would have right up there on their bucket list. You guessed it, we attended Formnext 2022.
Year after year, minus those we lost to Covid-19, Formnext builds in size, momentum and popularity like you wouldn’t believe — and for good reason. Though a couple of our team have been before, it was a pretty humbling experience to be able to stand amongst attendees from 96 countries and attempt to make our way around 802 exhibitors who had made the journey to the four-day spectacle.
From additively manufactured houses to aerospace applications and medical technology, it’s fair to say the event had all of the bases covered. Seeing some of the company displays, including our friends at AMT, 3D Systems and Oqton, demonstrating everything from end-to-end automation systems to the latest product innovations was truly incredible.
With so much to see, it was quite literally impossible to catch a proper glimpse at every single detail that made the tradeshow what it was. Our fi additive advanced manufacturing manager Derek even managed to count 10km to make it one loop around the expo! The stand fixtures, the finishings of the booths, it was all a total engineer’s dream to be a part of.
As you will be well aware, we’re pretty big on taking additive manufacturing to the next level. Part of that means soaking up as much as we can about the shifts in the industry and what we can do to keep up with its constantly evolving landscape. Formnext made a few things about the state of the industry abundantly clear, and luckily for us (and our customers), we were already all over it.
The first thing we noticed was that open-source materials are being widely embraced by manufacturers. No longer are the materials exclusive to retailers of the machines, but instead, they’re being shared to increase accessibility, and the breadth and flexibility of options is growing for the industry as a whole. As a result, manufacturing can stretch far beyond its original prototyping applications and play an integral part in manufacturers’ production lines.
Surprisingly, Formnext 2022 saw little in the way of new or revolutionary technologies. Instead, companies seemed to be focusing on efficiencies, and in a world of labour shortages, the emergence of automation demonstrated how the future of AM really is a 24/7, scalable method for manufacturing.
Other aspects that stood out to us were the reduction in Fused Deposition Modeling
(FDM) printing, the increase in post processing, the rise of software and artificial intelligence (AI), and a reduction in the representation of injection molding but large growth in the aerospace and medical industries. Rather than a whole host of new technologies, industry leaders are more focused on improving the efficiencies of existing technologies, and the emergence of some silicone solutions that will bode well for future applications.
One thing that really piqued our curiosity was the enormous growth in metal production. Believe it or not, metal printing displays made up 60% of the displays at Formnext with products ranging from massive copper rocket engines to EV cars. For us, this got us excited for more reasons than one, but you might just have to sit tight to see what this progression will mean for the future of fi additive…
You can learn more about the realm of 3D printing and additive manufacturing at Formnext than anywhere else in the entire world — which is exactly what made the trip so hugely worth it. As for where that leaves us, we’ll be continuing to make leaps in bounds to get a spot on that main stage. And if you want to know how, let’s just say it might be wise to stick around.