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The inside track on 3D printing at RAPID + TCT 2019

The biggest show in 3D printing is underway right now.

As always, the beat of RAPID + TCT 2019 is “what’s new in 3D printing?” As highlighted in show advisor Todd Grimm’s presentation on Monday, there is plenty to see in hardware, software, materials, applications and 3D scanning. Markforged’s Blacksmith AI technology has made its debut at the show. Titan Robotics is showing its ATLAS-H large scale dual extrusion system. There’s the BigRep Studio G2, Origin ONE, and the 3D Systems Modular Figure 4.

If you’ve been following the news at 3D Printing Industry, you’ll know that we are leading coverage on all the latest news live from Detroit this year. Our goal here is also to give an inside track on what’s happening at the show.

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3D printing for consumer products

A number of presentations at the start of each day so far have focused on end-use products made for consumers. Preceding Grimm’s talk on Monday,  California’s Carbon, and its sports safety-gear partner Riddell shared details of their SpeedFlex Precision Diamond partnership – a football helmet made with custom 3D printed padding. The plan with these helmets is, as discussed by Riddell R&D Manager Vittorio Bologna, to be able to custom-make interior padding for all players, from the NFL down to juniors.

On Tuesday, the end consumer theme (though not in a keynote) was continued by HP, revealing in a special presentation its partnership with Smile Direct Club, a mailout custom aligner company. Speaking in relation to the announcement Christoph Schell, successor to former HP President of 3D Printing Stephen Nigro, and the appointed President of 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing, explained, “Smile Direct Club has taken the opportunity of 3D printing to do an internet digital process, and basically disrupt an entire industry.”

3D printed objects, including a Kupol helmet, Scorpion steering wheel, and dental impression for Smile Direct Club from HP. Photo by Beau Jackson
3D printed objects, including a Kupol helmet, Scorpion steering wheel, and dental impression for Smile Direct Club from HP. Photo by Beau Jackson

Creativity and engineering

Though creativity may not be the first word that springs to mind when it comes to manufacturing, this topic has nevertheless cropped up several times in conversations throughout the show.

In acceptance of the SME Industry Achievement Award, Professor Emanuel “Ely” Sachs, co-founder and co-CTO of Desktop Metal, paid homage to the power of ideas. “In my work on engineering education,” he explained, “I use the idea that engineering involves the artful interplay between synthesis and analysis.”

“Psychologist […] observe that a creative personality is characterized by the co-existence of contrasting traits […] My favourite conundrum [is]: courageous yet humble.”

Professor Emanuel “Ely” Sachs, co-founder and co-CTO of Desktop Metal.
Professor Emanuel “Ely” Sachs, co-founder and co-CTO of Desktop Metal.

“In my experience, acting on creative courage while remaining humble is the most profound challenge of creative endeavour.”

“As we all know, 3D printing is a fabulous space for invention and innovation. And now is the time for us to bring it all together to transform manufacturing.”

From an education point of view, creativity was also discussed as a key leadership strategy in Bill Taylor’s keynote (co-founder and editor at Fast Company) on Tuesday. Detailing a case study with the brand manager of WD-40, Taylor said the company made a commitment to being “learning maniacs,” seeking new opportunities and technologies, in order to drive business of the household name, in the process increasing the til-then flat share price.

Further, for EOS CEO Dr. Adrian Keppler, creativity goes hand in hand with the company’s drive. “You need two elements in an organization,” he told me. “You need creativity, but you also need the power to execute ideas.”

“In the end you have to turn creativity into innovation, and innovation into business.”

EOS at RAPID + TCT 2019. Photo by Beau Jackson
EOS at RAPID + TCT 2019. Photo by Beau Jackson

Still to see at RAPID + TCT 2019

In day 3 of the show (day two since exhibits opened) the tone will be set by a keynote presentation from Michigan-headquartered medical company Stryker, that has been working to consolidate some parts of the 3D printed spinal implant market. This morning’s presentation by Naomi Murray, Director of Advance Operations for Additive Technology Solutions at Stryker, leads in nicely to the show’s ongoing medical conference track.

Some exhibitors worth checking out within the medical sector include XJet (booth #1103), whose ceramic 3D printing technology is being used to help treat early-stage cancer cells, and Renishaw (booth #827), the company behind the production of an implant used in a landmark trial for Parkinson’s Disease. 

Tomorrow, on the final day of exhibits, the attention will turn to automotive, which also has its own dedicated track at this year’s show in Motor City. Throughout RAPID + TCT General Motors (GM) is a hosting a dedicated Solution Center of hands-on 3D experiences for visitors at booth #165.

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Featured image shows the entrance to RAPID + TCT 2019. Photo by Beau Jackson