3D printing has now grown big enough to have its own trade shows, and the next one will be held in Düsseldorf later this month. Running at the Congress Center Düsseldorf Ost from 24-25 February, Inside 3D Printing 2016 will be one of the largest exhibitions yet. So far nearly 40,000 visitors have registered and there’s a busy programme of presentations and workshops lined up, as well as displays of all the latest developments in 3D printer technology.
The focus of Inside 3D Printing is on industrial uses, but it still has a lot to interest small businesses and hobbyists. Technologies that begin in industry can find their way out to the consumer market quite quickly, and in fact some of them already are. A major theme will be metallic printing, and it’s already easy to find filaments filled with metal powders. Right now these are mostly for decorative effect; they’re no stronger than pure plastic filament, and in many cases might even be weaker. Some industrial printers can already print load-bearing metal parts though, and the same capability is likely to reach high-end consumer models before too long.
Another interesting field is hybrid printing – creating objects out of more than one material. That obviously needs a printer with multiple extruders, but that isn’t too much of an obstacle – the basic RepRap design can be expanded to run two or more print heads, and there are other multi-head models around as well. Because 3D printers are usually pretty modular it isn’t difficult to have each head printing a completely different material and that opens up lots of possibilities – objects with built-in electrical connections, for example. This is a major development for industry but has huge potential for home printing projects as well.
There will be several presentations on 3D print methods, including laser sintering and laser melting as well as the familiar fused deposition modelling that most current printers use. Adding lasers widens the range of materials that can be printed, but it’s a different technology path from FDM. In the long run it could be the way ahead – the biggest obstacle is probably going to be making sufficiently powerful lasers affordable. Security could be a worry, too – a laser powerful enough to melt sintered metal could have potential as a weapon, so there could be some official nervousness at them being available on Amazon.
Exhibitor list has a lot to offer
Visitors will be able to see printers and related products from over 30 exhibitors, covering hardware, software and consumables; there should be some interesting new designs on display. Exhibitors include leading engineering firms as well as some newcomers, so there will be a broad spectrum of people to talk to.
Obviously Inside 3D Printing will be an interesting experience from anyone who can make it to Düsseldorf, but it’s still interesting for those who can’t be there. This is the event’s third year and it’s growing rapidly, showing just how fast the market is expanding. For hobbyists it will throw out a lot of new ideas to explore, and business users will get a look forward to how the technology can help them in the near future. Overall this is a pretty exciting event for anyone interested in 3D printers.