So my first ever TCT Show experience is over. I think I’ve just about recovered and remembered how to sit down - let’s just say, they were right when they told me that time disappears at the show. There are so many people to meet and new machines to see it’s difficult to fit everything in – along with a good NEC pasty of course.
From left clockwise: Stratasys tyre print, 3T RPD 3D printed glasses, 3T RPD cycling gear, 3DPrintUK TCT Show stand.
After writing about this stuff for the last few months it was great to finally see it all in action. Walking around the stands of some of the industry’s biggest players was a real turning point for me. I got to have a good chat with Stratasys about their latest addition to the Connex family, stopped by the Renishaw stand to witness one of their measurement devices, the Equator 300, live on the show floor and you couldn’t miss the 3D Systems 3D printed band.
As an unapologetic geek, I was blown away by the quality of 3D printing shown in Starlord’s mask from Guardians of the Galaxy designed by FBFX and printed by IPF. Displayed in the Innovation Showcase, this exhibit had some really cool applications including historical replicas and my not so guilty favourite, a red headed Makie Doll. IPF had some eye-catching pieces on display on their own stand including Batman, WITH the Bat-Signal and gave me a sneak peek of a piece they’re working on with Things3D. It’s not quite Wallace and Gromit but instead a cool little armour guy with very intricate detailing - I’m looking forward to seeing more from that in the future.
From left: Shootdigital 3D skull, SolidThinking organic print, Norge One 3D printer.
The show covers more than just 3D printing machines and I got to try first hand some of the latest scanning equipment and software on the market right now. Matter and Form showed me their scanner, billed as the first affordable 3D scanner on the market, and told me about their latest software update which will have a subsampling feature to improve the overall quality of a model. I got to scan an entire car using Artec’s speedy scanning software which takes only five minutes to scan an entire vehicle. Okay, mine wasn’t perfect but for a first try I was assured it wasn’t a bad effort! SolidThinking gave me a rundown of the latest features in their 3D modelling software and managed to make a pretty decent render of a chair in just a few short steps.
Yet some of the most exciting things at the show, in my opinion, were hailing from start ups and TCT Introducing. Being on the editorial team at TCT, I search endlessly in places like Twitter and crowd funding sites to find what’s new in the 3D printing arena. Admittedly, a lot of the time it takes a considerable amount of sifting to find the gold amongst the masses. But that’s what was so inspiring about TCT because all of that good stuff was there and bursting with excitement. Nectar drew me in as an enthusiastic young start up with their intuitive delta machine and I got to find out more about the elusive Norge brand and how they managed to make an SLS machine with such a low price tag.
From left: Artec 3D scan, 3DP Unlimited large format printer, Norge SLS 3D printer.
Some of my show favourites were 3DP Unlimited's large format 3D printer which was successfully printing multiple pieces at the same time, 3T RPD's latest colour palette that they're currently working on with their research and development team, speaking with Deirdre MacCormack from Mcor Technologies about developments in their paper based 3D printing technology and also 3DPrintUK's realistic prehistoric prints - because you know, who doesn't love a 3D printed T Rex head? Reading through blogs and comments from visitors, a lot of people seemed to be fans of the Dutch quarter at TCT and I can definitely see why. There were so many materials and machines on offer, it was difficult not to be impressed.
Everybody talks about 3D Hubs and so they should, they’re important and a great platform for getting people in touch with this relatively foreign technology. For me, it was good to talk to people who actually utilise the 3D Hubs network for their own work. Speaking with Filippo Bacciu, a designer at Goosebumps Lab, he told me how being part of a community like 3D Hubs offers great visibility for work opportunities and very soon he’ll be working on a toy project with them.
Interviewing Deirdre MacCormack from Mcor Technologies
I suppose, for me the most interesting part of the show was hearing the diversity of opinions surrounding the future of additive manufacturing. I spoke to people on one side of the room who are hopeful of a future where we can safely manufacture items at home and then on the other side, opinions that were sceptical about factories of the future being filled with rows of 3D printers. It was eye-opening to hear about this idea of integration with traditional manufacturing devices and it gave me a better grounding for my own thoughts for the future of the industry. I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of post TCT Show catching up to do! Roll on 2015.