RAPID + TCT 2024: Major Highlights and Key Takeaways from the Event

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Rapid + TCT 2024 has officially closed its doors. Taking place this year in sunny Los Angeles, California, the event was held between June 25th and 27th, and included many new and interesting features. For example, the Executive Perspective keynote discussions with key decision makers in additive manufacturing and the Hollywood Showcase, both of which captivated attendees. As Bob Willig of SME succinctly put it on the first day, “Where else can you be with thousands of people with a common love of and connection to additive manufacturing?”

Throughout RAPID + TCT, we saw a number of trends that have been popping up over the past few years. Sustainability continues to be an incredibly important topic for the industry. This is unsurprising considering the significant potential for additive manufacturing in greener production.

The pessimism that has become more common due to the turmoil of 2023 was also present. But despite that, hope was also prominent. Most manufacturers continue to innovate and expand the universe of 3D printing capabilities, in defiance of doubts that have been raised.

But what about the new trends? And what exactly are the key takeaways from the event? What did you miss? We take a closer look in our recap below.

Executive Perspectives Put the Leaders in AM in the Spotlight at RAPID + TCT 2024

The Executive Perspectives Keynote series brought fresh insights to RAPID + TCT 2024 directly from those who are making the most important decisions. Taking place first thing every morning, the talks brought together leaders in additive manufacturing to discuss their thoughts on the industry and its future. And right off the bat, it was clear that they had something to say.

The first highly anticipated keynote brought together the CEOs from Stratasys, 3D Systems and Nano Dimension. You may remember that the three companies were involved last year in a significant amount of drama as part of merger talks which were eventually all dropped. Still, the topic has not fully died off, resurfacing briefly earlier this year.

The Executive Perspectives Keynote series brought together leaders in additive manufacturing

This panel did not disappoint. Yoav Stern, the CEO of Nano Dimension, made it clear that he had not forgotten his goal to merge with Stratasys. When discussing the future of the industry and how to ensure that it grew, he repeatedly advised one strategy: consolidation. He even drew comparisons to the founding of companies like Boeing as a roadmap for the industry’s future.

In fact, industry growth and endurance was a key point on which each executive shared a different perspective. Marie Langer from EOS reiterated the priorities of the powder bed solution provider by highlighting the importance of the environment. She also noted that companies investing in themselves would become increasingly critical, even if in the short and mid-term that would lead to less profitability.

Charlie Grace from Nikon SLM Solutions remained extremely optimistic about the future of metal AM. That same optimism was reflected by the number of manufacturers on the show floor this year. Even while Dr. Yoav Zeif from Stratasys urged staying the course.

The second Executive Perspective keynote also featured many prominent figures in the industry. Avi Reichtental of Nexa3D, Savi Baveja of HP, Fried Vancrean of Materialse, Nils Niemeyer from DMG Mori and Shai Terem from Markforged. This was followed on the third day by a discussion by Alain Dupont from Colibrium Additive, Maxim Lobovsky from Formlabs, Ric Fulop from Desktop Metal, Michelle Sidwell from Velo3D and Victor Roman from ARBURGadditive.

Although the talks were not always peaceful, the insights pointed towards several clear directions. Most of the executives urged caution, even if that was not shared by all, while it was also acknowledged that we cannot stick our heads in the sand about the industry. Companies need to be making decisions that will help them to navigate in these trying times, otherwise how can we be sure of the future of additive manufacturing?

The Practical Side of Additive Manufacturing

Still, although that may sound dire, the executives in the keynotes and even the exhibitors on the show floor did seem to agree on at least one thing: practicality is what is needed right now. But what exactly does that mean?

Marie Langer might have put it best in that first executive keynote when she stated, “the hype [for 3D printing] is over,” before explaining that this does not mean that we need to be pessimistic as an industry. More specifically, it was generally agreed that we need to be focusing specifically on the customers, rather than creating parts and hoping that they will come.

Throughout the show floor, exhibitors were showing how additive manufacturing solutions could be used for practical, clear applications

Todd Grimm, owner of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Inc and AM industry advisor for AMUG, noted this consistent theme with positivity, commenting, “One thing that I am pleased with is that I am showing more product innovations that are more in line with what customers need, rather than building a mouse trap and expecting them to come.”

The Hollywood Showcase was not only an incredible reminder of Hollywood not far away from the convention center, but also a clear example of the need for practicality in applications. This was echoed by Jason Lopes, the Chief Technology Officer at Gentle Giant Studios, when highlighting the need for the showcase. As RAPID + TCT 2024 sought to highlight regions where 3D printing is prominent, it goes without saying that the entertainment sector was a perfect choice given the sharp rise in the use of 3D technologies in recent years. What an incredible show!

