Formnext 2019 with FORECAST 3D: Our Biggest Takeaways
As we close yet another year in the additive world, the industry continues to show its inevitable evolution.
One of the biggest AM shows of the year, Formnext (Germany), took place just this past November, and we had the chance to both showcase and learn alongside our colleagues over at GKN.
We sat down with Ken Burns, our VP of Commercial, and Business Development Manager, Caleb Christenson, to get some of their thoughts and biggest takeaways from the show:
What were some of your biggest general takeaways from Formnext 2019?
Well, a pretty notable “push” I noticed was from the materials providers. It seems like the big material companies (BASF, Lubrizol, Sabic, etc.) have a committed strategy to 3D Printing, and will likely drive the cost of materials down – something we’re excited about, for sure.
(Contemplative look) – Software – mostly related to design and workflow. The word “automation” is popular these days, and the push for automated workflows - including things such as post-processing – is becoming a higher priority.
Beyond materials and software, was there anything you saw that spoke to the future of additive? Such as actual machines?
I did not necessarily notice a lot of new equipment that will compete on a production level with the Stratasys', Desktop Metals, and HPs of the world, but there are new players.
Are there any companies that stood out to you specifically – of the up and comers?
We are constantly watching companies that have the potential for real production. Of course Carbon is always on our radar, but other companies like Nexa 3D and Origin are also utilizing the DLP process that may be able to scale. We are constantly looking for the value proposition with any new customers – they need to be able to solve a new problem for us or create a new solution.
We’ve talked a lot in the past about addressing some of the concerns surrounding production with additive technologies – any shift in those viewpoints?
It’s definitely still a concern for some, but the case is continually being made for production in additive. I think capability is being confused with capacity for technologies like Multi Jet Fusion; the capabilities are there, it’s just a matter of educating on the benefits and feasibility.
Where do you see us (FORECAST 3D) positioned, as far as the evolution of the additive industry?
Near the forefront, particularly in regard to the shift towards production. The future of additive is in production, like we talked about, and we’re certainly one of the few who are operating at that level.
You spent a lot of time manning the GKN/FORECAST 3D booth - what were some of the frequent questions you got?
Sure did – there were a lot of questions surrounding the GKN/Forecast 3D acquisition, but more than anything people on all levels of the supply chain were excited about how far AM has come is recent years and how much growth is on the horizon.
Any specific examples?
Not going to mention any companies by name however the Automotive and Aerospace industries are all in on what AM can do for their programs.
I probably received the most questions in reference to automotive and aerospace – a lot of people are excited about potential changes to these fields with greater AM adoption.
Circling back to the acquisition: what kinds of questions/thoughts stuck with you? What was the overall reception?
Mainly the excitement surrounding what will be a global reach for the work we do. Having world-wide solutions in both metal and plastic additive solutions is a big deal for both GKN and FORECAST (3D). We can rapidly produce 1-off prototypes and/or seamlessly slide into large scale production of >1M pcs.
The general, or overall viewpoint is that AM is becoming less prototype specific and moving into production levels with less and less resistance. Definitely something we’re pushing for.
We talked a bit about how much the AM industry is growing/expanding before having this sit-down – care to revisit?
Sure - over the last decade, most trade you would attend, the additive technologies would occupy only a sliver of any given manufacturing event, now it is starting to dominate the footprint of the shows. Not just at Formnext, which is dedicated to AM, but at all manufacturing tradeshows… of which there are many.
Obligatory question: What was your favorite thing you saw at the show?
I’ll continue with where I left off on the last question… I thoroughly enjoyed seeing just how far AM has come. It is now being backed and driven by some of the biggest brands in the world, those with the capital to fuel the truly explosive growth. That speaks volumes on where the industry is heading.