My visit to Barcelona earlier this month for the second edition of IN(3D)USTRY, held October 3-5, coincided with the social unrest in Catalonia immediately following the region’s referendum on independence from Spain. But what I saw was business (including tourism) as usual.
The venue for IN(3D)USTRY was Fira Barcelona Gran Via and the event was comfortably nestled within Barcelona Industry Week, which hosted eight events in total. At IN(3D)USTRY the emphasis was very much on the applications of 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM), reflected in the varied conference sessions that continued across all three days.
Not surprisingly in Barcelona, HP was a dominant force (the company’s worldwide headquarters for 3D and large format printing businesses is located in the city) and the multi jet fusion (MJF) production machines and ancillary equipment drew a great deal of attention. So did UK metal AM platform OEM Renishaw with its RenAM 500M system, Trumpf also with its latest (and faster) multi-laser metal AM system, as well as Ricoh and Arburg with their industrial plastic systems. Industrial 3D printers from 3D Systems were also exhibited via a local distributor.
IN(3D)USTRY also provided a platform for smaller companies and organizations. Perhaps the most notable was the desktop laser sintering machine from Natural Robotics, a slick looking platform which will be launched on Kickstarter imminently and offered at an introductory price around 6,000 EUR (7,059 USD). I talked at length with Djamila Olivier Gonzalez, a materials specialist and consultant who has supported the company through the development process. This is one to keep an eye on. The price performance ratio, in particular, should be noted.
Regional nuances contribute to the diversity and progress of the whole AM industry, and IN(3D)USTRY did a wonderful job of highlighting this, reinforcing the organizers’ intent to complement other (often larger) European shows with a valuable event in a growing industrial region for 3D printing and AM.
Talking with Martin Saez from Materialise, his Catalonian heritage not only informed my opinions on the political situation, but also provided valuable insight into the historical context of 3D printing in the area. Before joining Materialise, in a familiar tale, Martin worked for 3D Systems and actually sold the first SLA 7000 system in the region 20 years ago. Now at Materialise, Martin’s passion for the company is evident (I have yet to meet a Materialise employee that does not feel the same way) and the company’s core values of sustainability, co-creation and meaningful applications are at the heart of this.
I was also able to snatch a few minutes with Ramon Pastor, vice president (VP) and general manager (GM) of HP’s 3D Printing division after he hosted Spain’s Minister of Economics, Industry and Competitiveness. There was no specific mention of metal, but the real drive, he told me, is for HP to consolidate its MJF process, following the production roll-out in May of this year. This consolidation, Pastor said, is around more functionality and more diverse materials. He also reported the success of the company’s channel partners, with a definite increase in orders across EMEA, the US and Asia.
Perhaps the most insightful highlights at IN(3D)USTRY came through the well-curated and diverse conference agenda. A high proportion of aero, auto and medical OEMs working with 3D printing and AM were presenting and architecture also featured. The themes that came through though were familiar: the increasing reliance on additive tech for iterative prototyping; reduced product development times; the push towards production; and validation. The challenges highlighted by many OEMs included the need for more materials and at lower costs, qualification (in-process and for end-use parts) and requirements for process automation.
Melanie Barriere from the Department of Innovation at Renault made me sit up when she said: ‘We don’t use a lot of AM …. When we do, it’s mostly for functional prototypes and mostly plastic parts.’ Considering the vast AM knowledge base that Renault has via its Sports division, I was really surprised at this assertion, even while understanding that OEMs are generally reticent in presentations like this. That said, Renault is a massive organization and they wouldn’t be the first big company not to utilize their own IP across divisions.
I clearly remember talking to two different Rolls-Royce employees at one event—one was there as an expert in AM, the other was there to discover what AM was about and didn’t even know the company had in-house AM machines, let alone how to access them.
IN(3D)USTRY has all the right ingredients to continue its growth trajectory and to provide an industrial platform for the 3D printing and AM sector in Southern Europe.