Taking place June 8-9 at the NEC Birmingham, TCT 3Sixty brings additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing together under one roof to showcase the latest technologies, design applications and manufacturing processes, from hobbyist 3D printing to industrial AM printing.
For 30 years, the TCT Group has organized the UK’s leading event aimed at increasing awareness and adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology.
The origins of the event date back to 1992 when a newsletter became Rapid News: the magazine for the rapid prototyping and tooling industry. Just four years later they held their first live event, the Time-Compression Technologies ’96 conference, and in 1997 they adopted the name Time-Compression Technologies – TCT for short!
Fast forward to 2011, and the UK event has found its home at the NEC, Birmingham. Today, TCT 3Sixty is the flagship event of the TCT Group, a leading authority on additive manufacturing, 3D printing, design and engineering technologies across the globe.
Having not visited TCT 3Sixty for several years, the progress made in additive manufacturing in all its forms is amazing. Where the industry was dominated by hobby 3D printers, the industrial aspect of this sector has continued to grow and now offers a clear path into the future of manufacturing across all industries and sectors. From clothes to homes, this technology is transforming the way we think about manufacturing.
All major manufacturers of AM machines and related technologies were present at the event, including well-known brands such as Stratasys, Photocentric and Matsuura whose booth was very busy as they showed the entire AM workflow showing how full AM manufacturing is now possible.
“We are accelerating into the era of additive manufacturing 2.0, in which we see global manufacturing leaders moving beyond prototyping to fully embrace the agility that 3D printing brings to the entire value chain. manufacturing,” said Stratasys CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif. “The disruptions we are seeing today on the supply and demand side of global supply chains are a clear sign that the status quo is not working. Additive manufacturing gives companies complete flexibility to decide when, where and how to produce parts. That’s why we are committed to being the complete provider of polymer 3D printing solutions for our world-class customer base.
Scanning systems were also very present at this year’s event. The T3DMC (3D Measuring Company) introduced their latest scanning system, the SIMSCAN, along with the KSCAN Magic, both of which could be a game-changer in this part of the AM workflow.
New materials were also introduced with a particular focus on durability. The 100% reusable powder from the Belgian company Materialise. The product they call Bluesint. TCT Magazine reported: “Bluesint works by controlling two lasers in the printer, one for sintering the powder and a second to keep the powder above a certain temperature. This prevents it from cooling between coats and therefore eliminates the dreaded shrinking process. This breakthrough, claims Materialize, provides 100% recycled parts with mechanical and visual properties similar to those printed with fresh powder.
Metal AM was also very present at TCT 3Sixty. TRUMPF showed off their impressive laser powder bed fusion systems at one end of the AM spectrum, with Metal Xact showing their much more compact XM200C, ideal for small series and metal prototyping. And if metal AM is your priority, then the thyssenkrupp Materials UK stand was the stand to visit.
Apart from industrial AM production, the market for small machines has also grown. Stratasys’ new J55 was on display, featuring PANTONE-validated colors, textures, and transparency at a cost of $99,000, about one-third the cost of enterprise-class PolyJet systems.
Formlabs’ SLA machine (the Fuse 1) made an appearance at the show. Formlabs CEO and Co-Founder Max Lobovsky said, “SLS 3D printing shouldn’t be reserved for big budgets, it needs to be accessible so that every company, from start-up to large manufacturer, can benefit from the design freedom and high productivity offered by SLS 3D printing.
Other well-known brands in the small form factor market, including Ultimaker and Formlabs, have shown how the technology seen in industrial-use AM machines has now permeated into the desktop AM market.