Once a novelty at the show, the 3D printer has become the star of the show.
The additive manufacturing process was center stage on Tuesday at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit for RAPID+TCT, the flagship event of Southfield-based manufacturing association SME.
Hundreds of engineers and company representatives roamed the showroom floor as machines hummed, printing everything from precision car parts to Mandalorian helmets. Nearly 400 exhibitors registered for the three-day event, giving a compelling image to buzzwords like “Industry 4.0” and “the next industrial revolution”.
“A new era of manufacturing has arrived,” said Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA, during a keynote address. “This revolution represents a convergence of our physical and virtual worlds, and what this convergence does is set the stage for additive manufacturing to reshape the industrial world.”
3D printing technology and additive manufacturing in general – a process that uses CAD software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, into precise shapes to create an object – has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past few years from prototypes and printed toys at a snail’s pace to rapidly producing parts in a wide range of products as mundane as coffee makers and as cutting-edge as SpaceX rockets.
The global 3D printing market reached a value of $17.54 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $79.4 billion by 2028, according to India-based market researcher Reports and Data with a office in New York.
The technology has yet to reach mainstream manufacturing, largely due to high adoption costs, but plans are underway to change that.
For example, Automation Alley’s Project Diamond has invested $10 million since 2020 in 3D printers for 244 local manufacturers, creating one of the largest 3D printing networks in the United States. The project was launched to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) during the outbreak of the coronavirus. pandemic, but has since been used to produce parts due to supply shortages.
“…It has become a tool for these manufacturers to improve and increase production of much-needed parts in a time of supply chain disruptions and shortages,” the Oakland County Executive said. , David Coulter, in a press release last week.