AM Adopters Meet in Barcelona to Shape the 3D Printing Industry
Davide Sher posted on June 28, 2016 |

The ideal format for presenting the opportunities that additive manufacturing (AM) can offer is constantly evolving. Recently, RAPID has taken the lead in the United States; formnext powered by TCT seems to have established a winning formula for Central and Northern Europe; and, now, the new IN(3D)USTRY show, with the support of Fira de Barcelona (organizers of the Mobile World Congress), seeks to become the reference event for AM adoption in Southern Europe.

In order to accomplish this goal, the first edition of the show, which took place at Fira de Barcelona Montjuic from June 21 to 22, was organized around real industry needs and applications in order to better present the solutions that 3D printing and 3D printers can offer. These needs were explored and analyzed through several different tracks and by many high-level speakers, both local and international.

The showroom floor at the first-ever IN(3D)USTRY event in Barcelona.
The showroom floor at the first-ever IN(3D)USTRY event in Barcelona.

The conference format expanded on the successful formula adopted by Materialise for its World Congress last year. The main pillars of the Materialise event (Automotive & Aerospace, Healthcare & Medical and Consumer & Design applications) were expanded to also include architecture, policy making and a separate but highly synergetic “Maker Pro” section, which had its own set of speakers and exhibitors.

The new HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer was shown publicly for the first time in Spain.
The new HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer was shown publicly for the first time in Spain.

The event was strongly supported by Platinum Sponsor HP, which has its entire 3D printing division based in Barcelona, the largest HP regional office outside of the U.S. For HP 3D Printing, represented at the event by most of its senior staff, it was an opportunity to officially present its new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer to the Southern European market (after RAPID in the U.S. and drupa in Germany). The show also represented an ideal platform for HP to begin conveying the message that its thermoplastic-based, powder bed fusion is ready as a valid production alternative—not so much as a method to replace today’s injection molding products, but to envision the products of the future. A small station in the HP booth, the largest on the show floor, demonstrated this concept with a functional 3D-printed weight sensor, with embedded 3D-printed electronics.

The new low-cost, industrial-grade DT-600 3D printer from Dynamical Tools.
The new low-cost, industrial-grade DT-600 3D printer from Dynamical Tools.

The HP booth seemed particularly large since the first edition of IN(3D)USTRY was designed to be a small, highly professional event. The organizers dedicated the Italian Pavilion, one of the smallest in the Fira de Barcelona complex, to the show, and this proved helpful in guiding visitors to focus on fewer, very real solutions. These ranged from low-cost industrial-grade 3D printers, such as the Sicnova JCR1000 and the new DT-600 from the recently established Spanish company Dynamical Tools, to metal powder bed fusion systems from SLM Solutions, Renishaw and Concept Laser.

The main attraction, however, was the conference tracks, where leading global AM adopters from different industrial sectors shared their experiences with AM implementation. The talks ranged among several different topics and, perhaps more importantly, offered several different outlooks on the technology’s real adoption. Designers, architects and scientists focused on the often amazing new possibilities that AM is already adding to their creative visions. In contrast, many industrial operators in both the automotive and the aerospace sectors often described AM as a technology that needs to be further studied, discussed and developed to be truly adopted for serial production. Since the talks saw the participation of senior managers from global enterprises and groups such SEAT, Campos Racing, Airbus Defence and Space, and Aernnova, as well as policy makers, the event proved to be the ideal place to begin this discussion.

Medical industry operators, both doctors and device manufacturers, offered some of the most exciting examples of the use of AM for the serial production of prosthetics, implants and end-use accessories. However, some of the most fascinating contributions came from a session on Architecture & Habitat moderated by Areti Markopolou, director of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC). This session combined the futuristic visions of designers like Robert Stuart-Smith, of Robert Stuart-Smith Design Ltd, and Nils Fischer, from Zaha Hadid Architects. One of the main highlights was certainly the talk by VP and chief Internet evangelist at Google, Vint Cerf, considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the Internet, where he discussed the need for shared, open-source innovation, especially at the beginning of a new era. Another climactic moment, which clearly demonstrated how important this event is considered for the economic future of the region, was the visit by Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia, who took the time to visit most of the booths.

The President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, visiting HP’s booth.
The President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, visiting HP’s booth.

Combining industrial AM and the Maker Pro section in a single event enabled these two very different segments to often blend into the talks given by designers, researchers and architects, for whom the lateral thinking approach typical of the maker community is a necessity for real innovation. Barcelona’s IAAC is the perfect example of this approach. Tomas Diez, founder of Fab Lab Barcelona (which is part of the IAAC), and, more recently, of the Fab City Research Laboratory, actively collaborated on the show’s organization. In his activities, he has always been a supporter of the maker community’s need to transform projects from innovative ideas into real opportunities.

That is one of the reasons why New York City–based designer Francis Bitonti, who was also among the speakers invited to discuss innovative approaches to manufacturing, said that Barcelona probably has the most proficient and professional maker community in the world. In fact, most visitors and participants agreed that the maker community can benefit from the Industry 4.0 concept as much as the industry itself can benefit from lateral thinking and innovative, open-source approaches. HP is among the companies that has better implemented this concept in the development of its own open materials and open software 3D printing business strategy.

Danit Peleg’s unique 3D-printed clothing collection.
Danit Peleg’s unique 3D-printed clothing collection.

By combining one of the most modern approaches to design with a solid industrial infrastructure and an active maker community, Barcelona wants to position itself as a hub for the future of a sustainable, advanced manufacturing ecosystem. The ongoing 3D printing “season” also includes other events, such as Mobile World Congress, Barcelona Design Week and the Sónar music festival, which led up to the IN(3D)USTRY show and will conclude with the IoT Solutions World Congress in October.

Barcelona has the unique ability to combine the rich cultural history and gorgeous weather typical of Southern Europe with Northern European efficiency, and this was reflected in the show’s impeccable organization. All of these elements came together with speaker tracks running perfectly on time throughout the entire three days of the show. The event was so punctual, in fact, that the date for next year’s edition has already been set for June 20 to 22. It’s a great time of the year to be in Barcelona.

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