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Formnext 2021 – An Impactful Event for Sigma Labs and the AM Industry

by Jacob Brunsberg

I just spent almost a week at Formnext, in Frankfurt, Germany, along with eight of my Sigma Labs’ colleagues. Formnext bills itself as international meeting point for the next generation of intelligent industrial production. The organizers are not kidding since in the past five years, Formnext grew from 203 exhibitors and 8900 attendees, to 850 exhibitors and 34,500 attendees. Thanks to the pandemic, there was no in-person event last year, which made it especially gratifying to be back to greet our customers (current and future), partners and industry players of all types.

We were fortunate to be present among partner implementations, standards committee talks, and our own booth space at Formnext. This presence allowed us to accommodate partner talks on accelerating and differentiating individual OEM offerings, continuing to drive a 3rd party agnostic standard across the industry, and showcase broader industry software integrations. We also gave many on-demand demonstrations of our core analytics technologies.

The floor traffic was solid from start to end with people approaching with pointed and focused discussion topics. This allowed our staff to give dozens of live demonstrations of our PrintRite3D® In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA™) solution. Demo watchers were able to focus in on key areas of importance, and enjoyed viewing and discussing the new features in our PrintRite3D version 7.0 including advanced 3D visualization diagnostics, CT correlation, multi-laser quality metrics, real-time SPC charting with alerts with defined user roles and logins, and especially, our work in machine learning predictive models for defect detection and identification.

Because our mission is to set the standard for additive in-process monitoring, it was an absolute pleasure to have our own Leander Wilcke, sit on the panel titled ASTM FormNext Standards Forum: AM Industrialization – Digitalization, Automation, and Quality Control. Participating with Leander on the panel were Angeline Goh, Shell, Fatos Derguti, 3T-AM, Marion Schafnitzel, Grenzebach, and Jerry Isoaho, GKN Aerospace.

Key Formnext Takeaways

Formnext had the type of energy and enthusiasm one only sees in an industry that is on the move. While it’s hard to whittle down all the presentations, meetings, conversations and observations into a few major items, here are my five key takeaways from the conference:

  1. This year’s event was less about radical technology leaps and more about taking pragmatic steps in areas that will help shorten part qualification and production times. To put it another way, effectiveness and wholistic production stepwise gains outranked the cool factor. It’s about getting rid of barriers and enabling shorter paths to production and scale.
  2. Although many of the same people attended Formnext as in years past, it seems the attendees’ missions are changing in-line with their journey. While previously, it was an audience focused on education, it felt like people were there this year to solve specific problems. And the emphasis for many was not so much on purchasing their first AM printer, but rather on scalability and improving their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
  3. There is a large push by certification bodies for manufacturers and equipment providers to standardize part and process qualification. Standards organizations were visible, and actively facilitating industry groups around needed topics that will help push the industry forward as a serious technology sector that will only have a larger impact on broader manufacturing.
  4. There was a noticeable growth in 3rd party software platforms aiming to connect the value chain and integrate the various pieces into a unified whole. This includes not only multiple generations of equipment, but pre- and post-processing as well (tied into manufacturing at large). Fortunately, our in-process quality assurance software will play a key role in this effort, and we too feel this strong need from the industry for 3rd party agnostic solutions.
  5. The AM industry has evolved from one where each individual vendor emphasizes the protection of their intellectual property to an environment of greater willingness to collaborate to solve common challenges, like production scalability. As our CEO likes to relate, this shift to collaboration was one of the drivers of Silicon Valley and it will likewise have transformative impact on the AM industry. It was nice to see partner ecosystems start to show up in booths, as no one company can service the entire additive manufacturing spectrum.

As to the last point, we were very happy to be a part of this industry collaboration as it is a core part of our DNA. At Formnext, we had a booth presence with DMG MORI and Additive Industries, where we showcased our role in setting the 3rd party agnostic standard for in-process quality monitoring, analytics and visualization technology. We appreciate our partners’ trust that we can help them deliver amazing products to their customers and we look forward to a bright future of collaboration and industry acceleration.

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