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Blog on recent AM & 3D Printing Conference

21 July 2016 ...

Now in its eleventh year, the International Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing Conference has long established itself as a platform for cutting-edge research and innovation. This year’s Conference was no exception, with 3-days of academic and industrial presentations covering processes from across the technology readiness level scale.

Whilst some of the research presented was fantastically futuristic, others such as Ibo Matthews from Laurence Livermore National Laboratory’s superb study into melt pool dynamics is directly applicable to 3T. Although DMLS (metal Additive Manufacturing [AM]) has been around for many years, high-quality research like this will keep pushing development and will enable us to refine our processes even further.

Even more encouraging was the level of commitment and investment into AM technology demonstrated by the industry speakers and the pace at which AM is being adopted by organisations. Over the last 18 years, 3T has worked with a wide range of companies at every stage of the adoption curve, from initial interest through to a comprehensive corporate strategy. What was clearly apparent at this year’s Conference was how many companies have progressed along this journey, developing a deep understanding of the technology and the benefits that it can offer their business.

AM Conf blog 2

Kicking things off on Wednesday was Dr Raymond “Corky” Clinton from NASA with a presentation on where they are now and where they are going. NASA has been no stranger to press releases about 3D Printing in recent years, but they did leave you questioning the seriousness with which this was being approached and the timescales for anything happening. Raymond’s presentation quickly put those doubts to rest – we are talking massive part consolidation for engine components, printed buildings built using extraterrestrial material and microgravity printers. In order to drive adoption, Raymond argued, large organisations have to take an active lead in developing standards for their supply chain that will ensure quality is built into the parts. In a very similar vein, Mark Swan of AWE talked about the processes that they are putting in place to help their engineers choose the right process and material for the application, as well as developing a bank of material data to support the use of AM. These are practical steps that make adoption possible, especially within conservative and high-risk industries.

Later, Martin Wallace from GSK described the process that they are currently going through to adopt Additive Manufacturing for pharmaceutical production. Martin described in detail the challenges faced by companies such as GSK when considering new technologies such as 3DP Printing, but how they have a responsibility to both their patients and shareholders to push the boundaries. What was most interesting was the discussion around the importance of open source collaboration – not necessarily something associated with Big Pharma – in order to ensure that learning is shared quickly.

Another big name at the conference this year was Alcoa, showcasing the enormous investment that they have made in their AM operations, including the development of the Ampliforge process. This is a superb example of an organisation seeing AM not as a threat to their traditional business of casting and forging, but as another tool in their toolbox. In this way, they are taking large-scale AM parts into series production – an exciting step forwards for the industry.

At 3T, we work closely with our customers to help them on their journey to AM adoption. We know that by incorporating expert 3D Printing knowledge at the outset, we can move quickly from concept to production. Events such as the Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing Conference prove that there is enormous interest from a diverse range of industries and that organisations around the world are now seriously engaging in implementing Additive Manufacturing as a production technology.

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