IMTS 2018 is behind us and we survived it! With thousands of exhibitors spread over a million+ square feet and shoulder to shoulder with well over 100,000 attendees, it’s a challenge to see what’s the latest and greatest, but we did our best.
Walking the show floor, I personally checked out hundreds of products and services and talked with dozens of exhibitors trying to find what was most interesting and unique. Although tough to determine, below are the hardware and software products that I considered to be the best of the best with a close runner up.
Hardware Best of Show: Wazer Desktop Waterjet
Wazer is a relatively new company (it began as a Kickstarter project) that had a booth directly across the aisle from ours, and we were impressed with both the machine itself, its low functional requirements (110V and a little water), as well as the crowds it attracted throughout the week.
The result of a design project of a group of University of Pennsylvania graduates, WAZER is the first desktop waterjet that cuts a wide variety of hard or soft material with a high level of precision. Initially the team was looking for an easy-to-use tool that could make precision cuts in hard materials. Existing desktop digital tools like 3D printers and laser cutters work well for soft materials, but the only affordable method for cutting metal, glass and stone was to use hand operated tools, both of which are time consuming and inaccurate.
“We set out to create the very first desktop waterjet cutting machine. WAZER is not just a low-cost tool for hobbies and prototypes – we wanted to empower individuals to turn ideas into durable, finished goods,” said co-founder Nisan Lerea.
WAZER takes standard drawing files like .svg or .dxf and cuts out the digital profile with a high-velocity jet that uses a combination of high pressure water and sand-like abrasive particles to cut through the work piece.
WAZER is the only desktop machine that cuts virtually everything, including steel, titanium, aluminum, glass, stone, tile, and carbon fiber. The waterjet machine is compact, self contained, and fits in any small workshop. It’s fully enclosed, making operation safe, clean, and quiet.
Wazer’s cutting area is 12″ x 18″ and kerf (width of cut) is 0.044″
Price for the Wazer desktop waterjet starts at $7,500, a good price for a machine with this level of design and capabilities.
For More Information: Wazer
Hardware Honorable Mention: Velo3D Metal 3D Printer
I wrote about this new metal 3D printer a couple weeks ago (check out this link), and got to see it in action this week at IMTS, as well as some representative parts. The system actually consists of the following three parts:
Sapphire System: A laser powder bed metal additive 3D printing system designed for high-volume manufacturing and capable of building complex geometries including designs with overhangs that are less than five degrees and large inner diameters without supports. Sapphire’s integrated in-situ process metrology enables closed loop melt pool control.
Flow Print Preparation Software: The software includes support generation, process selection, slicing and simulation of complex part designs to validate execution feasibility before the build. Geometrical feature-driven processing enables low angles below 5 degrees.
Intelligent Fusion Technology: The technology that powers Flow software and the Sapphire system that optimizes the AM process by combining thermal process simulation, print prediction, and closed-loop control during print execution.
The parts produced were impressive in terms of size, density, and surface finish.
For More Information: Velo3D
Software Best of Show: nTopology
This company develops functional design and optimization software for additive manufacturing. The company has developed software with a unique combination of computational, procedural, and simulation-based design tools for creating lightweight and optimized parts that meet functional requirements. Its lattice design products include:
Element Free that provides a full set of lattice design tools for creating complex structures with variable properties.
Element Pro adds powerful editing, analysis, and data interchange features to Element Free’s structure design tools.
The heart of lattice design is the ability to create and use infinitely variable lattice topologies in your designs. With nTopology’s lattice rule builder you can do just that – select from a wide variety of predefined tessellations and units or create your own from scratch.
Element’s non-round thickening feature allows for lattice beams with non-round cross sections to be generated and thickened for improving printability or creating beams with specific directional properties, offset thickening promotes design freedom.
With the conformal structures tool, you can create lattices that follow the form of your part and support just the loads that you need them to.
The company gets it that STL files suck, and with its CAD interchange module, you can import and export native CAD data in a variety of formats including IGES, STEP, and Parasolid. Its Lattice Graph interchange file allows lattices to be imported and exported in a lightweight, open source, XML based file format, providing analysis capabilities for complex structures using existing FEA toolsets and without having to deal with slow, heavy 3D meshes.
There are a number of lattice design optimization tools out there on the market, many of which promise more than they can actually deliver, but nTopology’s products look like the real deal. In the future, the company is hoping to include subtractive manufacturing process capabilities to its additive manufacturing ones.
Interestingly, nTopology has partnered with Velo 3D with some impressive results.
For More Information: nTopology
Software Honorable Mention: Artec 3D Studio 13
There is a lot of 3D scanning point cloud processing software out there, but Artec 3D Studio 13 really caught our eye at IMTS for its capabilities and ease of use.
On the capabilities side, for checking raw scans, X-Ray mode highlights high point density areas and makes the data semi-transparent. This is a good tool for checking complex geometry for possible holes or misalignments.
You can make DXF sections of 3D models in Artec Studio 13 and export non-closed contours to CAD software, such as SOLIDWORKS.
Global and fine registration performance have been significantly improved, for controlling scanning speed/quality balance by specifying the number of key frames, the feature type, and feature search radius.
On the ease of use side, the most significant feature is 3D Radar mode, a new distance-based prompt for easier 3D scanning. It helps you hold your scanner at the optimal distance from an object by visualizing the real-time data capture in green. If you hold the scanner too close, the color turns yellow, and then red if you get even closer. Moving the scanner too far away turns the color blue. 3D Radar mode is helpful for getting the best scanning results quickly.
For More Information: Artec 3D
And We Have A Winner!
Based on a drawing of business cards dropped off at our booth at IMTS 2018,honor a third-party person randomly picked the winner of an Amazon Gift Card. And the winner is Gary Pribyl, Toolroom Machinist at QuickCable. Congratulations Gary!
We recorded over 30 video interviews during the course of IMTS 2018 and will post them to our website as soon as they are edited and ready for viewing. The interviews covered a range of the offerings from the show and represent a broad cross-section of what was presented and demonstrated at the show, so stay tuned! We also interviewed all of the Best of Show and Honorable Mention winners.
So you can start planning now, IMTS 2020 will be held in Chicago, September 14-19, 2020. It’s a manufacturing spectacle not to be missed! Just be sure and wear comfortable walking shoes.
Homage To A Great Man & Machinist
Finally, I’ve been attending IMTS for a long time, and for the past several events, I have made a pilgrimage to a special elevated vantage point in the middle of the Metal Cutting pavilion that overlooks a large number of big (and I mean BIG) machines that incredibly transform pieces of metal, some that weight tons, into a wide variety of amazingly finished parts. The reason I do does this every IMTS is to pay respect and special homage to my late father-in-law who was a machinist. He was a master in his craft and a wonderful person who instilled in me the honor of making things and the self respect of doing things well and seeing them through. I miss him and at every IMTS wish we could walk the show floor together and talk about how manufacturing has changed, but is still a very worthy endeavor.