Digital AM innovator meeting point gets underway

Rapid.Tech 3D 2021 live stream congress, virtual expo and online networking focus on sustainable applications.

(Erfurt, 22 June 2021)
Having missed out last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, innovators in the field of additive manufacturing (AM) will be meeting again today and tomorrow to exchange knowledge and experience. For the digital Rapid.Tech 3D event, the Messe Erfurt Congress Center has been transformed into a TV studio with extensive technical equipment, broadcasting a high-profile online specialist conference live around the globe. The technology also enables the participants to engage in digital conversation and find out about new products and services in a virtual exhibition.

“The past months have brought a lot of new developments, especially in the field of AM. “The need for communication is great, which is why we decided to hold the event digitally and, with the support of our advisory boards, have put together a program that’s worth seeing and listening to,” Michael Kynast, CEO of Messe Erfurt, explained in his opening address. The significance of Rapid.Tech 3D is testified by the fact that, even under digital conditions, "fantastic proposals for addresses were submitted by speakers from around the world, providing an impressive cross-section of applications and developments in business and science,” advisory board chairmen Michael Eichmann from Stratasys and Prof. Gerd Witt from Duisburg-Essen University remark. Wolfgang Tiefensee, Thuringia's Minister for the Economy, Science and Digital Society, emphasised in his welcoming address that 3D printing is now used by everything from small craft businesses to large corporations. He pointed out that the Ministry was not only supporting the development of this innovative technology with a EUR 35,000 prize for the international 3D Pioneers Challenge design award, the winner of which will be announced at this year’s Rapid.Tech 3D, but also in various research and industry projects in the region.

Sending out data instead of physical parts

Additive manufacturing as a driver of sustainability in development and production in many industries is the leitmotiv of Rapid.Tech 3D 2021. Daimler Buses’ Ralf Anderhofstadt and Janis Kretz took up this motto in their opening keynote, demonstrating how industrial 3D printing is already “going by bus”, so contributing to climate-neutral mobility. Potential for 3D printing has currently been identified for around 12 per cent of the 320,000 parts Daimler uses for its buses, they said. More than 400 parts have already been additively implemented and installed in vehicles. By way of example, the speakers cited savings in tooling costs in the high six-figure range. The Daimler Buses AM experts are also generating new sales potential and added value for customers with an online configurator for customising parts in the vehicle interior. And they are even going a step further with the use of a mobile, 36 square metre 3D printing centre containing equipment for data preparation, printing and post-processing. “Instead of sending out a physical part, a data set is dispatched and the required component is manufactured where it is needed. This saves transport and storage costs, reduces delivery times and is both economical and sustainable,” say Ralf Anderhofstadt and Janis Kretz, pointing out that with the transition from the physical to the digital business model, economy and environmental aspects go hand in hand. They see further need for development for encrypted licence-based decentralised additive manufacturing in IP protection and digital rights management. It became clear in the discussion that blockchain technologies can build a secure bridge to AM in this respect.

Moving away from a throw-away society

A panel discussion with experts from industry and science clearly illustrated that although the topic of “AM and sustainability” is still in its infancy, it is visibly gaining momentum. Moving away from a throw-away society towards a “right to repair” was the bottom line highlighted by Dr. Jakob Fischer from Heraeus and SPEE3D’s Stefan Ritt. Prof. Christiane Beyer stressed that, as far as technology is concerned, a lot has already been solved. The holder of the Chair of Product Development and Design at Magdeburg’s Otto von Guericke University, participating live from the Rapid.Tech TV studio in Erfurt, advocated creating more examples demonstrating the digital cycle for sustainable production by means of 3D printing and sustainable use of the products. This also involves overcoming mental barriers, for example in the use of recycled plastics for additive manufacturing, which are on a par with new materials in terms of quality and price. BASF’s Volker Hammes emphasised that confidence and rigorousness in taking action are still lacking here.

The challenges and approaches as well as examples of AM applications were discussed in greater depth on the first day of the congress in the trade forums Automotive & Mobility; AM News; Tool, Model and Mould Making, and Fraunhofer Competence Field Additive Manufacturing, as well as in the first part of the AM Science forum.

More than 180 products and services in virtual expo

Another attraction of the digital Rapid.Tech 3D is the virtual exhibition, where 25 companies and research institutions will be presenting more than 180 products and services from the fields of materials, systems engineering, software, processes and process design for additive manufacturing. Among the exhibits are tools for generative design, new full-colour and multi-material printers, a drone manufactured with 3D technologies for remote inspection of wind turbine rotor blades, solutions for metal investment casting and plastic vacuum casting and, last but not least, numerous developments in the medical sector driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Virtual exhibitors include 3D-printed tools specialist AM Polymers as well as leading technology partners and service providers such as Additive Innovation, Antonius Köster, CT Core Technology, Dassault, Farsoon, HP, Stratasys, Solukon, toolcraft and Zeiss. Additive Tectonics, a pioneer of AM in architecture and construction, is presenting examples of how industrial 3D printing can make construction more efficient and give it greater individuality, and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is demonstrating its extensive 3D printing expertise.

Quick and uncomplicated networking

Participants can quickly and easily engage in discussion with speakers, exhibitors and other visitors via text chat, video call or messaging. One special feature of the networking area is the “chat roulette” function. Guests who activate this function will be able to connect with other users in rotating video calls, similar to speed-dating, and use the allocated two-minute window for discussion and building new contacts.

Focus on aviation topics on 23 June

Volker Thum, Managing Director of the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) will open day 2 of the digital Rapid.Tech 3D with a keynote on initial successes and challenges for AM in aviation, a topic that will be dealt with in more depth in the Aviation trade forum. Other sessions on 23 June will look into AM developments and applications in forums dealing with Software, Processes & Design; Medical & Orthopaedic Technology and AM in Construction Engineering & Architecture. The AM Science trade forum will be continued. Visitors can also enjoy the virtual exhibition and participate in the various networking formats. The closing address at Rapid.Tech 3D will focus on a special case study in the aviation industry: Alexander Altmann from Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg GmbH will be reporting on AM actuators for the Boeing 777X.

Partnership for real-time digital experience

Jena-based company rooom AG will play a key role in ensuring the success of the digital event, with the Rapid.Tech 3D specialist conference and accompanying exhibition being broadcast online thanks to a partnership with the marketing tech start-up. rooom AG provides all-round 2D, 3D, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) solutions, and this practical solution makes it possible to hold the event at all, particularly under pandemic conditions. The company has won multiple awards for its unrivalled start-up idea and for individual flagship projects, including the German Innovation Award 2019 and the Thuringia Innovation Award 2020. Website:

Last-minute tickets can still be booked tomorrow at: Rapid.Tech 3D (

The event will be held on the digital platform.