It’s been a bit of a travel month, with more coming up. Being on the ground at two big 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) events so close together has certainly thrown up some interesting conversations and issues to ponder. However, what has become more and more obvious throughout 2017 is the continuing progress across all areas of the 3D printing and AM industry, despite the fact that there is no one ‘big’ thing to point to. The progress across the AM sector is not linear, but exponential.
Although there are reports detailing increasing investment and orders, application and material development and ecosystem consolidation, I am talking about something less quantifiable. Talking to manufacturers, users, potential users, academics, consultants and fellow members of the press, there is an acceptance that AM is a credible and competitive sub-sector of the manufacturing industry. I can’t point to an exact date when this shift happened. Even though challenges remain, when they are discussed it is now with an underlying assumption that overcoming them is only a matter of time and effort and usually through collaboration.
Further insight into the shows I attended this month—TCT in Birmingham, UK, and IN(3D)USTRY in Barcelona, Spain—can be found in this edition of Disruptive. The regional influences on the 3D printing and AM sector are discussed along with the bigger themes.
Geographic influences on the AM sector are also addressed in a contributed article from industry veteran Gordon Styles, who provides original insight into the state of the AM industry in both the UK and China from his unique vantage point.
Back in the UK, German AM system manufacturer, voxeljet, opened its new manufacturing facilities in Milton Keynes this month. Candice Majewski, of the University of Sheffield, was in attendance and reports on the opening for Disruptive.
Coming full circle and returning to the 3D printing and AM events calendar, the industry reaches its traditional crescendo with formnext powered by TCT, which will take place in Frankfurt next month. Many of the big 3D printing companies have indicated that formnext is where their big, annual announcements will come. A few highlights to look out for are previewed in this edition and I will, of course, report back on those big announcements in the next issue of Disruptive Insight.