Members of the M. Holland team met in Motor City last month for RAPID + TCT, known as North America’s most influential 3D printing and additive manufacturing event. From the latest innovations to practical applications within industrial manufacturing, here are some key takeaways from M. Holland’s Global 3D Printing Engineering Specialist, Haleyanne Freedman; Director of Wire and Cable, Todd Waddle; Managing Director of Automotive, John Zessin; Global Healthcare Manager, Josh Blackmore; and Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, Dwight Morgan.
Todd Waddle also called out Ultimaker’s Material Alliance Program’s progress in meeting the global demand for industrial-grade engineering 3D printing materials. The program has a wide range of qualified suppliers on board working to unlock new applications and offering major advancements for new users such as faster adoption for new or unfamiliar materials.
In his third year of attendance, Waddle also noticed new machine introductions are continuing to evolve. At this year’s event, there was a particular emphasis on open source machines with new features such as dual extruders, automatic filament feeds, faster bed and extruder heating, and larger spool storage and build volume. As the application opportunities become more demanding, open source machines are beneficial from a usability, reliability, and repeatability standpoint. These machines are also enhancing the overall end-user experience and giving adopters more options and confidence during use.
Beyond open source machines, Freedman noted the abundance of high-speed 3D printers slated to launch next year. These new devices are set to compete with injection molding speeds, opening a whole new set of doors for the 3D printing industry.
From a healthcare perspective, Josh Blackmore was most encouraged to see the healthcare industry embrace 3D printing technologies and materials as an early adopter. More than 90% of all hearing aids are currently manufactured via 3D printing and there is a growing number of other medical applications such as prosthetics, dental implants and devices that are being custom-made for patients. These medical devices are legally approved and are being manufactured to a unit of one. Blackmore added that 3D printing brings endless possibilities for other medical use cases such as complex medical devices, minimally invasive and robotic surgical tools. Bio implant printing is starting to take place for implantable bone replacement structures using metal and plastic for substrates.
For many years, 3D printing was primarily used for prototyping and tooling. But as technologies advance and get more precise, affordable and faster, 3D printing will become a viable and scalable option for industrial manufacturing, according to John Zessin. The technologies discussed this year at RAPID + TCT and those set to launch in the next few years will close the gap between 3D printing and conventional manufacturing techniques that dominate today’s industry.
The additive manufacturing community’s commitment to driving the adoption of 3D printing technology is unprecedented, according to Zessin. From equipment manufacturers and material producers to designers and processors, the entire community is in it for the long-haul, and this was evident at RAPID + TCT. Dwight Morgan agreed with Zessin, noting that, while growing rapidly, 3D printing is a small industry filled with passionate innovators who are dedicated to their craft. Together, they socialize and collaborate like a family, and are enthusiastic about the possibilities of this burgeoning technology.
No matter what market or industry you’re exploring, one thing is for certain: the 3D printing community will change the world and this year’s RAPID + TCT show proved that.
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