I think I can speak for everyone when I say it has been a pleasure to watch the additive manufacturing industry grow from simple concepts and ideation in the early 1980’s to the accurate high speed production level workhorses we see before us today. The innovations that brought us here did not simply happen overnight nor in one single solitary place, which is why the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) is such a significant event. It provides a platform for all the smart and talented individuals that both contribute to and consume in the additive manufacturing industry to come together to teach, learn and collaborate with peers and colleagues.
Additive Manufacturing Users Group Experience
Walking through the AMUGexpo and attending the countless seminars and workshops held throughout the week is very much like drinking through a fire hose. High volumes of incredibly valuable and insightful information fill the heads of the attendees and exhibitors alike, as questions go back and forth inspiring new ideas that could one day shape the future of the world around us. While it would be nearly impossible to retain every piece of information exchanged at AMUG, there were a few main concepts that would rear their heads as thought leaders and innovators spoke and gave presentations. The industry seems to be trending toward accessibility and sustainability while keeping optimization at the forefront of their minds.
Shift from Hardware to Software
Early innovations in the industry centered around the printer hardware, focusing on improving things like build speeds, accuracy, resolution and so on. As we see the paradigm shift in additive toward AM for production, we see a greater need for end-to-end solutions with plug-and-play hardware and software, making the benefits of additive more accessible to users from a fiscal and functionality standpoint. One way Stratasys is making 3D printing more accessible, is with GrabCAD Software Development Kits (SDK’s). These kits enable users to seamlessly integrate their Stratasys equipment into their pre-existing production workflow, which means companies can more readily adopt Industry 4.0 thinking into their organizations.
Sustainable 3D Printing
Now more than ever, companies are forced to strategically plan for the future while executing in the present, which is a lot easier said than done. One major trend is using recycled or natural materials as model material to cut down on waste. The new Stratasys H350 3D printer doubles down on sustainability by using PA11 which is both eco-friendly and 100% bio-based and by using a 70:30 recycled powder ratio for operation, drastically reducing the amount of waste experienced with some other methods of additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing also helps provide a more sustainable ecosystem when major supply chain interruptions happen as we have seen in recent world events. As raw material shortages and shipping logistics burden manufacturer’s globally, additive manufacturing can help reduce supply chain hiccups.
Last but certainly not least, the additive manufacturing industry is heavily focused on optimization, especially as we begin to see some technologies positioned as production machines. Thanks to a concept known as “topology optimization” engineers around the globe are capable of leveraging the true potential of additive manufacturing by deploying software tools to automatically optimize their designs based on a given set of parameters and constraints, all while reducing the overall weight and material usage. While topology optimization is not a new concept, the resulting structures can be very organic, thus lacking the orthogonality or symmetry to be produced via subtractive manufacturing.
The additive manufacturing industry is in a constant evolutionary process where materials, software, and just about every aspect of 3D printing is being scrutinized and consequently optimized. The need for additive manufacturing has become abundantly clear as we witnessed supply chains crumble and labor forces dwindle.
AMUG 2022 was full of industry leaders, technological pioneers and creative innovators who came together to share their passion for their industry. It was a cornucopia of hardware OEM’s, such as Stratasys, and even material developers such as Covestro, who are constantly working on new and exciting products to help shape the world around us, one layer at a time.
Want to learn more about trends in additive manufacturing? Watch this on-demand webinar “TriMech Panel: Emerging Trends in 3D Engineering”