3D Printing Industry Meeting: Recap from Rapid + TCT 2021

After a long 20 months of webinars, virtual demos and virtual events, the BigRep team was excited to be back live, in-person at RAPID+TCT, North America’s largest and most influential event for 3D printing and additive manufacturing. For BigRep, it was the perfect opportunity to showcase our large-format 3D printers and applications of our customers who #THINKBIG.

BigRep Booth at Rapid + TCT

In the BigRep booth, the PRO and STUDIO 3D printers were center stage. With their massive size, they attracted a lot of attention as attendees were eager to learn about the features, open source materials and how large-format can help them. Potential customers expressed frustrations in not being able to print full-scale or having long lead times due to outsourcing – which are some of the top reasons people turn to BigRep’s large-format 3D printers. We also analyzed parts right on the show flow to PROVE the value to prospects.

BigRep PRO at Rapid + TCT

#THINKBIG

BigRep customers #THINKBIG and are using additive to save time and money. In the booth, we displayed parts from a few of our customers including WAT (fixture), JK Automotive Design (end use part), Nikola Corporation (prototype), Boyce Corporation (end use part), and more. Attendees that visited the booth and checked out the parts were amazed at the quality of the parts, print times and materials.

Bigrep at Rapid + TCT
3D Printed Nikola Truck Grille

Key Takeaways

Throughout the 3 day event, several experts and industry leaders took the stage to discuss a variety of topics and share their experience and knowledge. A few key takeaways from these...

1. Taking the hype out and bringing 3D printing to reality.

As always, there is a lot of hype around 3D Printing and what it can do. During several talks, the speakers brought 3D printing back to reality and discussed the real challenges and uses of it. From automotive to aerospace and medical to consumer products, additive offers many great rewards. An expert from General Motors talked about the benefits of FFF 3D printing technology for tooling and prototypes. His big take away was how FFF enables production, helps you minimize defects and also allows you to get to market faster. This sentiment was echoed by several other speakers as well. And then when you take into account the size of printers, the rewards goes exponentially.

Management within companies are also pushing to using additive but experts were quick to point out the importance of not just 3D printing a part because you can. Talk to product development, engineers, production line experts and find the “reality” of where additive fits.

The reality of 3D Printing was also talked a lot about in terms of the pandemic. From supply chain issues to supporting PPE, AM really stepped up during the past 18 months and showcased the true beauty of the technology.

For BigRep, our customers are putting additive manufacturing to use in real life applications from prototyping to production. Our PRO is allowing customers to iterate fast. Produce Faster. Get to market fastest.

2. 3D Printing is another tool in your toolbox.

Additive manufacturing is not positioning itself as a technology to replace traditional manufacturing – “it’s just another tool in your toolbox.” This statement was mentioned during several talks. As the AM industry grown and matures, companies are starting to understand this and realized the true benefits AM can provide.

When considering additive, you must ask yourself the why. Why am I really using additive? Is it the best method to produce my part? And the answer will not always be yes. Traditional manufacturing is often times still the best solution, but when you find the right application for the right part, AM can provide significant savings for both time and cost. One speaker, Ellen Lee from Ford, said it best, “You must find the opportunities that will solve problems with AM.” And as other speakers said, when you do, these are the applications that will pay off in the long run.

3D Printed Automotive Production Tool

For BigRep, we see this with several of our customers who also rely on CNC, sand casting, and other traditional manufacturing methods. They utilize 3D printing when the cost and time savings pay off whether for prototypes, molds, tooling or even end use parts. When the payback is positive, it usually mean big savings not only in cost but also lead time.

3. Applications, applications, applications.

The applications for 3D printing are vast, but still see a lot of prototypes and tooling.

During the presentation, Industrial Manufacturers Discuss the Production Readiness of AM, one speaker talked about using FFF for tooling and how you are missing out if you aren’t using it for that. Other speakers, including Stanley Black and Decker and X Moonshot Factory also talked about how being able to 3D print prototypes is allowing them to iterative fast and as a result bring about better products.

Then in terms of production parts or end use parts, customization of parts is still a huge benefit of using AM from shoes to jewelry and also one off parts for customer automotive interiors (as several BigRep customer are doing) or large displays.

3D Printed Car Dashboard

As several speakers spoke about the benefits of FFF for tooling, we see it every day from our customers, including WAT, Nikola, Vestas and more. One of the key benefit our large-format 3D printers allow is the ability to print tools that cost a fraction and are lighter weight and often more ergonomic.

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