IMTS 2022: Trends in Additive Manufacturing

Author photo: Daniel Keyser


Additive ManufacturingAfter four years off the trade show scene thanks to a certain global pandemic, The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) has come and gone in McCormack Place in Chicago this past week, after a four-year gap. Over three days and a light 40 miles in shoes not designed for that much wear in a week, I covered part of the additive manufacturing section and spent a good deal of time in the west hall of McCormick Place.

The trade show provided a good in-person networking opportunity to discuss industry trends, machine specifications, and market segmentation, and understand where the industry was heading.

Additive Manufacturing: Printers and Materials at IMTS

Several companies, such as HP, Desktop Metal, and Jeol EBM exhibited new printers at the show. Most additive manufacturing systems were dedicated metal printers, some were dedicated to thermoplastics, and new materials were being displayed. The sheer number of metal printers being highlighted shows a trend and shift in the additive manufacturing market that ARC’s research reveals - metal is overtaking polymer when it comes to new printers. Polymer printers provide amazing flexibility to a manufacturer and according to ARC’s research demand for them will continue to grow. The ability to replace traditional manufactured metal with high strength polymers is invaluable.

However, being able to print metal parts for jobs that cannot be replaced by even high-end polymers is certainly important. Metal printing offers parts on demand to manufacturers who need them, usually with faster turnaround times than traditional parts. This allows for manufacturers to simplify and create more efficient parts, usually supplanting several parts that must be assembled into a few parts that promote better mechanical design. That is not to include the benefits of more complex parts unobtainable through traditional subtractive processes that can be printed in metal, or the benefits of generative design applied to parts creation. A lot of printers are still operating under IR laser technology and have challenges with copper alloys. However, several companies I spoke to are working on solutions for mixed metal alloys.

IMTS 2022 showcased the transition to more metal focused manufacturing for a wide range of applications and industries: chief amongst them aerospace, defense, and medical.

Industry Direction at IMTS 2022

Heading to the event, I wanted to get a better feeling about where was the industry going, and who was buying. The top industries identified by the delegates at IMTS 2022 were aerospace, defense, and medical sectors, with automotive and oil & gas / energy following closely be-hind. This was expected, given the substantial number of showcased prints aimed at New Space, such as combustion chambers printed from a variety of metals in several sizes. This extends back to terrestrial aviaion, with turbine blades and airframe parts also seen printed, or as part of marketing material for several industrial 3D printer manufacturers at the show.

The medical sector was mentioned several times, though it was not necessarily the highlight of presentations in the same way that aeropace was. While additive manufacturing is being utilized in the medical field and is one of the fastest growing fields for additive manufacturing as a whole, it was not the focus at IMTS; perhaps because the customers were looking for heavier parts production. While some manufacturers demonstrated both polymer and metal prints of medical designs, and in some cases, printers aimed at dentistry, it was a smaller focus at the show.


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Keywords: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Metal Printing, Aerospace, New Space, Hybrid Machines, ARC Advisory Group.

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