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The packed auditorium five minutes before the first speaker took to the stage. More visitors would stand at the back.
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Renishaw's booth at MACH 2014's inaugural 3D Printing Zone, with Empire Cycles' 3D-printed bike standing pride of place.
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The auditorium at MACH 2014 - every seat would shortly be taken with standing room only for speakers Chris Williams (Empire Bikes), Bruno Le Razer (i2M), Louise Geekie (Croft Filters) and Dr Phil Carroll (IPW Technology).
Biennial expo MACH is widely considered the most important trade event for the manufacturing industry.
Run by the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), 2014's outing encompassed both the vast spaces of Hall 4 and Hall 5 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, with a packed show floor and a varied line up of speaker sessions. TCT + Personalize was there to sponsor the first ever TCT 3D printing and additive manufacturing seminar on Tuesday April 8th, in addition to scouring the immense collection of booths in the brand new 3D Printing Zone for the best stories and to meet and greet old acquaintances and new.
Here is TCT Magazine's Digital Media and Community Editor Rose Brooke's account of the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing seminar.
The 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Session
With around 120 people subscribed to attend the 3D printing session and with just 80 seats and tall tables on the periphery of the audience for standing attendees, TCT's first sponsored seminar at MACH got off to a better-than-hoped start.
Our speakers would be focusing on metal additive manufacturing in an industrial context, serving to engage and enlighten visitors of every level of experience and from every corner of manufacturing and beyond. TCT's Daniel O'Connor served as MC for the two-and-a-half hour slot, welcoming Chris Williams of Empire Cycles to the stage as our first speaker.
Chris Williams - Empire Cycles
Williams' 3D-printed bicycle was made with the help of Renishaw, who presented the bike pride of place on the company’s booth in the 3D printing zone, moreover the bike is the cover star of the March 2014 issue of TCT Magazine - a copy of which was placed on every seat in the auditorium. Williams praised Renishaw for succeeding in fitting all of the bike frame onto one AM250 build plate and when asked by a member of the audience if in the future the frame would be printed as one piece, he replied that he did not see the need, encouraging the alternative approach to manufacturing additive manufacturing allows.
After this prototype, Williams and his collaborators are on track to build a second ridable bike and a short film is being made to prove how it works in the real world.
Bruno Le Razer - i2M
Innovate 3 Make's (i2M) Bruno Le Razer followed on from Williams. With 15 years of experience in the additive manufacturing arena, Le Razer discussed the use of metals and uncovered the "dirty secret" of the technology.
Le Razer set out that he believes the widely-adopted use of the term '3D printing' for the manufacturing technique refers to the plastic, novel side of the business, while 'additive manufacturing refers to "metals and more expensive products".
"We work in aerospace, medical, automotive. I'm not talking about paperweights, I'm talking about complex designs," he said, going into detail about the processes involved in metal additive manufacturing in order to benefit those with no prior knowledge of additive manufacturing. Then he raised the matter of the "dirty secret" of additive manufacturing - support structures and the systems you need to use to either limit the need for them or to get rid o them in post-processing.
"The metal additive manufacturing machine is one link in the entire process," Le Razer explained.
Louise Geekie - Croft Filters
Louise Geekie of Croft Filters followed, with her presentation on how additive manufacturing has allowed the company to create better designs that could not be manufactured using any other kind of process. For example, she explained that moulding wire mesh into the right shape - a traditional means of making some types of filter - is not as good as printing the design layer by layer, because it means the mesh is stretched, resulting in different-shaped holes and therefore inconsistencies in the finished component.
"There's the design freedom of building a product you couldn't make using any other type of manufacturing. We have used this new technology to develop a new product within our range of filters," she said, finishing her presentation with the resounding conclusion, "Croft is an industrial user and adopter of additive manufacturing. We've used it to drive innovative designs. Metal 3D printing for us has delivered new opportunities."
Dr Phil Carroll - LPW Technology
Dr Phil Carroll of LPW Technology was our last speaker to take to the stage and - unusually for a trade show seminar session, not to mention one held at lunchtime - the audience was still relatively full. Carroll discussed the intricacies of metal additive manufacturing materials and how maintaining the integrity of the powder is paramount to producing the best products.
"If you put rubbish into your process, you get rubbish out of your process," he said.
With some 400 optimised materials in its portfolio, Carroll explained that LPW has taken pains to assess how powder changes in storage and in transit, with even the slightest heat and moisture shifts in the atmosphere affecting the quality of the material.
Indeed, LPW Technology has developed a software that allows users total traceability, giving them a resource for finding out how usable and how high quality their metal powder is depending on when it was produced and where it has been.
"This isn't reinventing the wheel," Carroll stated, "It's tiny steps to ensuring better powder for additive manufacturing."
Turning around when Carroll was answering questions from the audience, I was heartened by how many people had remained rooted to the spot during the two-hour session. Not only does this indicate that our speakers delivered interesting presentations worthy of people's long-term concentration, but it is a sign the manufacturing industry wants to learn more about this maturing technology.
Another matter to consider is that the auditorium was in a different hall a not insignificant distance from the 3D Printing Zone, meaning everybody who watched must either have made the effort to take two hours out of their hectic trade show agenda to watch the presentations, or they were inspired on passing - even though they were not among 3D printing businesses.