Formnext 2018 was, by any measure, a fantastic event for the AM industry.

Walking the show floor, it was evident that the industry has progressed significantly over the last twelve months. Whilst there were lots of friendly faces around, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer number of new-comers who are rapidly building expertise and capability. Whilst a first-to-market advantage can’t be disputed, the big AM players know that they can’t be complacent – the industry is developing too fast to rely on yesterday’s technology.

An awful lot has been written about Formnext (including a great day-by-day blog from Alison Wyrick Mendoza) but here are my key thoughts after three days of walking in circles:


Better demo parts

There were some fantastic parts on show this year – one of my favourites was Betatype’s bulb holder on the Renishaw stand which showed that parts can be stacked in a build volume, similar to EBM builds. The quality was much higher than in previous years, suggesting improvements in DfAM methodologies as well as build processes.


Post Processing takes centre stage

No longer confined to the little stands around the edges of the exhibition hall, there were several huge stands dedicated to post processing and surface finishing. In addition to solutions that take conventional finishing processes to the next level (robotic tumbling machines, for example), there were some very interesting chemical processes. It was great to see that D-Lyte’s technology is now offered by a number of providers.


Less disparity between great and small

One of my key takeaways from last year’s show was that there was a huge gulf between the enormous multinationals and everyone else. Whilst there are still a few mega stands, it felt like many of the smaller companies had really invested in bringing a bigger presence to Formnext. Many people commented that you really have to bring your A-game to Formnext or you will be lost in the masses.