Last week, in the city of my alma mater, Orlando, Florida, the latest and greatest innovations in the additive manufacturing industry were on display at the SME and TCT group-sponsored RAPID 2016 Conference & Exposition. Though a great number of companies, both young and old, were sharing interesting information and exhilarating demonstrations, it seems that all of the media attention was directed towards the unveiling of the long-awaited HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing technology. Hewlett-Packard’s technology is said to be up to 10 times faster than existing 3D printers, and will cut the cost of manufacturing parts in half too.
At RAPID, HP doubled-down on their expectations and revealed two different 3D printing portfolios that will soon be available for purchase, the HP Jet Fusion 3D 3200 and the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200. At the event, HP stated that both printers will also provide an end-to-end solution, material reusability, and an open platform. The voxel-level printing technology is what truly drives the budding excitement for MJF printing, which is set to allow for limitless combinations of colors and materials. HP also pulled the curtain off of the complementary Processing Station, and delved into their vast number of partners that are assisting in material development.
The first system to be made available to manufacturers will be the 4200 series, which is already open for purchase, and plans to ship to manufacturers in October 2016. The entire 3D printing ecosystem (including Processing Station) is said to be starting around an adequate manufacturing price of $155k. Although HP’s MJF printing technology may have been the main attraction for many attendees, there were a ton of other exciting news and innovative demonstrations unveiled at RAPID.
One unique display that showcased just how far additive manufacturing has come was the RAPID fashion show, which was comprised of entirely 3D printed designs. Sponsored by the France-based 3D printing service provider Sculpteo, conference visitors packed tightly into the 3D Art Gallery to observe the next-generation of 3D printed fashion-work by designers such as Anastasia Ruiz, Rachel Nhan, Sabina Saga, Danit Peleg, and Anouk Wipprecht.
A handful of other 3D printers were unveiled during RAPID 2016, including the new and improved open source LulzBot’s TAZ 6. The Israeli-based company Xjet was also present, and officially introduced the industry to their NanoParticle Jetting technology, and showcased a demo machine at the conference capable to printing parts in both stainless steel and silver. Xjet plans on launch sales for their NanoParticle Jetting 3D printer at the start of 2017.
On an industrial level, many of the long-time established industry leaders were present and prepared to show what they’ve been up too as well. EnvisionTEC showed off their gargantuan SLCOM 1 3D printer, which is the first industrial-grade printer capable of manufacturing woven fiber composite parts. Additionally, 3D Systems displayed their new ProX DMP 320, a metal 3D printer based on technology developed by the Belgium-based company LayerWise, which 3D Systems acquired in 2014.
Other notable occurrences from RAPID was the annual SME Additive Manufacturing Industry Achievement Award, which was presented to Dr. Hans J. Langer, the founder and CEO of EOS GmbH, for his company’s impact on the additive manufacturing industry thus far. SME also partnered with a handful of companies and educational institutions to 3D scan (by FARO Technologies, Inc.) the Orion crew module at the near-by NASA Kennedy Space Center, which was 3D printed as a large-scale replica model by Cincinnati Inc. live on the showroom floor.
Essentially, it seems as if a majority of the innovation this year has shifted even closer to an end-to-end production solution, while both metal and composite-based 3D printing seem to be among the most exciting technologies to the industries that seem to be adapting to 3D printing the fastest, which includes the aerospace, automotive, fashion, and medical fields.