At the Hollywood Showcase, attendees stood with life-size statues of different popular characters, many of which have been used by companies like Disney for marketing purposes or at theme parks. The majority were made using large-format SLA with finishing details done using various post-processing methods though material jetting was also a common choice for the more detailed parts. And what was clear was not just how incredibly detailed it is possible to get with 3D technologies but how they can be used in a variety of ways, Sauron as well as Jake Sully and Neytiri from Avatar were particularly incredible examples.

Neytiri from Avatar shown in incredible detail at the Hollywood Showcase

However, entertainment was not the only sector that showed up in force at RAPID + TCT this year. We saw numerous examples of fields where additive manufacturing is not just useful, but even indispensable, especially when combined with other processes such as CNC. This year, those included defense, aerospace and medical, fitting as well given the location.

We told you about Manny the 3D printed skeleton, but that was just the tip of the iceberg as many different companies showed off how well their technologies could be used for accurate anatomical models. From realistic hearts to prosthetics, it was not hard to find incredible parts that could be used in the healthcare sector.

Aerospace as well was well-represented. Everything from a full motor blade for a helicopter to fully metal, 3D printed engines was present at the booths. Fitting given California’s importance when it comes to startups for space.

Last but not least, we heard loudly and often about the potential for additive manufacturing in defense with the DOD and Pentagon coming up often as a topic of conversation.

Michelle Sidwell, for example, explained the current priorities for VELO3D during one keynote. Going on to state, “Our responsibility as well is helping US defense, there are a lot of challenges there and we are behind. We need to see how we can help in this geopolitical climate…Now the question is how do we take what happened in space where we are able to move into that process quickly and start to move horizontally into defense and help educate the market into where we fit in as part of our patriotic duty.”

The Human Connection Was Clearer Than Ever at the Event

When it comes to the question, what does RAPID + TCT do differently than other additive manufacturing events, the answer is quite clear. Human connectivity is the name of the game with most attendees seeing the networking as one of the key benefits of attending this year.

Exceptional parties on the second day that showed the glitter and glam of Hollywood certainly also helped. With break dancers and delicious food, everyone it seemed was happy to gather long after the show floor had closed to mingle and talk additive manufacturing. Something that only continued with after parties such as the karaoke offered by America Makes.

The AM Industry Celebrations showed off the closeness of Hollywood to RAPID + TCT 2024

But this success cannot be seen as an accident for the event. RAPID + TCT has always shown itself to be in some ways the additive manufacturing event that was for the people. Something that has been further exemplified with its extremely unique North American tour.

Ben Rubinstein, Senior Marketing Specialist at SME which helps to produce the show, explained it best, commenting, “With the RAPID + TCT’s North American tour, we’re bringing AM directly to the backyards of major manufacturing industries. Next year we’re in Detroit: besides being the home of SME, it’s the mecca for automotive/mobility. And in 2026, we’re super excited to visit Boston and collocate with two other giants in the world of manufacturing events: SAE’s World Congress Experience (think Detroit/automotive meets Silicon Valley-level tech), and SME’s own AeroDef, which puts the spotlight on advanced manufacturing technologies for aerospace and defense.”

Materials, Software and Post-Processing Shine at RAPID + TCT 2024

Last but not least, following a trend seen over the past few years in numerous trade shows, although machine manufacturers may be worried, materials, software and post-processing solutions continue to grow rapidly. Indeed, we saw a number of offerings throughout the trade show, for example, water cutting and EDM machining were popular post-processing offerings.

Software especially seemingly had a place of honor for many participants this year. Not only did many mention the fact that software would be key in continuing to optimize and help in efforts to making more cost-effective and useful parts. But we saw again the importance of AI in a broader sense. Many companies seem to be banking on the buzzword (whether realistically or not), with not just software but even printers taking advantage of the popularity that seems to be given to anything bearing the word.

However, cynicism aside, it was clear that materials, software and post-processing are really finding their place in a wider AM market. Rather than being relegated to the sides, material companies like 6K Additive took a place of honor with some of the biggest booths. While Aibuild unveiled its latest update in a press release in the middle of the show to noticeable interest.

And there you have it! Suffice to say that even with a more subdued tone for many exhibitors and attendees, we are seeing clearly through RAPID + TCT how the entire sector expects to advance. It is likely that we will continue to see this clear focus on customers even while software, material and post-processing will grow. In any case, it will be interesting to compare next year at RAPID + TCT 2025 in Detroit, Michigan.

Were you able to attend RAPID + TCT 2024? What was your favorite part of the event? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here for the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

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