The Rapid.Tech 2012 congress looks to the future with clear growth


Eight percent growth in visitor numbers / international visitors from 13 countries
Ready for the market: 3D printers and processes are revolutionising manufacturing

Once the ninth Rapid.Tech congress at Erfurt conference centre closed its doors on 9 May after two days, visitors had learned that “everything which is possible in the virtual world is also possible in the real world”. Five series of a total of 67 presentations and an exhibition brought visitors up to date with the latest developments and introduced them to the world of additive manufacturing at first hand. The c. 20 percent rise in exhibitor numbers since 2011 is testimony to the rapid growth in the range of applications and the increasingly widespread use of additive manufacturing processes. An eight percent increase in visitor numbers is testimony to the success of the organiser’s concept. Overall, the specialist event welcomed 1,300 conference and exhibition visitors from 14 countries (Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia and the USA). In hall 2, 67 exhibitors from four different countries presented their products, equipment and services from the field of additive manufacturing.

Think virtual, build real: Rapid.Tech explores the world of additive manufacturing

Global demand for additive manufacturing (AM) equipment is growing exponentially. Sales in 2012 alone are expected to exceed the total number of products sold between 1985 and 2010. Since 2004, the Rapid.Tech specialist trade fair and user conference in Erfurt has been following and promoting this positive trend. What began a good 20 years ago as rapid prototyping is now increasingly used as a process for end products. The two-day user conference, the medical technology, dental technology and aeronautics forums and the one-day designer conference were a platform for in-depth discussions of the latest developments, the problems and the exceptional potential of additive manufacturing.

AM is opening up new value potential and markets

In his keynote presentation, AM analyst and consultant Phil Reeves (Econolyst Ltd.) outlined six key reasons why the business future for AM is bright. The technology is particularly good for small series, offers a previously unheard-of wealth of geometric design options combined with advanced functionalities and ultimate individualisation, is set to radically change delivery chains and has enormous potential for sustainable product life cycles - in particular for metal products. The issue of new business models and segments was also an underlying theme in all presentation series.
One question addressed at the aeronautics forum was how market pull and technology push mechanisms will influence the future of additive manufacturing. Marina Wall from the Heinz Nixdorf Institute presented the findings of a study recently published on the subject.

Participants in the 3rd Medical Technology Forum praised the fact that the presentations dealt in great detail with AM materials and production processes. The forum also looked at problems in modelling and in the authorisation of additively manufactured medical products. One attendee concluded that “Rapid.Tech once again offered a unique opportunity to find out about additive methods”.

3D processes are also increasingly widespread in dental technology. What was the 4th CAD/CAM and Rapid Prototyping in Dental Technology Forum reflected a sector undergoing fundamental change. The extremely well-attended presentations explained basic processes and frameworks such as the process chain from modelling to casting. An intraoral scanner was also presented, and the speakers explored materials and the use of various different processes such as stereolithography, 3D printing and laser sintering.

The two-day user conference was also – but not only – of interest to those new to the field. It examined a range of problems and issues relating to quality assessment and assurance. New and modified processes were one of the key focuses on the second day. Another was the development of process parameters. Standardisation in this area, too, is still in need of further development.

The designer congress was all about bionic solutions. Before a designer starts designing, however, he or she must be familiar with the relevant technologies. Otherwise, the data will not be successfully transformed into components.

Another event which was extremely successful for visitors and exhibitors alike was the exhibition. Larger and more wide-ranging than ever before, it was platform for expert discussions, information and indeed business. Hendrik Bartelt from the market leader EOS GmbH gave his feedback. “Hats off to the organisers. It was definitely worth EOS coming. We will be back next year.” A new feature at this year’s event was the “Fabber Corner”, an exhibition of equipment for getting started in 3D printing.

STUDENT DESIGN AWARD 2012 goes to Coburg student

Kiyoharu Nakajima from Coburg University of Applied Sciences won this year’s Student Design Award for Rapid Prototyping. He was presented with the prize by the Minister of Economic Affairs, Matthias Machnig, for his “Komforthese” which beat 26 other entries. The design is for a finger orthosis for patients with extensor or flexor tendon injuries to the second or last finger joints. The orthosis is made of a mesh structure which fulfils multiple functions: it protects the finger, but allows for changes in shape – for example as a result of swelling. Depending on the hardness of the material, the finger can also remain flexible if this is the medical advice. The AWARD is worth EUR 6,000.

The 10th Rapid.Tech will take place on 14 and 15 May 2013.

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Thomas Tenzler
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