formnext: up-and-coming as the biggest trade show for additive manufacturing

Dec. 1, 2016
Two-year old Frankfurt trade show sets a fast pace for additive manufacturing vendors and customers.

It is hard to say what the biggest event might be for the additive manufacturing community: The 3D printing geeks could refer to CES in Las Vegas, while blue chip industry would rather go for IMTS in Chicago. And there are 70 more events on the calendar for 2017. But if you look for truly focused events where you see the full process chain from materials to applications, then the formnext in Frankfurt, Germany, is probably the place to go.

The four-day event debuted in 2015 when a considerable number of exhibitors moved away from the German EuroMold fair. In 2016 formnext impressed with excellent numbers: 307 exhibitors welcomed 13,384 visitors, a 49% increase over last year. Just for comparison: the RAPID in Orlando, FL counted 4,446 attendees, the German Rapid.Tech and FabCon 3.D had some 4,500 visitors.

The trade show includes all things related to additive manufacturing, from materials, software, and large and small devices, to numerous applications. The focus was on industrial technology from players such as Additive Industries, Concept Laser, EOS, and SLM Solutions. Bigger names on the show were Siemens, TRUMPF, HP, and, of course, GE.

Several industrial users like Airbus or Dassault systems were represented by subsidiaries. But there was also a startup challenge and many offerings for those entering the 3D printing industry. For example, Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen presented a device for selective laser melting (a metal powder 3D printer) for less than 20,000 €.

Talk of the townGE acquisitions

Additive manufacturing with all its sub-topics of selective laser melting or laser metal deposition is about to move from the niche to a wider industrial arena. Best indicator for this process might be the current endeavor of General Electric to build GE Additive with an investment of $1.5 billion. Recently Mohammad Ehteshami, Vice President and General Manager at GE Additive uncovered bold plans how he wants to develop the new additive business to $1 billion by 2020.

Among the remarkable GE investments were ARCAM and Concept Laser. The latter sold a 75% stake majority to GE for $599 million (€549 million). Most discussed on the floor was one deal they actually didn’t make: A $732.9 million (€672 million) bid for SLM Solutions Group AG failed, after some investors refused the deal.

What else?

The adjacent technical conference drew a total of 647 participants from 25 countries. Several events such as the startup challenge and the Purmundus Challenge will probably repeat when formnext convenes again on November 14, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. [Editor’s note: the Purmundus website is well worth a visit to see the future of additive manufacturing.]

For more information on formnext, visit the trade show website.

About the Author

Andreas Thoss | Contributing Editor, Germany

Andreas Thoss is the Managing Director of THOSS Media (Berlin) and has many years of experience in photonics-related research, publishing, marketing, and public relations. He worked with John Wiley & Sons until 2010, when he founded THOSS Media. In 2012, he founded the scientific journal Advanced Optical Technologies. His university research focused on ultrashort and ultra-intense laser pulses, and he holds several patents.

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