AM Centers’ trend report from Formnext 2022
Printers get bigger and faster, software gets smarter, but we also spotted other trends among the 800 exhibitors at Formnext 2022. The fact that large scale AM using robots is on its rise was absolutely one of them.
After two years of restrictions and very limited possibility to meet, this year edition of the Fromnext exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, was the complete opposite. Almost 30 000 visitors from all corners of the world met physically with more than 800 exhibitors during four very intensive days in November 2022. The fair covered the latest and the greatest in additive manufacturing with a focus on plastic, metal, and ceramic materials.
A team from RISE and Chalmers visited Formnext with two missions; to assist in the large European project MANUELA booth with expertise and to connect, network, and understand what is happening within AM around the world. Many meetings were held with our AM Center partners and with potential new partners that could bring value and increase our community.
Trend 1: Full production flow
The market has a clear focus on making AM an established production technology. The large manufacturers of AM machines are now focusing on the full AM production flow from design, printing, postprocessing and quality assurance, including software. It is no longer enough to just present a machine if it is not something totally new and exotic.
Trend 2: Metal AM goes big – and small
For metals, part size is a clear driver. Several new systems with build sizes as large as 1.5 meter in Ti were shown. Going in the other direction, nano printers with resolution down to single microns were demonstrated. There are many providers of L-PBF systems quite similar with Velo 3D as an exception claiming that they can build support free. On the EB-PBF side new providers are entering the market such as JEOL, Wayland, and ProBeam. The market share is still small for EB-PBF compared to L-PBF but the technology is getting more attention. Binder Jet and Direct Energy Deposition systems has reached high level of automatization and the drive is for productivity and quality.
Trend 3: Robots for plastic and smart software
For plastics, large robotic printers were something new entering with full force. About ten exhibitors showed robotic cells with extruder systems. Clear focus on size, design freedom, and sustainability. And also, on software and how to industrialize this technology and make it available. Since flexibility is almost unlimited you could find robotic printer units in containers ready to be shipped were needed. Plastic printers with continous fiber reinforcement is also on the rise.
Trend 4: Strong development in ceramic AM
For ceramics, small size is important and the chemistry of the resins and slurries. Electrification is a driver for the ceramic printers. A big player such as Bosch is now offering services in ceramic printing as a service bureau. Combining different materials is also on the rise.