What Formnext 2019 means and where the AM Industry is heading*

AM firms by the hundreds, machines by the thousands, parts by the millions

Formnext 2019 was bigger than ever and, as Avi Reichental said during our interview at Xponential Works, “there has never been a better time to get into AM. Until next year”. That has been almost always the case for AM from the beginning and could not be otherwise. AM is a tiny percentage of global manufacturing and – even though most operators don’t want to say it – will eventually become the primary method of manufacturing. What Formnext 2019 means is that AM will grow enormously, exponentially, for the next century and beyond. The downside to this is that the fulfillment of this promise will take decades and even centuries, which means that most of those working in the industry today will not see it. What they will see, however, is the AM industry growing at 35% year on year, as it has been doing for the past three decades, and as it will continue to do.

This growth percentage – which is more or less the same percentage in the growth of exhibitors and visitors at this year’s Formnext (and was similar the year before) – is enough to define an exponential growth trend: it means that the industry doubles in size every two years or so. Incidentally, this rate is similar to Moore’s law rate for processor speed in the electronics industry and, while the two things are not directly related, both are connected to the digital world.

What happened this year at Formnext is that the show is now clearly the primary global event for the AM industry and, as such, it more accurately reflects the overall industry’s growth. This trend is very likely going to continue. In fact, this was the first time that, at Formnext, the AM industry outgrew the tight-knit feeling of a relatively small, enthusiastic, group of professionals. This year’s Formnext was a show for an industry that is approaching puberty (still far from maturity). Although enthusiasm was and will continue to remain high, Formnext will start to become more similar to much larger industrial exhibitions such as those, for example, dedicated to the machine tools industry (IMTS, EMO, Hannover…) or to 2D printing (Drupa) or to design (Salone del Mobile) or Aerospace (Paris and Farnborough) or Medical, Dental and so on.

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