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In additive manufacturing (AM), the important choices begin before 3D printing. The design freedom does not begin with the geometric freedom, for example, but instead begins with the material. The chance to choose the right material and even tailor properties is the most fundamental requirement for seeing AM realize its promise, and this has implications for the growth and direction of Formnext. The world’s leading trade fair devoted to AM ought to feature an expanding role and prominence for materials — and we saw this very advance in the show this year.
But there is more. Additive manufacturing does not end with 3D printing. Because practically every AM production part requires some form of postprocessing, AM inherently entails postprocessing as much as it does 3D printing. Thus the growth of Formnext ought also to include an advance in the prominence of postprocessing, and we saw this, too. In various ways, the annual Formnext show — now in its fifth year — grew strikingly bigger and more mature this year. The show was held last week in Frankfurt, Germany, and just part of the advance we observed was seen in how much more of the floorspace and how much more of the conversation focused on the other aspects of succeeding with AM. Far from being a 3D printing show, Formnext is more and more an event fully about additive manufacturing, including all that AM entails.