Why did I go to TCT Show?
I started this journey looking for insights into the future of the 3d printing industry. Over the course of the two days I was at the conference, I saw so many great talks and exhibitions. The ground breaking work that is being done using additive manufacturing is inspiring. From premium camera products to internal bodily structures. My questions are simple:
- What are the next innovations in printer design?
- What is the potential for functional printed parts in the near future?
- What industries are pushing the limits of 3d printing?
Top 6 Insights:
1. Dual print cores & print heads are taking over.
Most of the print stands I talked to have already developed dual technology in their printers and have plans for more upgrades in their new products. BCN3D have an impressive Sigmax system that can function as a high-quality prototyper or a low volume production engine.
2. Everyone is making printers compatible with PVA support material.
Poly Vinyl Alcohol is best used with PLA material as their melting point is so similar. Dissolvable in water it is a great way of printing detailed models with no support scars. Previously, I have used PLA as a support material for ABS prints and burned away the PLA in a boiling alkali bath. This is a much more user-friendly process.
Examples: Literally everyone
3. Speed & ease of use is being prioritised.
With many directions the industry could take, companies are making the technology more user-friendly. Interchangeable print cores and heads are just one of the latest innovations. Improvements in open source and proprietary software are making the process easier to use for novices.
4. Usability of prototypes is increasing as flexible / stronger materials advance.
Companies and filament manufactures are providing more and more functional materials and methods of recycling waste. With printers increasingly able to handle dual materials, prints are becoming more functional straight from the bed. They are able to print in carbon fibre and combine materials such as rigid ABS and flexible TPU 95A plastic into multifunctional models. And their uses are increasing from solely rigid prototypes to rapid tooling and casting.
5. The medical industry has pushed the limits by combining medical scanning & 3D Printing.
There were many talks over the 3 days. Many of these were given by medical professionals or researchers. The uses they talked about are diverse. These included 3d printing broken bones from X-rays, to see the best way of pinning it back together. Printing with functional elastomers to create internal structures such as a trachea for use in transplants. And surgical aids to help when delicate procedures are necessary.
6. Still most prolific as a tool to aid & speed up product development.
During the conference, it became apparent that most users of 3d printing technology still use it as a tool for product development. Hasselblad gave a great talk about 3d printing’s role in its camera housing development. Adidas’ Gerd Manz gave a brilliant talk on the role additive manufacturing plays in its new product lines. They are incorporating additive manufacturing into their companies future development. And using it as a tool to connect with the next generation of designers and sports enthusiasts.
Examples: Gerd Manz - Adidas // Thomas Keen - Hasselblad
TCT Show is such a diverse event. Although mainly focused on 3d printing you can find technology related to a whole host of additive manufacturing processes. I found printers aimed at the education industry, micro manufacturing, precision jewellery and so many more. If you have any interest in the additive manufacturing industry I cannot recommend this event enough. See you all there next year!
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