What’s Next for Formnext?
Stephan Beyer is an entrepreneur and engineer currently serving as a Non-Executive Director at SPEE3D. He is also the Co-Founder and CFO of nFrontier, an impact-driven innovation firm committed to creating sustainable products by fusing design technology and innovation.
Like many of my colleagues in the additive manufacturing space, I’ve kept a close eye on the annual Formnext event in Frankfurt for many years. As an exhibitor and as a visitor, it’s here where I’ve seen the industry’s boldest ideas come to life.
Formnext 2023 was no exception.
And while the world definitely doesn’t need another “What I Saw at Formnext” article, I was hoping to take this opportunity to share what I believe today’s industry trends portend for the future of metal additive manufacturing.
What did I see?
Robotic hardware, scalable printing technologies, and AI-driven process software were on full display this year. And with good reason.
As customer demand for resilient, locally produced metal parts grows and metal 3D printers get bigger, faster, and more productive, robotics and software will play increasingly significant roles in the industry’s evolution.
At Formnext 2023, every company rep echoed this observation and the most impressive exhibits showed off these advancements. And as I went from demonstration to demonstration, I couldn’t help but notice how dominant these trends really are.
What didn’t I see?
A context for those trends.
Something… anything… that illustrated how these technologies will actually impact the customers using them, financially or logistically.
In other words, I saw lots of promises but very few parts.
And for an industry shifting its focus from research to engineering, this is problematic… especially when you consider how quickly commercial customers are seeking to adopt metal additive manufacturing across a growing number of industries.
For these customers… for any customers… understanding what happens when the rubber meets the road is crucial. Because at the end of the day, their need is relatively straightforward: strong metal parts for low cost at scale, fast.
What does it cost? What do I get? How fast do I get it? These are questions we must answer and this is the customer-centric information we need to communicate.
Which is to say, we need to better understand that our success is the success of our customers… the engineers, the designers, the hard-working people in the workshop, on the production floor, and out in the field. Nothing else matters.
For metal additive manufacturing leaders like SPEE3D, this means we need to spend less time showing off the tech and more time highlighting the success of the people using it. And it means we need to start measuring our success in euros/kg or time-to-part… the two key metrics all our customers are using to size us up and expand their metal printing capabilities.
After all, if our technology can’t rapidly deliver strong parts at low cost, what’s the point?
And if our customers need to see, hold, and examine those parts for themselves to understand the true value of our technologies, then that’s what we should be showing them at events like Formnext. Parts create excitement, not just machines.
The future of the event… just like the future of additive manufacturing itself… lies in promoting the benefits of the tech, not just the features. It lies in proving our technologies can lower cost, strengthen parts, and accelerate production. And in demonstrating our commitment to helping our hard-working customers overcome their day-to-day challenges.
In short, we need to make more parts and fewer promises.
Ready to learn more? Email us at email@example.com to arrange a demonstration.