Previewing 3D printing in Birmingham and Barcelona at TCT Show and IN(3D)USTRY

As the summer break closes out, the return to schools and universities heralds the (even more) sore feet season for any journalist covering additive tech as the 3D printing events calendar reaches its crescendo. September through to the end of the year involves a dramatic increase in diary entries and itinerary organization.

The next two events come pretty close together as both TCT Show, in Birmingham, UK, and IN(3D)USTRY, in Barcelona, Spain, take place on consecutive weeks through the end of September and into October. They both promise great opportunities for insight into the latest developments in 3D printing and up-to-date applications from their respective countries and further afield.

In its new and permanent three-day format, the 22nd edition of TCT Show is taking place at its now familiar venue the NEC and will run alongside the Interplas show, which is run by the same organizers and collocates with TCT Show every three years. As a leading plastics manufacturing industry event, Interplas has a significant crossover with TCT Show, despite the increasing emphasis on metals in additive.

For anyone like me, based in the UK and having been involved with additive tech for 20+ years, TCT Show brings with it a sense of nostalgia. The evolution of this event, however, has seen it grow into a significantly bigger beast than it was when it all began in 1996 (yes, I was there when it took place in Gaydon). The growth of TCT Show has been a direct reflection of the industry that it serves, which together with its longevity has ensured it is a priority fixture on the calendar for many exhibitors and visitors.

In 2017, the floorplan will accommodate more than 200 exhibitors. This, in combination with the 400 or so Interplas exhibitors, is set to provide the expected 10,000 visitors with a broad platform for scoping new developments, viewing equipment, products and services and meeting suppliers and potential suppliers face-to-face. And this is what TCT Show does really well, bringing together such a broad spectrum of companies under one very large roof. I doubt there is another venue in the UK that could comfortably accommodate it now, particularly when it’s a co-located show.

As you would expect, a high proportion of AM system OEMs will have a strong presence on the show floor, although there are a few notable absences from some of the old-school companies such as Mcor, Optomec, Realizer and Sciaky, and some of the newbies won’t be there either. However, there is also a high proportion of distributors and resellers exhibiting. Of note, there is the extended portfolio of Laser Lines, who along with its long-standing Stratasys range, will also represent the metal AM system from German OEM OR LASER. Laser Lines has also just announced it will be a reseller for US metal OEM Desktop Metal, which throws up an interesting dynamic.

While the additive hardware might be the main draw, it is not all that is to be found on the show floor. Other 3D technologies, including scanning and design software, will also be on show, together with services providers, material suppliers and a growing number of ancillary suppliers. A name that stood out on the exhibitor list with regard to the latter, and made me look further, was Guyson, which would traditionally have a large stand at Interplas. However, Guyson has a dedicated stand at TCT Show where it will be highlighting its latest powder recovery system.

Another thing that TCT Show does really well is to focus on information. The learning and education opportunities are a particular feature, notable in the extended conference program this year and the re-introduced Inspired Minds program for school-aged children.

The 2017 TCT Conference program will be offered across three stages: the main stage, the product stage and the tech stage. Highlights to look out for on the main stage include presentations from Simon Roberts, chief operation officer (COO), McLaren Racing (day one, 11 am); Sam Onukuri, head of the 3D Printing Centre of Excellence, Johnson & Johnson (day two, 10.30 am); and Gerd Manz, vice president (VP) technology, adidas (day three, 11 am). On the tech stage, I will be carving out time for the session ‘Occupational Exposure to Metal Powders in AM’ and the #3DTALK session organized by Nora Toure, founder of Women in 3D Printing, and featuring some of the other most inspiring women in the industry today.

The Start-Up Zone will once again provide a platform for new companies in the 3D printing industry to be a part of this event; and then new for 2017 is the TCT Awards. Awards ceremonies are an increasingly popular feature for the largest shows in this industry, most likely because they afford an opportunity to up the socializing and networking ante somewhat. With alcohol flowing and many egos on high alert, the 10 awards categories at the TCT Awards, taking place on the evening of September 27, are sure to be hotly contested.

