Metal AM Team

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Formnext 2023

Back from an intense week in Frankfurt, I’m pleased to report that the world of Additive Manufacturing is continuing to do great things. Here’s just a little summary but Ill be making a full report in the next issue of Metal AM Magazine.

Day 1 kicked off with some really cool stuff from Renishaw Additive Manufacturing launching their all new Tempus Technology that allows scanning while recoating, Additive Industries declaring a focus on the #Automotive sector, and Chinese Bright Laser Technologies – BLT showing off their vertically integrated business and the massive 26 Laser machine. One of the new comers Holdson are offering an option for metal finishing without harming the environment, and I chatted with the UK’s Atomising Systems Limited about their staying power in the market and consistent growth in powder metal sales. Although the heat treatment process has become almost standard for metal AM, it was really interesting to talk about HIP’ing in powder metallurgy with Quintus Technologies who can take environmentally sourced powders from the likes of Tekna (OSE:TEKNA) and make very large net-shape parts. Lastly for the day, there was Prima Additive offering different modes in #DED and a special ability to produce thin wall parts, and #LPBF from One Click Metal neatly showing off their modular build volumes and new aluminium alloy.

Day was no less exciting with advances being shown in true unsupported E-beam PBF of large parts on display by GE Additive, and to likes of Incus GmbH who are able to make parts at such fine detail parts never seen until now. The industry continues to bring forth more and more metal powder suppliers and a whistle stop tour round both exhibition halls is just about all that could be managed to see just a few [Kymera International, Pometon Spa, Kennametal, m4p material solutions GmbH, Sandvik, INDO-MIM Private Limited]. A common new requirement for metal AM is in the field, deployable solutions and both XERION BERLIN LABORATORIES GmbH and SPEE3D seem to have really understood this with their products. However, since I love finding cool #MetalAM parts , there was just one that stole the show for me, and that was the incredibly heavy tungsten carbide drill bit part made with Binder Jet technology by Kennametal. Try as I might I couldn’t lift it of the bench!

Day 3 started with a chat with EOS about a subject very dear to my heart, Carbon Footprint and Net Zero, since they have announced an intention to take the lead in CO2 reduction of AM metal powder production in 2024. Their sister company AMCM GmbH was also demonstrating an integration of the innovative nLIGHT, Inc. adaptive beam profile laser module (more on this later), whilst in Binder Jet the system from HP continued to impress with case studies from the likes of VW, Schneider Electric, and Domin showing that it has now transitioned to being a production process for the mass market. A powder producer with a slight difference in the form of M4P because they have an impressive list of ‘other’ steel powders (this will ease the adoption of metal AM since there’s now far greater choice), and meanwhile our very own ELEMENTUM 3D‘s RAM technology continues to ease in the tricky high temperature Ni and non-weldable Al alloys, gaining an important approval from 3D Systems

It’s rather disappointing that I ran out of time to speak to this important group of companies, but with all the available software being demonstrated and able to prop up the end to end processes, full qualification and certification of everyday continuous production with AM is now certainly within the sights of many industry sectors. The software part of this sector really has been exploiting AI, Machine Learning, and Adaptive process Control. It’s going to be really exciting to see what the coming years bring from this.

Day 4, and usually the last day is a slow, quieter day for most, but not for me. I felt like I didn’t stop all day and with the quieter exhibitor stands I was allowed the opportunity to get a really deep understanding of what was being shown by nLIGHT, Inc.  They have brought to laser based systems the capability of shaping the laser output, and have also been really innovative in their multi-beam solutions and control systems, making really compact systems for easy integration in OEM platforms. Oerlikon, the one time stars of the service market and the first to try and create a true user community in the EU sector have rethought their approach and have a new focus that is full of positivity. If enthusiasm could be bottled then there’d be a challenge to contain that of the small team from Oscar PLT doing tricky things with Wire DED using multiple lasers, and turning their expertise to repair of high value parts. While ADDiTEC have pulled off their own trick by resurrecting liquid metal printing (first introduced by Vader Systems and sold to Xerox before being killed off my them) and integrating it into conventional machine shop systems. Lastly, and another very cool highlight of the exhibition was FEHRMANN Materials taking a brave leap on powder pricing addressing the cost barrier to adopting AM, and generating some real interest with their MatGPT materials tool; I can’t wait to be able to play with this.

So there you have it, a whirlwind four days, spent with some of the best people I’ve ever had the chance to work with, and in all honesty I could easily have spent 2 more days trying to meet all the others that unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend time with. The tagline for the event is “where ideas take shape”, and there was plenty of that during this year’s exhibition. Can’t wait to do it all again next year!