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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Navigating the Evolution of Additive Manufacturing: Insights from the 2024 RAPID+TCT Executive Panel

June 27th, 2024 by Sanjay Gangal

As the 2024 RAPID+TCT event unfolded, industry leaders gathered to discuss the current landscape and future prospects of additive manufacturing (AM). The panel, comprising Avi Reichental (Nexa3D), Fried Vancraen (Materialise), Savi Baveja (HP), Nils Niemeyer (DMG MORI), and moderated by Laura Griffiths (The TCT Group), offered a candid look at the challenges and opportunities facing this dynamic sector.

The Promise and Reality of Additive Manufacturing

The session opened with a shared sense of optimism tempered by realism. The panelists agreed that while AM has made significant strides, it remains a technology marked by both remarkable achievements and ongoing hurdles.

Avi Reichental highlighted the transformative potential of AM, especially in fields like healthcare and aerospace. He cited examples such as the deployment of additive manufacturing systems in conflict zones, showcasing the technology’s ability to provide on-demand solutions in critical situations. However, Reichental also emphasized the need for the industry to shift from selling capabilities to delivering scalable solutions.

Fried Vancraen echoed these sentiments, pointing out that while AM has revolutionized certain sectors, it has not been an overnight success. Vancraen’s experience with Materialise, a company founded in 1990, underscores the slow and steady progress required to integrate AM into mainstream manufacturing. He noted that the industry must focus on creating real value and moving beyond the initial hype.

Achieving Scale: The Path Forward

A recurring theme was the challenge of scaling AM for mass production. Savi Baveja of HP underscored the importance of stability, repeatability, and cost reduction to make AM a viable option for large-scale manufacturing. Baveja suggested that the industry needs to work harder on understanding total cost of ownership (TCO) and driving down costs to compete with traditional methods like injection molding.

Nils Niemeyer from DMG MORI brought an interesting perspective, discussing how AM can integrate with traditional manufacturing. He shared examples of hybrid manufacturing processes where AM complements conventional techniques, reducing lead times and enhancing efficiency. Niemeyer stressed that the future of manufacturing lies in combining multiple technologies to create more flexible and efficient production systems.

The Role of Collaboration and Standardization

The panelists unanimously agreed that collaboration is crucial for the future of AM. Shai Terem of Markforged emphasized the need for industry players to work together to provide complete solutions rather than isolated products. He argued that such collaboration would help demystify the technology for new adopters and accelerate its integration into traditional manufacturing setups.

Fried Vancraen proposed a concerted effort towards standardization, particularly in data management and workflow integration. He pointed out that consistent data and interoperability are key to streamlining AM processes and making them more accessible to manufacturers. Vancraen suggested that the industry needs to establish common standards for energy consumption and process control to facilitate wider adoption.

Sustainability: A Double-Edged Sword

Sustainability remains both a challenge and an opportunity for AM. Avi Reichental and Savi Baveja discussed the industry’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through initiatives like closed-loop recycling and the development of more sustainable materials. Baveja mentioned HP’s carbon calculator and closed-loop solutions as steps towards more sustainable manufacturing practices.

Fried Vancraen highlighted the potential of AM to create more energy-efficient designs and reduce waste in traditional manufacturing processes. However, he also acknowledged that the industry needs to be transparent about its environmental impact and avoid greenwashing.

Looking Ahead: Embracing the Grind

The panelists concluded with a call for humility and perseverance. Savi Baveja encapsulated the sentiment by advising the industry to “buckle up” for a challenging yet rewarding journey. The panel stressed that while AM has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, it requires a sustained, collaborative effort to realize this potential fully.

Avi Reichental summed it up succinctly: “We need to shift our mindset from selling boxes to developing scalable solutions and embrace the boring, repetitive work required to achieve real transformation.”

Final Takeaways

As the panel wrapped up, each speaker left the audience with a final thought:

  • Savi Baveja: “Set realistic aspirations and work diligently towards them. The journey will be tough, but the potential rewards are immense.”
  • Shai Terem: “The technologies we have today are strong and reliable. Join us on this journey, and together we can achieve great things.”
  • Fried Vancraen: “We are creating a revolution, albeit a slow one. Let’s focus on the real success stories and the impact we can make.”
  • Nils Niemeyer: “Integrate AM with traditional manufacturing. The key is to mix it up and move closer to comprehensive, efficient production systems.”
  • Avi Reichental: “Think of AM as part of a broader digital manufacturing ecosystem. The future lies in combining technologies to unlock their full potential.”

The 2024 RAPID+TCT Executive Panel left attendees with a clear message: the future of additive manufacturing is bright, but it will require hard work, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous improvement. As the industry navigates this complex landscape, the insights shared by these leaders will undoubtedly help guide the way forward.

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Category: Rapid + TCT

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