Five days after TCT Show closes its doors on its 22nd edition in Birmingham, the doors open on the second edition of IN(3D)USTRY in Barcelona. Having not been to the first edition in 2016, I have little to go on except reports from a couple of associates that were pretty much blown away by the quality of the content of this show last year. On that basis, I am very much looking forward to experiencing it first-hand and reporting on it. Looking at the pre-show press announcements and the event program online, I don’t think my excitement is misplaced. Even putting aside the Barcelona factor (amazing city), the scope and intent of this event feels very different and perhaps that’s where its success lies.

With a banner headline of ‘From Needs to Solutions|Additive & Advanced Manufacturing Global Hub’, IN(3D)USTRY is targeting a strictly professional audience with the aim of hooking up experienced industrial users with potential users and a range of suppliers from the industry. You could argue that that is true of any industrial event to some degree, but looking through the participants on the program and this really does seem to go above and beyond.

The event, organized by Fira de Barcelona, is taking place on October 3-5, in Hall 3 of Fira de Barcelona's Gran Via venue.  Specific emphasis is being placed on 3D printing and additive manufacturing for four vertical industrial sectors—namely healthcare, automotive, aerospace and retail and consumer goods—whereby a large number of recognizable companies and brands ‘will share their experiences and the results achieved through the application of advanced and additive manufacturing’ [emphasis added.]

These participating companies have also been invited to present their future challenges directly to exhibitors, including system manufacturers but also companies from right across the ecosystem and value chain of this emerging sector.

The show's director, Miquel Serrano commented: ‘The second edition of IN(3D)USTRY From Needs to Solutions is aiming to be the meeting point for identifying the challenges posed by companies from the automotive, aeronautics, retail and health sectors and the solutions offered by all the players within these sectors, from printer manufacturers to software developers and the creators of robots, for example. In this regard, Serrano believes that ‘events like ours also have an added value; to help build community between all the sectors involved in the development and use of advanced and additive manufacturing.’

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to witnessing this format first hand.

And there is also an awards ceremony in Barcelona too. IN(3D)USTRY 2017 features the Reshape awards, based on a competition that aims to promote the use of wearable technologies and which brings together the world's leading 3D designers. The members of the international jury, including the Dutch 3D textile designer Cecilia Raspanti, the American artistic creator Grace Jun and the Scottish architect Adrian Welch will participate as speakers at the event.

IN(3D)USTRY 2017 is part of Barcelona Industry Week, which essentially means it is co-located with a series of other trade events, notably Expoquimia (chemical industry), Eurosurfas (surface treatment), Equiplast (plastics industry) and IoT Solutions World Congress (the internet!).

For two shows running so close together and being covered in the same preview, it is perhaps natural to compare them for various reasons—for instance, to determine suitability and productivity in terms of time away from the office as a visitor. Important to have perspective here, I think. There are obvious differences with longevity, reputation and size/scale being the most obvious and in the TCT Show’s favour. However, there are also some striking similarities, and here the co-location, particularly with a simultaneous event covering the plastics industry, stands out.

The huge, all-under-one-roof events like TCT Show certainly do have benefits for visitors in terms of providing convenient and rewarding time away from the office, but they can also be impersonal, exhausting and overwhelming, particularly for people representing companies that are approaching additive manufacturing for the first time (there are still plenty of them) and looking for an in-road. This is where some of the newer/smaller events such as IN(3D)USTRY can have a real impact and find success. Additive solutions are not always found in the breadth of product offerings, quite often they lie in the depth of experience, and companies are usually only looking for solutions within the context of their own application where shared experience is a premium.

The other main differentiating factor between these two events is geography. Of course, locale will often dictate a visitor’s attendance. Travel expenses are not so freely dispensed these days, and it doesn’t help when airlines cancel thousands of flights. That said, if you can find the time, I highly recommend trying to get to either of these events.

I’m fortunate enough to be going to both, so if you do make it, be sure to say hello.

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.