RAPID Wrap Up in 1,400 Words & 8 Minutes

The Barnes Group Advisors want to share our observations and insights to continue to add value where we can. 

TBGA were present in Fort Worth, Texas last week for the RAPID + TCT 2018 show and here’s the wrap up of the week from our view. We hope you find rapidly readable (bit of stretch there eh?)

There were approximately 6,000 attendees, up 35% from last year, and 329 exhibitors, also up from last year, by 31%. A strong 57% of 1st day attendees reported this to be their first year attending the show.

Overall, there was a noticeable shift from concept or artistic parts on display to actual industrial use-cases on display. We believe this shows maturity in the space - using meaningful applications. Using real parts with real requirements.

 
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Also evident was a sense of urgency when discussing Additive Manufacturing and workforce development. The SME panel, Current Challenges and Future Opportunities in AM, moderated by Milan Brandt from RMIT University, discussed challenges in technology, materials, certification, and training which are impacting the growth rate of adoption of the technology. Panelists included Richard Grylls from SLM Solutions, Mihaela Vlasea from The University of Waterloo, Rob Gorham from America Makes, and John Barnes from The Barnes Group Advisors. Workforce development and training lead to more engaged employees, and we believe strongly the engaged employees coupled with an effective strategy is a powerful force. (We've also officially launched our training services to help with education and workforce development.)

There were several new and exciting entrants in the space worth noting. We’ll explore key takeaways, topics, and innovations below.

AM in Healthcare: Point-of-Care Manufacturing

Point-of-Care Manufacturing is not new. The use of POC manufacturing dates back to the late 70’s with the creation of custom orthopedic implants in hospitals. POC manufacturing is evolving, however, thanks to AM. A keynote presentation by Jonathan Morris, MD and Amy Alexander, BME from Mayo Clinic discussed the unique obstacles of engineering and manufacturing using AM inside a hospital setting, as well as stressing the need for collaboration across various disciplines to help accelerate adoption, and by result, impacting patients lives. It was quoted that there are now over 90 known hospitals using AM internally for POC service.

Current state of AM: Industrial adoption

Terry Wohlers, from Wohlers Associates gave a keynote speech on the final day of the show, touching on the current state of AM, and how it compares to years past. There are now 120 industrial-grade machine manufacturers worldwide (defined as >$5,000 a unit), compared to 34 a mere 5 years ago. And several big name industrial leaders are now part of the AM movement, focusing on getting to a “production ready state”. These include GE, Jabil, HP, BASF, Airbus, Boeing, SAP, Siemens, etc.

To no surprise, metal was on display: both large & small.

Xact Metal

Xact Metal introduced two new metal powder bed fusion systems at RAPID. Headquartered in State College, PA, Xact Metal debuted the new XM200C and XM200S. Their unique technology replaces galvo servers with their patent-pending Xact Core gantry system. The XM200C has a 5x5x5 in build volume, and can print steels and super alloys. The key differentiator is the price point, at $80,000 a unit, the XM200C is an order of magnitude more affordable than other metal AM systems.

 

Mark Forged

Mark Forged announced that they have officially begun shipping their Metal X system, announcing Stanley Black & Decker as the first customer to install the full system: a printer, a Sinter-1 module and Wash-1 module for post-processing. The Metal X made it’s first debut last year at CES, and carries a similar value proposition to Desktop Metal: low-cost metal 3D printing at your desk. Printed parts are made with metal powder bound in plastic and sintered after to remove the binder. Parts are 99.7% dense and advertised as “ready for use” after going through the Wash-1 system.

 

GE Additive

GE Additive unveiled their new Arcam Electron Beam Meting (EBM) system, Spectra H, developed specifically for high-temperature alloys, specifically TiAl. TiAl is particular favorite of TBGA and with the productivity benefits over Ti 6-4 in atomization, we feel this material could really thrive with EBM.  The Spectra H has a bigger build volume (39%+) and a faster build speed (50%+). This will certainly be an interesting area to watch develop over the next year.

