The additive manufacturing sector is expanding as each year passes, bringing more thinkers and commentators to the fore. But, while there are now so many 3D printing experts, there only a few doyens of the industry who have been involved in the technology's evolution since the very beginning, even before it was known as 3D printing.
This is why TCT Show + Personalize perennial Graham Tromans, President of GP Tromans Associates, will be making the journey to the NEC in Birmingham next month to deliver his annual presentation - a talk that is always over-subscribed.
Tromans revealed that 2013's incarnation of his speech will be called Additive Layer Technologies Technical Briefing and draws on his own observations of the additive manufacturing market and how it has evolved - and how we can learn from the past.
"I started presenting this idea at TCT a few years ago, as I strongly believed that a large number of attendees at the show were new to the industry and as such had very little idea as to what the various processes were capable of doing or what the financial implications were," he stated.
"They spent a lot of time at various vendors' stands with a limited budget available to them, only to find that the systems they were looking at were completely out of their price range, or were not capable of what they were intending to use them for. This wasted valuable exhibition time for both themselves and vendors," the expert said.
Education and the real world
His chosen subject means a lot to Tromans personally, as somebody with more than two decades of experience in this field who - like the rest of us - has witnessed the 3D printing boom shake the marketplace to its very foundations in recent years on the back of a wave of media excitement.
"The inclusion of this type of technical briefing," he continued," is vital to an industry of this type that is getting a lot of media hype at the moment, hopefully educating the audience into the real world of additive manufacturing."
"As the premier UK show and conference, it is imperative that delegates get this type of education at TCT Show," he added.
Tromans is measured in his opinion of the media hype borne out of the recent increase in interest in 3D printing.
"I think the coverage at the moment is doing the industry a lot of good by bringing it to people's attention, but at the same time there is a lot of damaging reporting done leading people to believe they can do anything with the technologies, only for companies to invest in technologies they then find are not applicable to their requirements," Tromans explained.
"This then does the industry harm, as it takes a lot of work then to convince them there are technologies that would suit their requirements perfectly."
He remarked: "After 25 years in the industry it is very frustrating to find this happening and the so-called 'industry experts' they took advice from had only been in the industry for a couple of years. Still I suppose I shouldn't complain as it does create work for myself as a consultant putting things right."
Developments, applications and training
Tromans' interest in additive manufacturing extends much further than the projects scattered over his desk at GP Tromans Associates and the expert is looking forward to seeing how the technology is being applied elsewhere when he browses the stands and sits in on the speaker sessions at TCT Show.
"Aerospace and automotive applications along with medical applications are some of the most exciting areas at the moment," he said.
"Aerospace companies in particular are really looking hard at these technologies for future designs. The planned use of additive metals by GE for fuel nozzles for their new engine to be in production by late 2015 or early 2016 is very exciting, and hopefully this will lead to other more demanding production applications."
Tromans is also very interested in how the technology will be used by the next generation and believes starting this training and understanding in schools is imperative.
"Education is very important as far as these technologies are concerned, both in the classroom and in industry itself. As a consultant with 25 years' experience in running systems and developing applications, a lot of my work is being used by companies globally in educating designers and engineers into how they can apply the technologies for specific applications and which technologies suit their requirements best.
"The Bright Minds programme being run by TCT is also very important as we need to ensure students of all ages understand these technologies, hopefully this will be one of the technology areas that helps lead to more people back into manufacturing in the future."
Graham Tromans' first rate expertise in additive manufacturing acknowledges every facet of the industry and he is a TCT Show veteran because he knows which issues need addressing. Tromans will be taking to the stage on the morning of Wednesday September 25th.