As with many things in 2020, FormNext, the largest global additive manufacturing event each year, went virtual. This presented many opportunities and many challenges. As usual, there are many great presentations by many different people who are working on interesting projects looking at new applications for additive manufacturing and exploring a broad range of materials and exciting designs.
Each year there seems to be highlights from FormNext. This year, it may have been a little harder to discern what some of those highlights are, but there were announcements of new printers. For the most part, we saw larger printers across categories. We also saw interesting partnerships formed between chemical companies and printer platforms. The limitations of virtual presentations meant less opportunity for attendees to interact with some of the experts, but some of the experts were still worth listening to.
One of the highlights was a presentation by Chiara Manfletti from the European Space Agency entitled “3D Printing For and In Space.” The possibilities for the technology and the research being done today are expansive. One theme expressed in this presentation, and was probably one of the most visible themes for FormNext in general, is sustainability. How do we use less and how do we reuse more as we continue to make things additively? It seems that sustainability will continue to be a theme in 2021 and there will be more material reuse opportunities.
Both in space and terrestrially there are materials wherever we look– from mud filled with straw for domiciles here, to regolith compounds on the moon.
3D printing continues to evolve and as we will soon see more consumer goods will be made this way, and as the bike photo shows, the design boundaries have been dissolved.