The UK’s definitive and leading additive manufacturing, 3D printing, rapid prototyping and product development technology has been an awesome experience for visitors of every level of interest from hackerspace to aerospace. The eighteenth edition of this exciting free event has been such a big deal, I had registered my ticket months ago.
The TCT Show + Personalize took place at the NEC in Birmingham UK from 25-26 September 2013, Hall 3a. Unfortunately I was only able to make it to Day 1 on Wednesday, but I wanted to make the most if it. I bet that thousands of attendees came through the doors of the event over the few days with the quality of the visitors particularly high. A lot of exhibitors have reported that they have already reserved their space for 2014.
The event was totally awesome, and not just for us who have been for the first time there: such a great combination of exciting technology on show with no admission charges, free seminar sessions, free car parking and free visitor Wi-Fi proved a winning formula for all the visitors and the stage is now set for continued growth in 2014.
This nice event might have been the shop window for the UK industry. Unlike the other great show in London, TCT has focused on the emerging technologies and developements of the scene: there haven’t been too much fancy little plastic toys or entry-level FDM technology 3d printers, but we have seen a lot of metal 3d printers and full-color 3d printing solutions for the rapid prototyping industry. The variety and interesting developments have increased year by year, and TCT is the only UK event to find it all under one roof.
In addition to the industrial technology providers this year also saw the debut of the Personalize hub and a RepRap corner as well, focused on the emerging maker and consumer markets for 3d printing. This zone proved to be one of the most popular and busy sections of the show, the open-source 3d printers like the Prusa, Mendel and Huxley have played an important role in the big game of the representation of the additive manufacturing technology.
And in addition to the interesting exhibitions and booths, C-Level executives from 3D Systems, Stratasys, ExOne, Mcor Technologies, Shapeways and MakieLab have been all on stage to share their wealth of experience across the full spectrum of the newest 3d printing technologies. The TCT Show auditorium has been filled with designers, developers, engineers, investors, business owners, makers and the media. Actually, this is the first time that so many people of the industry’s executives have been brought together to present their experiences with 3D printing.
Experienced 3d printing experts like Joris Peels from Voxelfab have discussed cutting edge technology for concept, design, and manufacturing functions across all sectors. Mr Peels presented his ideas on where the industry should be going. The famous engineer talked about how to tidy up technology in a more practical way, focusing on sorting out the waste produced by machines when builds do not work. “There is a lot of hype on the desktop, ” he explained, adding that the media and advertisements for desktop 3d printers “overstate capabilities of these affordable entry-level machines and underplay problematic things such as build quality and reliability.”
“It’s great having machines but they are all worthless without users having the ability to make exactly what they want. We need millions of people to be able to design, iterate, modify, custumise, individualise and create”. My opinion: absolutely indeed, most people who can afford to buy an affordable desktop 3d printer won’t take the time to learn a professional 3d modeling for 3d printing tools like Rhinoceros, Solidworks or 3D Max, and although there are plenty of sites offering downloadable objects for 3d printing, the magic of creating your own stuff can be quite difficult to reach for an average user without some hacking enthusiasm.
“There’s a lot of hype on the desktop,” he explained, adding that the media and advertisements for desktop 3D printers “overstate capabilities of the machines and underplay problematic things such as build quality and reliability.”
“It’s great having machines but they are worthless without [users] having the ability to make exactly what they want. We need millions of people to be able to design, iterate, modify, customise, individualise and create,” he added.
This year the event has boasted a first, as it has welcomed the RepRap community to set up camp in a dedicated space on the show floor. The RepRap project is one of my favorites these days: the open-source affordable 3d printers which can replicate themselves while 3d printing their own plastic parts already play a key role in the new industrial revolution and is a real milestone on the way from mass production to mass customization. Richard Horne, RepRap stalwart spoke at TCT for the first time this year, where he championed the maker community in his presentation 3D Printing for Business and Pleasure.
Horne’s reputation among makers is borne out of his keen involvement in the RepRap community. RepRap – which is short for replicating rapid prototyper – is a self-copying 3d printer that uses a plastic filament and is much cheaper than buying a desktop 3d printer, as RepRap develops and gives away its designs for a much cheaper machine with a self-copying capability. The technology is giving communities in the developing world access to 3d printing, as well as hobbyists keen to 3d print their own 3d designs at home.
Luckily the father of RepRap, Dr Adrian Bowyer, has joined Horne et al for the show along with RepRapPro Ltd. (link) on the stand, who had many RepRaps printing RepRaps and has been on hand to answer frequently asked questions and discuss the future of home 3D printing and how personal manufacturing could evolve in the near future. It has been really interesting to me, especially because I’ve just bought a RepRap Huxley 3d printer hardware kit and have just started to built my very first open-source desktop 3d printer. I’ll write a post about it, I promise! And at the end, let me show you a photo of a 3d printed jazz trio, which played at the TCT hall: these guys seem to play on traditional instruments like the electric guitar, drum kit and a keyboard; but in this case, all of the instruments have some weird 3d printed parts, just check out the fantastic details! I wish Giger had designed some 3d printed guitars…