Formnext 2019: A few words from Justin Pringle
I recently attended Formnext 2019 and, as I did for Formnext 2018, I thought I would share my thoughts on the offerings of the world’s largest trade show for the 3D Printing industry.
What is Formnext?
“Formnext is the leading exhibition and conference dedicated to additive manufacturing and all of its upstream and downstream processes.”
Well, that is the lead description on the Formnext website. There is no mention of 3D Printing, so has the 3D Printing term gone?
Not quite, but the main story is all about Additive Manufacturing and, after spending two days walking around the Formnext halls at the vast Frankfurt Messe with 800+ exhibitors, it is very clear that the industry is quickly scaling up from just rapid prototyping and 3D Printing low volumes.
So, what is Additive Manufacturing?
The simple answer is it’s just a term used for manufacturing several parts (quantities will depend on the individual‘s needs) by using a “3D Printer”.
Ok, so what is 3D Printing then?
3D Printing is the term given to making a part directly from a 3D CAD Model using a machine that will not need any tooling or pre-process to make it. The part will most likely need some sort of post-process finishing to make it useable.
(Read more about Additive Manufacturing here)
Um, in that case, can I print anything?
Well, yes and no. You need to consider what you need your part to do and what conditions it will need to work in. To keep things simple, there are three main categories of 3D Printing processes:
- Liquid resin (SLA, DLP, Polyjet etc)
- Liquid resin printers convert the liquid resin into a solid by using a light source
- Fine powder (SLS, MJF, DMLS)
- Fine powder printers use heat to melt (sinter) the powder
- Extruded Plastic (FDM, Filament)
- Extruded plastic printers use heat to melt the plastic
There are numerous suppliers of the machines that will use the methods mentioned above, and all will say, naturally, that their machine is the best. I am not going to earn any commission, so I won’t mention any of them!
You will also need to consider the post-processing of the parts as well as the pre-printing software you will need to send the 3D model to the printer. And let’s not forget the people and the training they will need to operate the machines and post-process the parts.
Now, you may want to buy your own machine to produce your parts, and that is where Formnext comes in. Yes, there are several trade shows throughout the year in the UK, but none will give you a greater level of exposure to the world of 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing as Formnext will.
If you decide to go, then be clear in your mind beforehand what process will suit your need(s). Remember, no process will give you everything so there will always be a compromise that you may or may not be able to live with.
I hope that gives a little insight into Formnext.
Why go to Formnext?
As a service bureau offering all the main processes so our clients don’t need to go to the expense and aggravation of sourcing the right machine for them, you may be wondering why I go to Formnext.
Well, I go to make sure that we, as a company, are keeping in touch with our industry and know what the industry is working on for both current solutions and solutions for the future.
At Formnext, the companies range from start-ups to recognised global brands. As I mentioned earlier, there were over 800 exhibitors presenting their products. What amazed me the most, however, was the companies that are developing post processes that will make the Additive Manufacturing process more scalable. This is something the manufactures of the machines have neglected to do in the past. This meant that if you talked to manufacturers about a machine, the standard response was ‘this is our machine, here is what it can do, now off you go.’ Today, if you have a question about the workflow, there is a myriad of companies willing to offer a solution to support that workflow.
So, no new amazing technologies, no new wonder kid, just nice steady updates and good progress in the post-processing to make it all work.
If you are going to step into the world of Additive Manufacturing, then Formnext 2020 might be a good shout. If you want to save the time, money and hassle of Additive Manufacturing by outsourcing it to a company with vast knowledge, skill and experience, coupled with the latest technologies, please contact us. We would be glad to help bring your next project to life.
Ready to start your next project?
Talk to us about your next prototype project on 01763 249760. We offer next day dispatch for SLS, SLA, FDM, PolyJet and Figure 4 parts. We can advise you on your choice of prototyping technology and can also help you optimise your designs for prototyping.