This past week I had the pleasure of attending RAPID + TCT 2018, a conference and exhibition that showcases 3D printing/additive manufacturing with a myriad new technologies, materials, and processes. The event, put on by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is a highlight of the year for us, and again, we came away overwhelmed (in a very good way) by all that we witnessed.
Much like last year, if there were three words to describe the SME’s RAPID + TCT 3D Printing & Manufacturing Event they would be metal, metal, and metal — machines producing metal parts were everywhere. This year marked the 28th event and seemed more like a mini IMTS than an additive manufacturing show with exhibitors ranging from material suppliers to post processors to traditional machining companies. There were, of course, the industry heavy hitters, but there were also a lot of startup companies exhibiting for the first time that made things really interesting.
Post-processing also got a lot of exposure as companies providing these technologies had more of a presence and recognizing that this important aspect of AM needs to be an integral part of the production process, and not relegated to being an afterthought.
This year’s theme was “3D In 360°,” meaning the industry is starting to come full circle in terms of capabilities and potential, and this theme was clearly evident in the technical sessions and on the exhibit show floor. This year continued a distinct change of industry direction from one-off rapid prototyping of parts to production quantities in the hundreds and even thousands.