Fascinated visitors and exciting innovations at Rapid.Tech 3D

Conference and trade show returns: major platform for additive manufacturing

The first day of Rapid.Tech 3D 2022 was characterised by joyful reunions, fascinated visitors, engrossing presentations and many new exhibits. The conference and trade show returned after a two-year break due the pandemic, providing a major platform for additive manufacturing (AM) in Europe. Companies and research institutes from Germany, Austria, France, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the USA will continue to present their AM developments and applications in Erfurt and discuss them with visitors until 19 May 2022.

In the opening keynote of the Rapid.Tech 3D specialist conference, Falk Heilfort introduced the benefits of Porsche’s approach to small-series production of components. The Project Manager for Powertrain Advance Development at Porsche highlighted its potential for production processes in particular. The component integration of one high-performance electric drive has led to significant reductions in the assembly cost and times. In his keynote speech, Frank Rethmann of Airbus Helicopters addressed the challenges of industrialising the entire AM chain. Upstream and downstream tasks make up around 70 percent of the overall process, and there are therefore many tasks in the steps before and after the actual printing process yet to be addressed. Fabian Gafner from Swiss firm Sauber ‒ well-known in Formula 1 circles ‒ demonstrated, among other things, how a broken gearbox from a 70-year-old Ferrari can be sustainably refurbished using 3D printing. Experts are using the design freedom provided by AM to make gearboxes more durable.

In a panel discussion, specialists from Porsche, Airbus and Sauber, along with other AM experts from BASF, Toolcraft, the University of Duisburg-Essen and RWTH Aachen, debated the factors that would help AM break into the mainstream market. In particular, these include a new design mindset and a holistic approach to the entire system. The experts agreed that simply replacing conventionally produced components with additively manufactured ones will not deliver the desired impact.

The Rapid.Tech 3D exhibition was dominated by the latest developments and applications in AM, which were met with great interest. Many companies reported that their visitors were fascinated and very open-minded. One such was Swiss company Spectroplast, which is revolutionising AM with 3D-printed silicone, and whose team presented the world’s first high-precision additive technology for silicone. Spectroplast uses this both for industrial and medical applications, such as customised hearing devices, tailor-made prostheses and anatomical models.

Meanwhile, Austrian startup Genera is using its holistic stereolithography system (DLP) to enable reliable and reproducible component printing and finishing. At Rapid.Tech 3D, it presented its new all-in-one system for printing, washing and post-exposure without manual intervention, which is specially designed for small companies and research institutes.

Another automation-based trade show innovation is the C1 by AM Solutions from Bavaria. The machine is specially designed to remove support structures automatically from 3D-printed parts made of photopolymers.

Stratasys also presented its expanded portfolio of products and services in Erfurt. The global market leader for FDM and PolyJet technology has extended its expertise to include the powder-bed-based SAF process, the enhanced DLP technology P3 and 3DFashion. The latter enables full-colour printing on textiles and is already being used by leading fashion labels. The technology also has potential for vehicle interiors.

Thuringian company burms from Jena played on home turf, presenting a research collaboration with German universities to develop products for the medical sector.

The trade forums on the first day of the Rapid.Tech 3D conference focused on AM developments in mobility and medicine. And the Education forum brought industry representatives and educators together to discuss the need to incorporate 3D printing into educational curricula.

Highlights of the second day (18 May 2022) included keynotes by Toolcraft and nFrontier, as well as the selection of the winners of the innovation and design competition, the 3D Pioneers Challenge. Visitors also enjoyed the Design, Software & Processes, Tool, Model and Mould Making, AM in Construction Engineering & Architecture, AM in User Practice trade forums, and the forum for the Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Competence Field.

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