RAPID + TCT returned to the real world, and so did we with the recommencement of North America’s largest 3D printing event.
While live trade shows one of the casualties of the pandemic, vaccine availability and rising vaccination rates have seen in-person events dot the 2021 calendar once again. The city of Chicago saw another return as well, as a mask mandate was again in place for indoor venues like RAPID + TCT 2021 host McCormick Place. International travel restrictions added another dimension of change for this year’s edition, with a significantly lower number of exhibitors and attendees from abroad — though certainly more than I’d expected to see.
RAPID + TCT 2021 Highlights
So how was the event?
In a word, excellent.
In a few words: busy. Eventful. Connected. Reuniting. Cheery. Changed.
In a thousand words:
While certainly new company announcements were made and plentiful product introductions were on display, the highlight was absolutely the people. Real-world, real-life, three-dimensional colleagues — what a delight!
Kristin Mulherin, my fellow Women in 3D Printing Board Director, and Dyndrite’s Head of Market Development, captured that sentiment in a LinkedIn poll asking what respondents’ “favorite thing about RAPID + TCT 2021” was. The results of 90 votes are clear:
- Great presentations & panels: 8%
- Learning on the expo floor: 13%
- Networking!: 59%
(Plus an additional 20% who just wanted to see the poll results.)
RAPID + TCT 2021 Introductions
Ahead of the gathering in Chicago, event organizer SME announced that “over 230 additive manufacturing (AM) tools and technologies will be unveiled at SME’s RAPID + TCT, North America’s largest and most influential AM event…”
Among the new products, as highlighted in the SME release, were:
- AMT – Additive Manufacturing Technologies will launch several new products, including the PostPro SF100 and PostPro SF50, which are automated chemical vapor smoothing systems designed for finishing 3D printing parts. Various 2-in-1 Depowdering and Shot Blast Systems are among other AMT products to be showcased.
- AddUp will reveal their FormUp 350 New Generation–a new solution for metal additive manufacturing using laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF). This modular and scalable machine offers a high level of productivity and allows the manufacturing of high-quality parts while ensuring user safety.
- BASF Forward AM will launch several of the company’s Ultrafuse technologies including the Ultrafuse PPSU, a material specially developed for FFF printing. Based on BASF´s advanced Ultrason materials, the Ultrason resins used in PPSU are amorphous thermoplastics derived from polyethersulfone, polysulfone and polyphenylsulfone–ensuring a very high thermal resistance.
- Cincinnati Inc will exhibit its MAAM machine in their booth, introducing its dual extrusion capability; it can do both pellet and filament extrusion. This is a fully customizable and versatile mid-scale 3D printer perfectly suited for a wide range of industrial applications with various materials.
- DMG MORI will complete their additive manufacturing product portfolio with the unveiling of the Lasertech 30 Dual SLM. DMG MORI, a global full-liner for additive processes, offers powder bed and the powder nozzle technology from a single source.
- Essentium will showcase their new HSE 280i HT 3D Printer. Essentium’s newest printer is the industry’s first 3D printer equipped with true independent dual extruders (IDEX), meaning each head is fully independent on both the X and Y-axis.
- Ricoh USA Inc will reveal the Ricoh 3D–a machine made for the healthcare industry. The Ricoh 3D utilizes a streamlined workflow, offering an integrated, end-to-end anatomic modeling solution with rapid turnaround.
- Sinterit Sp. Z o.o. will launch the Sandblaster SLS for a fully dust-free environment. The dust extraction system features excellent filtration, a hand-operated blast gun and a low mesh grill. The machine is an industrial-type cabinet that allows for easy rotation of big printouts.
- TheWell Bioscience will showcase various new Vitrogel hydrogel systems alongside VitroINK. A new generation of bioink systems, VitroINK can be either pre-mixed or mixed directly with cells by using a dual syringe system. Multiple biological functional components can be incorporated with VitroINK for different applications.
Certainly there was a lot to talk about in tech.
Additional announcements included Azul 3D’s first 3D printer introduction as well as AMFG joining Stratasys’ GrabCAD software partner program.
Still, it seemed live at the show that this year’s event had fewer announcements and introductions in general as they related to the technology.
Several attendees, exhibitors and visitors alike, noted that their impression was that many companies were holding bigger announcements back still — until either they could better gauge exactly what the competition was up to or when they were certain, in uncertain times, of the best launch process. That could mean Formnext for some, as organizers in Frankfurt continue to work toward the AM industry’s globally largest event. For others, that may mean staying virtual as announcements like SLM Solutions’ may not stay unique this year.
Virtual remains a strong option just now, and some companies are choosing to do both digital and live launches. For example, Essentium signalled ahead of RAPID + TCT the debut of its HSE 280i HT 3D printer, which was listed in the SME release and prominent on both the RAPID and co-located FABTECH exhibition floors.
Announcements, companies, and events look different this year than they did in the Before Times. That generally goes without saying. Still, we do have to say it. Expect different things. But definitely expect one thing to stay: the pace of innovation in additive manufacturing.
We’ll have more coverage soon from the 2021 RAPID + TCT experience.
Via RAPID + TCT