Open and frank sharing of what works and what doesn’t is what makes the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) conferences so consistently valuable to 3D-printing newcomers and old-timers alike. The word must be getting out, as attendance at this month’s program, now in its 26th year, jumped from 350 to 531 over the previous year, and more than half the crowd were first-time attendees. Heard everywhere was a non-stop buzz of nitty-gritty discussion about 3D printing systems, technology, materials, services, processing tips and standards.
As keynote speaker and consultant Todd Grimm of T. A. Grimm & Associates repeated several times, this event forms a “band of brothers” who truly wants to help each other make the most of what the ever-improving AM field has to offer. Such talks as “Preparation to Part: Operations of EOS DMLS” by Tim Gornet (University of Louisville), “SLS Build Preparation and Setup for Beginners” by Jordan Weston (MSOE) and John Broome (Harvest Technologies), and “Stereolithography – Testing, Tuning and Troubleshooting” by Andrew Graves (Solid Concepts) presented objective, real-world advice toward getting the best possible parts from each system.
News from Vendors
System vendors took the opportunity to make a number of new-product and business announcements. Stratasys, one of the event’s Diamond sponsors, introduced Endur, a tough, flexible material said to simulate polypropylene, for use with all Objet EdenV, Objet Connex, Objet Connex3 and Objet 30 Pro 3D printers. EOS displayed its two recently announced corrosion-resistant metals: Stainless steel 316L, an alloy with high ductility, and titanium Ti64ELI, both of which are suitable for medical implants.
3D Systems, which seems to be in an acquisition-du-jour mode, confirmed that Medical Modeling (Golden CO) will be joining its ranks, while Stratasys staff were equally pleased that service bureaus Harvest Technologies (Belton TX) and Solid Concepts (Valencia CA) have come on board.
DSM Somos, also a Diamond sponsor, probably won the cool-factor award with its sneak preview of a thermo-chromic (color-change) material that is opaque black at room temperature but turns absolutely clear when moderately heated. (The demo team let attendees dip samples in warm water – the change was almost instantaneous.) DSM also introduced SOMOS PerFORM, a thermally stable nanocomposite for SLA systems, said to be more accurate for tooling and to speed up both build-time and part cleaning.
Metals were again a major topic of interest; Stefan Ritt of SLM Solutions, and one of AMUG’s European Union representatives, said definitely, “Industry wants bigger, faster metal systems.” His company along with Renishaw, Concept Laser, EOS, ExOne, 3D Systems (with a ProX 300 on display) and Optomec are clearly putting great effort into meeting that need, such that AM metal options strongly balanced those for plastics in the exhibit hall. Concept Laser announced it is setting up a new US headquarters in Dallas in June, and as another sign of expanded interest in metals, the Metal Powder Industries Federation was there with a first-time booth. That group provides information on standards and is keeping an eye on AM applications.
Graham Tromans, the other AMUG European Union representative, compared the US additive manufacturing market and investment levels to others around the world, with some intriguing data and updates. For example, he reported that Solido, the PVC-laminate AM-system company founded in Israel but effectively gone by 2012, has been bought by Zijin-Lead Electronics of Nanjing, China (backed by Fujitsu). In an interesting twist, the company is now moving to Alabama as a result of a recent symposium designed to bring small Chinese businesses to the US.
AMUG attendees learn as much in informal conversations as at the presentations and workshops, so it’s a great event to put on your calendar for 2015, when the conference returns to Jacksonville, FL.