Exhibitions Formnext: A new home for the international AM industry?
Germany - Formnext 2015 attracted 8.982 visitors, 42% came from outside Germany, organiser Mesago announced. The atmosphere in Frankfurt's Hall 3.1 was good, the show was very professional and exhibitors were busy. The topic of additive manufacturing (AM) - and specifically the question how the full-scale industrialisation of AM can be achieved in a rapid and cost-effective manner - dominated the showground. Tool and mould makers were there, but organiser Mesago didn't deliver the amount of exhibitors coming from the tool, die and mould making sector as one would expect from an "international exhibition on AM and toolmaking".
When your feet hurt and you feel a bit exhausted after having spent a whole day from the crack of dawn till late at night at an exhibition, you know the show was good. The opening ceremony and the many press conferences held on the first day were well attended and met with keen interest from industry experts, trade show visitors and journalists. Stratasys, for instance, had the largest booth ever at a European show, and I heard later that night that the company was very happy with the leads generated on the first day.
This year was a rather unusual one in terms of exhibitions targeted at the tool and mould making sector. In the past there was one event in everyone's diary each December/November: Euromold. The successful show kept growing since it moved from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt in 1995 and attracted around 1800 exhibitors in the mid-2000's. Last year, Euromold moved to Düsseldorf and Frankfurt announced to stage its own exhibition: Formnext powered by tct. In May this year, Stuttgart's successful inaugural Moulding Expo attracted around 15,000 visitors, while the formerly successful Euromold lagged behind expectations, attracting around 11,000 visitors, organiser Demat claimed.
Now it is showtime in Frankfurt. Formnext covers 14,000 m² of exhibition space, and 233 exhibitors (48% come from outside Germany) are showcasing innovative products and new developments, mainly in the area of AM. Industrialisation and how to move AM into mass production was one dominating topic.
Industrial metal AM system premieres in Frankfurt
For instance, visitors were able to virtually explore Additive Industries' Metal-FAB1 industrial metal AM system, which celebrated its world premiere at the exhibition. The Eindhoven (NL)-based young company is dedicated to bringing metal additive manufacturing for functional parts from "lab to fab", it says, by offering a modular 3D printing system and seamlessly integrated information platform to high-end and demanding industrial markets. The machine's multiple build chambers with individual integrated powder handling make this industrial 3D printer the first to combine up to four materials simultaneously in one single machine, the company explained, and features a furnace for integrated stress relief heat treatment.
Furthermore, more and more companies offering complementing technologies cooperate to move AM to the next level. We have already reported about the partnership of GF and EOS GF and EOS partner to integrate AM technology into mould inserts production process. At the Stratasys press conference, Stuart Heavyside from PTC explained the advantages of PTC and Stratasys working together. The companies want to deliver a seamless experience between PTC Creo design software and Stratasys 3D printing solutions. According to PTC, the joint vision is to make additive manufacturing more accessible to designers and manufacturers and to allow them to fully realise the advantages of the technology. These advantages are said to include geometric freedom and part functionality, economic low volume and on-demand manufacturing, the production of customised products, and more.
At the opening ceremony, the Hessian Minister of Economics, Tarek Al-Wazir, welcomed the fact that Formnext has established a key international platform for additive technologies and modern product development in Frankfurt, which has the potential to become a leading international exhibition for this cutting-edge technology, he said.
Whether this inaugural event with 233 exhibitors will in fact create enough momentum to become exactly that - or even a leading show for the international tool and mould making sector - remains to be seen. We will continue this report next week. The show runs until Friday, 20 November 2015.