Oct 10, 2017 | By David

This year’s IN(3D)USTRY expo in Barcelona, one of the world’s largest 3D printing conferences, had a schedule that was even more packed than that of the inaugural event in 2016. IN(3D)USTRY had invited speakers and exhibitors from every tier of the 3D printing eco-system, and the big hitters from the likes of Sony and Airbus rubbed shoulders with 3D printing start-ups, pioneering designers, and representatives of local technology initiatives.

To make this mouth-watering additive manufacturing smorgasbord a little easier to digest, the event was organized roughly into three parts, with each day focused on a particular industrial sector.

Day one of the conference was dedicated to two of the most high-profile and successful recent adopters of 3D printing technology, the Automotive and Aerospace industries. Along with the talks from SEAT, Renault, FCA, the European Space Agency, and other major players, there were also ample opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the 3D printing companies responsible for the recent additive manufacturing revolution in the aerospace and automotive sectors.

HP was on hand to show off many of its groundbreaking developments in the automotive field (and other sectors), evidently part of its renewed efforts to consolidate its presence in the 3D printing market, which it joined last year with its Jet Fusion 3D Printers.

The company’s main event was a full working demonstration of the HP Jet Fusion 3D printing system, which took place twice daily and was always well attended. Particular attention was paid to the company’s major Jet Fusion hardware breakthroughs: the cooling system and the material management system.

We were able to see the ease with which the rapid cooling station and the vacuum-powered powder recycling tube can be deployed and detached, as HP made a point of showing its improved, end-user-specific knowledge for the industrial 3D printing world. Attendees were also given the chance to check out the Jet Fusion’s proprietary software solution.

As for the end result of all this innovation, HP’s work with the Barcelona-based Stop and Go racing team took pride of place on a podium that also offered a peek inside several other impressive motorsports projects. Formula One competitor Renault presented some 3D printed prototypes of its racing and road vehicles, from various stages of development.

Over in the "Speaker’s Corner," a number of enlightening discussions and demonstrations were offered on a daily basis by the likes of Ricoh, the influential materials pioneer, and Arburg, which explained its groundbreaking plastic freeforming process (APF) that negates the need for molds.

The second day of the conference turned to the healthcare, retail, and consumer goods sector, with talks and exhibits providing some insights into how 3D printing has been integrated into this supply chain and what kind of changes it might be bringing about.

A key theme that arose during day two was that of materials innovation and sustainability, as the industry’s improved efficiency is now also an urgent response to environmental pressures to cut down on waste.  A number of key talks as well as a roundtable discussion shed some light on the way that industrial figures are recalibrating their technology strategies in order to better harmonize with the environment and community of which they are part.

Peter Hanappe, head of Sony’s Computational Science Labs, told the audience about a recent experimental project he had carried out in collaboration with a group of farmers in the Normandy region of France. In an effort to enable more sustainable food production systems, his team pioneered the use of 3D scanning technology to model various plant features.

This was then used in conjunction with a robotics system in order to more efficiently water crops. However, the Ateliers Paysans farming organization and many others like it around the world have been using similar genetic selection techniques for decades, and Hanappe’s team was careful not to impose its own relatively untested phenotyping process too forcefully.

Cecilia Raspanti of Amsterdam-based technology institute Waag Society also stressed the importance of collaboration in the broadest sense. Dyes used in her most recent digital fashion projects took inspiration from natural shades and from traditional craftsmanship technqiues, and the Waag Society-organized Fablabs bring together ideas from many different disciplines.

Raspanti was enthusiastic about the idea that her studio, the maker community, the retail market, and the natural environment were all connected as part of the same eco-system.

This movement towards balance and more sustainable relationships was evident from the wearables on display at this year’s show. Yunikyu’s 3D printed eyewear is one of the most advanced examples so far of personalization bringing together the worlds of fashion and healthcare. The impressive-looking metallic finish and unique designs of these lightweight frames drew lots of attention to the booth, where the software behind Yuniku was available for a demonstration.

A scan of the patient’s eyes is used to create a 3D model for glasses that will ideally position the lens relative to the eye, enhancing vision correction as well as the aesthetic appeal. In a similar vein, the HP-powered Super Feet insoles were on display not far away. The hardware and software parts of the unique 3D foot scanning technology that HP has developed were demonstrated, as were the customized orthotic insoles that are produced using the Jet Fusion 3D printer.

Also courtesy of HP, we got a look at what the future of toys might look like, thanks to the company's collaboration with Look Real 3D. We saw that the 3D scanning technology pioneered for use in personalized wearables can be similarly used to add value to the waning toy market by creating hyper-realistic models, such as this eerily lifelike doll.

Meanwhile, the Reshape design contest nominees gave a taste of what the future of wearables might look like, going beyond the filling of a gap in the market to identify a whole range of innovative and imaginative ways that the relationship between bodies, technology, and environment could be conceived.

IN3DUSTRY finished on day three with a focus on industrial additive manufacturing, EU-sponsored technology programs, and the various ways the two can intersect. Talks were given by representatives of Siemens as well as the influential collaborative 3D technology platform IAM3D Hub.

Zaragoza-based technology center AITIIP had a major presence at the conference, both on the main stage and over in the smaller Speaker’s Corner. Head of R&D Berta Gonzalo introduced us to both the Kraken and Barbara projects, two 3D printing schemes that should prove to have a growing influence over industry in the years to come.

Barbara is an EU initiative that AITIIP is in charge of co-ordinating. In keeping with the drive towards a more sustainable 3D printing economy, it is intended to produce a new range of plastic engineering materials that are biologically based and biodegradable, thus reducing waste and pollution.

Gonzalo suggested that the materials currently available, such as PET, still have some way to go in terms of their mechanical properties. She explained that even as they advance in quality this inferior reputation limits their use, particularly in an industry such as construction where the extensive regulations cause a strong resistance to any operational changes.

Existing plastic 3D printing technology is also limited as to the range of compatible materials, and this is something that the Barbara project is intending to rectify. The Kraken project is focused more on this hardware aspect, with the aim of developing a fully automated hybrid additive and subtractive manufacturing machine for the production of large aluminium parts, up to 20 meters long.

‘‘If you don’t attend events like this, you’re already behind’’, IN(3D)USTRY organizer Miguel Serrano remarked towards the end of the second day of the conference, and he seems right to emphasize that the pace of 3D printing development is picking up again.

In particular, the amount of diversity and collaboration between different sectors is one area that is exponentially growing. The overall impression that IN(3D)USTRY gave was of an increasing openness to ideas, increasing awareness of environmental factors affecting how manufacturing should operate, and an increased focus on the specific demands of citizens as well as consumers and clients.



Posted in 3D Printing Events



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