When Avi Reichental departed 3D Systems, you could argue that this move shifted the focus of the 3D printing market. Investors and vendors appear to have turned away from consumer oriented, desktop 3D printers and are looking instead to additive manufacturing systems. The emphasis now is on how can these systems be used in a manufacturing production context.
While additive manufacturing systems have always been a strong part of this industry, it’s the metal additive systems that are receiving the lion’s share of attention today from vendors and investors. Aerospace, medical, offshore and industrial markets continue to report on the benefits of using additive for many projects.
In addition, vendors continue to explore ways to improve metal additive technology, and a lot is being accomplished. Efforts are underway to improve build speed, develop new materials, and ensure repeatable quality in the parts. Plus, manufacturing customers are particularly interested in additive manufacturing and how it can be used with injection molding in a production capacity.
It’s refreshing to see more serious attention paid to additive for manufacturing. Even so, there are questions. Just what would it look like to have additive manufacturing systems alongside CNC machining centers, injection molding systems and other equipment? Given that in the U.S., manufacturing makes up about 12% of the economy, what impact could additive machines have? Could or will additive increase the percentage of manufacturing’s role in the U.S. economy? Many believe so and are working toward that goal.
How will additive affect the distribution network? When you can more easily produce goods locally, what effect will additive have?
There are no immediate answers to these questions, but there is plenty of opportunity to explore them with experts in the industry. A number of 3D printing/additive conferences exist, but two key conferences are coming up in April and May. The Additive Manufacturing Users Group conference will be in St. Louis April 3–7. Many of the attendees at this show have years of experience working with additive systems, so there is a wealth of knowledge available here for you. This is more of an educational conference than a booth conference showcasing the latest equipment.
To see additive systems on display, check out SME’s RAPID Show and Conference, which will take place in Orlando from May 16–19. Vendors will be there to answer specific questions about their systems. Both events offer plenty of opportunity to explore additive technology and discuss how it could fit with your production needs.