15 May 2023

Rapid+TCT 2023 Recap

By Carlos Zwikker

Rapid+TCT 2023 has come and gone, and it showcased various facets of our current position as an industry.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is now entering the manufacturing workforce to produce end components, marking a significant shift from prototyping to manufacturing. This transformation is not just about hardware, but also a change in mindset. This was evident in the resonance of our story of workflow automation with visitors at our booth and during our discussions with value chain partners such as EOS, HP, 3DSystems, and Stratasys. Our vision of building end-to-end automated production lines and ultimately, Smart AM Factories, was not only well-received but fully embraced.

As Rajeev Kulkarni, VP of Strategy and Corporate Development at 3DSystems, stated:

“One of the most differentiated and unique offerings I saw on the RAPID show floor – Industry 4.0 techniques applied to 3D-printing post-production by AM-Flow. The solution by AM-Flow, supported by Oqton software, automates the post-printing steps involved in 3D Printing. It’s ideal for production environments with a significant mix of parts.”

Moreover, the focus was not only on producing end components but also on managing the growing volumes of parts being produced. With the introduction of Farsoon’s P1000 and EOS’s Profusion technology, AM production facilities are at a pivotal moment in terms of the volumes of parts they are producing. While printer OEMs have been moving in this direction, it’s only now that awareness and some level of concern about scaling production are starting to emerge. Manufacturing principles such as one-piece flow and lean manufacturing are just beginning to be topics of interest in an AM context.

Highlighting the direction in which the industry is heading, HP announced their Jet Fusion 3D Powder Handling Automation Solution and Automation Accessory, both of which represent serious upgrades to 3D printing workflows for the entire AM industry. Automation can mean many things, but the key takeaway here is that digital transformation is the new driver of AM manufacturing. This particular area of automation aims to enhance the ability to 3D print continuously overnight or over the weekend, increasing throughput and reducing manual labor, thus lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the equipment and cost per part, moving towards a fully automated, lights-off factory. This is another development that will only increase production volumes and clearly indicates what the industry needs to meet demand and scale up.

There were some noticeable absences on the event floor, particularly among home market brands. We sensed some insecurity about the short-term future of the industry, with factors such as a focus on profitability over market expansion, rising inflation impacting CAPEX spending, the ongoing war in Ukraine, persistent supply chain issues, and upcoming presidential elections in the USA, all contributing to a sense of apprehension. Some of these aspects actually play into AM-Flow’s value proposition of automation – increasing output and turnover by making the best use of existing capital assets through optimal nesting densities in printers, and workflow efficiencies achieved by automation.

Despite the apprehension, the overall sentiment from those we spoke to during the event was that the future remains bright.

To end on a positive note, on the closing day of Rapid+TCT 2023, AM-Flow accomplished what every exhibitor hopes for at an event: we closed a deal with i-Solids. Kason Knight and Alex Turkol from i-SOLIDS signed a contract to purchase the AM-Flow production line for their Additive Manufacturing production facility in Spring, Texas, marking their first step towards creating a Smart AM Factory.

AM-Flow I-SOLIDS Signing contract at RapidTCT

Looking forward to seeing you at our next event!