Walking the aisles of Formnext, the world’s largest expo for 3D printers, it was clear that printer makers all got the same memo: Display impressive parts your printer can make, keep the printers in the back of the booth.
From massive copper rocket engines to colorful polymer-printed ice cream cones, an entire EV concept car, and countless medical models, jigs, tools, and molds. The product, not the process, was the star of this year’s Formnext.
Except, that is, for a handful of companies focused on the next frontier: automated production using robotics and conveyor systems to establish AM as a scalable, hands-free, 24/7 manufacturing method.
Stratasys, the giant 3D printer and material maker, for example, displayed its future vision of automated additive manufacturing with a production cell prototype, complete with robotic arms to move printed parts from one stage to the next.
Italian 3D printer maker WASP featured a production automation solution it developed for a customer who wanted thousands of clay vases 3D printed. The conveyor system moves one finished print down the belt, lays down a new build plate, and the next print begins. Another printer maker Traditive was on hand to show off its Amcell 8300 that prints parts, ejects them to a storage module, and loads a platform unattended for continuous production. Lastly, 3D printer manufacturer 3DCeram featured its Smart Ceramic Factory for printing ceramic parts in a semi-automated line.
From automation to acquisitions, materials to software, and especially upgraded printers, the list of those who didn’t have news at Formnext might be shorter. Below is a look at some of the most promising printer debuts, but keep in mind that very few of these are currently available. They’ll be rolled out with more detail in 2023, and we’ll add them to our new printer guide here:
All of the new FDMs at Formnext were high-temperate machines. We’re talking heated beds, headed chambers, and superhot nozzles for materials, such as PEEK and PC. Are industrial FDM makers completely ceding the PLA territory to non-industrial giants like Ultimaker and Raise3D, or are we seeing companies filling the demand for end-use parts in high-performance materials?
Regardless of the answer, engineers looking to 3D print with technical polymers to replace metal in demanding environments now have more printers to choose from.
|miniFactory||Ultra2||FDM||Twice as fast as previous versions, new Aarni quality control and assurance software|
|Hage3D||Mex & Precise Line||FDM||High-temp FDMs in four sizes for engineering grade materials, 4-extruder option, pellet extruder option|
|Intamsys||Pro 310||FDM||New quick change IDEX dual nozzle system|
|Apium||P400||FDM||High-temp FDM with zone heater that heats the part, not the chamber|
|Modix||Big Series Generation 4||FDM||Full product-line upgrade to IDEX and more robust motors|
|NematX||Nex 01||FDM||Extrudes a specialized liquid crystalline polymer said to be stronger than PEEK|
|Liqtra||FX-7 Pro||FDM||Seven-nozzle in a print head for speed|
Swiss Start-up NematX introduced its material extrusion platform Nex 01. It looks like an FDM, but it doesn’t print with the thermoplastics you may be familiar with. Instead, it prints with liquid crystalline polymers, which are a special type of thermoplastic, NematX says produces parts with mechanical and thermal properties better than PEEK. The company has its eye on appealing to industries that need exceptionally durable parts for harsh environments. Price: $150,000 – $180,000.