SmarTech Publishing Senior Analyst, Davide Sher recently attended the Materialise World Summit in Brussels recently. His notes from the event.
Recent significant investments pouring into the industry from large corporations, including the software and technology powerhouses such as Siemens, Dassault Systemes, SAP and more, have accelerated the transition for the use of AM technologies in serial production. Large 3D printing bureaus turned “additive factories” like Materialise are amongst the companies that are best suited to exploit the new opportunities that are emerging. The recent Materialise World Summit held in Brussels showed how the Belgian company is looking to work with all its partners to further accelerate and complete this transition, starting from major adopting segments such as aerospace, automotive and medical applications.
The global conference that the leading European 3D printing factory organizes every two years or so (which is roughly the rate at which AM technology doubles in terms of capabilities) brings together some of the most relevant manufacturers and adopters of 3D printing worldwide, both as speakers and participants. Companies like Airbus, GKN, GE, Dassault and SAP showed off some of their achievements in the “industrial AM track” while top medical professionals gave the audience an idea of what is possible today in the “healthcare AM track” of conferences.
Compared to the event held in 2014, the number of conference tracks was reduced from four to two. The 2014 event, however, came at an exceptional time – with Materialse soon to become publicly listed on the NASDQA index – and the content provided was even too abundant for everyone to fully benefit from it. The (justified) high price tag of this latest edition of the conference, which still offered some of the most advanced and updated content available on the latest evolutions of AM, was meant as a way to select an audience that focuses on 3D printing as a truly cost effective mean for advanced manufacturing applications.
The two-day event also included a “networking” area where conference sponsors, Materialise partners and internal Materialise divisions showed off some of their 3D printing capabilities and products. These ranged from the Bicicletto futuristic e-bike from Italian company SPA to 3D printed parts form EOS, HP and Concept Laser, to advanced 3D printing materials from BASF and DSM.
The initial plenary session was kicked off by Materialise founder Wilfried “Fried” Vancraen, who made an assessment of the past decade – and the relative Materialise conferences that took place over that time period – during which a $1 billion industry grew to become a $6 billion dollar opportunity, on the road to exponential growth. During the initial plenary session. Jonathan Morris, from US-based Mayo Clinic supported this theory with clear examples of what they were able to achieve through 3D printing in their respective fields.
Materialise, and its industry leading suite of AM software, have focused on the implementation of AM in the healthcare industry for the last two decades. 3D technology has been used in applications from designing and producing custom devices and instruments, to planning complex clinical procedures and training future medical professionals more effectively. Several more successful cases for implementing 3D technology into production for the healthcare segment were highlighted, with a specific focus on metal implants (CMF in particular) and polymer based prosthetic and support applications.
The industrial track of conferences focused primarily on how additive manufacturing has demonstrated its ability to transform supply chains, business models and even entire industries. The themes of the conference revolved around how implementing AM in production means understanding a delicate interplay between several factors which include application, scope of the technology, design options and 3D print software. A particular focus was placed on using next generation CAD software for designing topology optimized, generative structured specifically for AM.
The over fifty speakers spread across a two-day period spoke on behalf of industry pioneers in segments ranging from actual 3D printer and 3D software production to include both industrial and even consumer product applications. The main industry experts were also invited to attend, with the first day culminating with an evening gala, held in the exclusive Concert Noble location in Central Brussels. Here Fried Vancraen took the opportunity to thank all those that have worked and are still working the company to “materialize” the founder’s dream of custom, optimized sustainable industrial production through AM.