I am currently at Euromold in Frankfurt, one of the biggest 3D printing industry events. Euromold is a large fair for injection molding and all the 3D printing machine manufacturers and suppliers make an appearance there. Euromold is also traditionally where big announcements are made. It is a get together for people who have known each other for years as well as an excellent chance to scope out your competition. Many friendships and business relationships are cemented at Euromold and people continually flit from meeting to meeting amidst much cordiality. The mood was generally upbeat this year with many people reporting an unprecedented level of media interest and strong sales.
The two most exciting things so far were by Objet and Concept Laser. Objet showed off its Objet Connex 1000. This huge machine has a 1000 x 800 x 500mm build volume. Its an attractive beast and really makes large scale architectural models possible on Objet machines. This is a Connex machine so it can do multimaterial. Multimaterial means you can have different densities on your part so zou could make a fork that is soft and bendy in the handle while being tough and stiff further up. This is an incredible capability and is unique to Objet. This coupled with the fine details it can offer and its new stronger materials really makes a sea change for the company. Only a few years ago many of its parts were not functional and beset with problems of low melting temperatures. Now with this machine and the new material Objet is really making strides. Reportedly one German car manufacturer already has bought the Connex 1000. This is very good news for the industry and especially good news for its new merger partners Stratasys. Objet has a video of their new printer here. Update: here you can find a new video by Objet.
Meanwhile another German car manufacturer worked together with the Fraunhofer Institute and Concept Laser to develop the X line 1000 R. This laser cusing machine 3D prints aluminum parts to a size of 630 mm × 400 mm × 500 mm. This is a huge build volume for a metal machine and Daimler is using it to test parts and develop new car parts for Mercedes Benz. The idea is to eventually use additive manufacturing in the final production of cars. Daimler has a machine in opperation already. One additional innovation of the 1000R is that it has a build chamber and behind it a finishing chamber. This whole assembly can be rotated so the machine can be opperated continuously. While parts are removed on one end, the next print run can start on the other end. A brilliant idea! Voxeljet already has a continuous machine that feeds the parts through the machine and both applications greatly increase throughput. This is a huge step forward for direct metal manufacturing. The fact that an automotive manufacturer codeveloped this machine shows us that in addition to using a lot of 3D printing for prototyping, customization and short run parts they are now getting very serious about 3D printing cars. You can see an image of the machine here.
Laser cusing was hereto mainly used for the direct production of dental parts, jewlery and tooling and the build volumes were very small. Generally the technology has slow build times but less warping of large parts and smoother textures. The announcement caught a lot of people by surprise and amazed many. EOS is said to be working on a machine with a similar build volume. But EOS is still testing their machine. An EOS sales manager I spoke to said it was a good step for the industry because often large automotives often want two vendors for a particular technology space.
So far the automobile industry has made a big impression on this year´s Euromold and its also a good year for 3D printers called 1000. I can´t wait to find out more tomorrow.