 

3D Systems

3D Systems showcased their Figure 4 technology synchronized with a big announcement: selection by the United States Air Force to participate in a project focused on integrating high-speed 3D printing into the aircraft maintenance supply chain. This initiative is led by the University of Dayton Research Institute and sponsored by America Makes. The project is part of the Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low-cost Sustainment (MAMLS), and will focus on feasibility studies on use of 3D Systems’ Figure 4 to produce components for older aircraft, who no longer have reliable sources for spare or replacement parts. Parts will include electrical connectors, knobs, grommets, and spacers to start.

 

MELD

MELD Manufacturing Corporation won the RAPID + TCT 2018 Innovation Award, which recognizes the most groundbreaking new product or service with industry-changing potential. MELD’s patented technology is based on Friction Stir Welding, which has a soft spot in my heart after countless hours qualifying it for C-130.  It is an open-atmosphere operation, size is not a limitation, and speed is on display; it is reported that the MELD process deposits material up to 10x after than other fusion-based metal processes. The MELD process is also capable for use as a repair technology, joining a wide range of materials together, including materials that can’t be welded traditionally.

 

Rize

Rize, based in Woburn, MA, offers a hybrid printer that offers high strength, safety, security and speed, all at a low cost (approximate cost of ownership <$70,000 annually). A visit to the Rize website and the first thing one sees: a quote from Rize customer, HMS Industries, Inc, “Our first 3D printer, my team was able to learn how to use Rize One and be up and running in less than 20 minutes.” The Rize One combines two discrete technologies, extrusion and material jetting, into a single printer. Parts are isotropic, twice as strong as ABS+, watertight, and resistant to acid, acetone and alcohol. Post processing is seemingly non-existent, as the jetted Release One ink between the support material and the part allow for quick, easy and clean removal with just your hands. They also boast the ability to create Digitally Augmented Parts, by 3D printing secure information onto a functional part. Your smartphone can scan the printed QR code and instantly display any corresponding digital information. This is beneficial for traceability and serialization, as well as compliance and authenticity.

 

Essentium Materials (High Speed Extrusion)

Following a common theme, speed is also on display in Essentium Materials’ new High Speed Extrusion (HSE) platform. The HSE platform offers 1M/s print speeds, and has an extrusion nozzle that can heat from 20C to 600C in under 3 seconds. Essentium also provides its FlashFuse electric welding technology, which enhances layer to layer adhesion of additively produced parts. Essentium made the list of potential winners of the RAPID + TCT Innovation Award.

 

SLM Solutions Partners with Identify3D

And last, SLM Solutions announced they are partnering with Identify 3D, based in San Francisco, CA.  Identify3D will provide a solution for data protection coupled with contractual and manufacturing licensing from design to production on SLM Solutions’ selective laser melting machines. By securing all digital data in the engineering phase, the technology enables SLM Solutions to secure digital IP, enforce production rules and provide traceability in the digital supply chain at the industry’s highest standard. Users will benefit from secure digital intellectual property transfer, and can set production rules prior to the transfer. Identify3D believes their software solution will enable various industries to accelerate their adoption of Additive Manufacturing, and we agree. The solution provides access to a secure process from design to manufacture. This will prove especially beneficial for global users with multiple sites at production levels.

 

Conclusion

We can modestly conclude our RAPID + TCT 2018 wrap-up with a quote from James Cash (J.C.) Penney Jr., founder of JC Penney Stores.

Growth is never by mere change; it is the result of forces working together.”

AM is seeing major growth, and a maturation of technology coupled with maturation of users, leading to advancement across the board. The industry is also seeing more collaboration, cooperation, and even coopetition as the years pass, all of which promote the acceleration and adoption of Additive Manufacturing. We can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store.

Cheers,

John for all of TBGA

Learn more about The Barnes Group Advisors here.

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John Barnes