Disruptive Insight editorial comment, Issue 11

A couple of trips to Europe this month have informed a great deal of the editorial coverage in this issue of Disruptive Insight. This is because both, in their different ways, made me think hard about the current state of the 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) industry.

One of the features in this edition provides an overview of a trip to Siemens’s Power and Energy facility in Finspang, Sweden. It really was an eye-opener in many ways, not least by providing the opportunity to meet new people passionate and excited about AM, specifically metal AM, and using it to improve business operations. The passion of the people driving the AM initiative for Siemens in Finspang was contagious and the application inspiring. The qualified rapid repair and rapid production (serial) applications there have changed the company’s business model. There was also insight into new developments, specifically developing and training designers with design for AM (DfAM) skills.

Soon after this trip, Siemens’s financial results were released, and it wasn’t good news for the Power and Energy Division (EPD). The sector is suffering in general as governments and industry seek ‘cleaner’ renewable resources and two of the biggest players in this sector, Siemens and GE, are feeling the pain.

There is an interesting analogy here for the 3D printing and AM industry, which is undergoing a similarly painful transition and evolution. And ironically, Siemens and GE are two of the largest players in the industry.

Turning to GE, the company quite literally made a big splash at the formnext event in Frankfurt last week as it unveiled the first metal AM platform in the Project A.T.L.A.S series, with a build volume of 1.1 x 1.1 x 0.3 m (X, Y, Z).

There was another big surprise on the show floor, in a very similar guise. Some thoughts on this can be found in this month’s op-ed piece.

Increased build sizes for metal platforms was a recurring theme of formnext, as was increased build speeds and automation upgrades—all of which point to an emphasis on improving productivity for users for ‘real’ production applications. I pulled together a number of formnext highlights in the feature review in this edition.

Growth was also a big feature of formnext—growth of the show itself, reflecting the growth taking place right across the AM industry. There are a lot of new companies emerging right across the landscape. One of the relative newcomers is Rize, which has developed an original additive process but doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I am reliably informed that a great deal is going on behind the scenes at Rize, with a new leader about to take up position, and this edition of Disruptive Insight features a nice application story from the company’s customer ThermoFab.

As always, I would be delighted to hear any thoughts and comments from readers on this issue or about the industry in general. Feel free to call, email or reach out on any of the social media platforms.

About Rachel Park

Rachel is a passionate advocate of additive manufacturing/3D printing technologies and the industry that has sprung up around it. However, as the hype and hyperbole has gathered momentum, her aim is always to offer a reasoned voice in the midst of inflated expectations and to cut through the noise in order to provide a realistic outlook of how things are.