RAPID celebrated its 25th anniversary in Long Beach, California. This year’s exposition showcased close to 200 exhibitors from all facets of the additive manufacturing industry. Stratasys was a proud sponsor of RAPID 2015 and winner of the People’s Choice Award for best exhibit, which recognized the Stratasys stand for being interactive, technically and aesthetically impressive, and visually appealing and engaging.
The conference included fascinating presentations highlighting the growing number of 3D printed end-use parts in aerospace, and an industry overview from additive manufacturing analyst Terry Wohlers. Wohlers noted that additive manufacturing growth has quadrupled over the last five years, with over $4.1 billion spent in 2014. Much of the industry’s growth, particularly in aerospace, is expected to be driven by high-end applications.
Taking Flight with Material Advancements
Over the last decade, the adoption of additive manufacturing in industries including aerospace, automotive and commercial is due largely to material advancements and the evolution of 3D printing applications. Since the development of ULTEM™ 9085, a flame-retardant, high-performance thermoplastic, companies like United Launch Alliances (ULA) are utilizing 3D printing to produce end-use parts for space exploration. According to Gregory Schiller, program manager with ULA’s Strategic Planning and Business Development department, their facility initially purchased a Fortus 900mc 3D Production System by Stratasys for standard applications like prototyping and the testing of jigs…but soon discovered how Stratasys could help broaden their horizons. ULA’s use of FDM 3D printing has helped save them $1m a year by 3D printing rocket components from plastic. Also, Airbus has 3D printed over 1,000 FDM flight parts for its A350 XWB aircraft program. The 3D printed parts were used in place of traditionally manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility, enabling Airbus to meet its delivery commitment on-time.
“About a year and half ago, we turned a corner and started building assembly tools that are in operation today (about 100 tools) that we are utilizing in production. And just this week, we are 3D printing our first flight articles which will fly on our vehicles in about a year and half,” said Schiller.
William Harding, ULA Program Director, added, “We can design parts on our rockets to go into space that are plastic, instead of traditional metal material. It’s driven down cost and weight, is still structurally sound and meets all the extreme environments rockets must adhere to.”
Harrier Nose Cone Receives 3D Printed Components
Out on the exhibition floor, Stratasys stimulated conversations with the Harrier Nose Cone display – depicting the story of an AV-8B Harrier jet which was forced to make an emergency landing and was damaged in the process. The technicians used FDM-based 3D printing to create polycarbonate-based forming tools and simple drill guides to repair the nose cone. The process resulted in significant time and cost savings, reducing the overall manufacturing process from three weeks to one week.
Bright Minds for a Bright Future
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Bright Minds program attracted over 140 students during the four-day conference. Stratasys, a 5th year sponsor of the educational program, joined educators and other leaders to expose students to the growing industry of additive manufacturing. The program, which combines workshops and hands-on challenges for students ranging from high school to university level, provides opportunities for today’s youth to experience technology innovations firsthand. Students received a tour of the exhibition floor, and explored the technology and 3D printed parts presented at the Stratasys booth.
Additional conference highlights included our reseller road show kick off events, featuring FATHOM, Purple Platypus, Advanced Technologies Consultants, Inc., GoEngineer and The Paton Group. RAPID attendees also enjoyed having their picture taken with the gigantic 14-foot Bodock creature, which debuted last July at Comic-Con in San Diego. Stan Winston School of Character Arts, Legacy Effects, WIRED, and Condé Nast Entertainment provided the creative vision for the 2,000-pound creature, which included approximately one-third Stratasys FDM 3D printed components.
A special thanks to our Stratasys and customer presentations, which provided insights into the growing areas of 3D printing applications and material advancements:
- Francois Guilbault, Solaxis Ingenious Manufacturing Inc., presented “Accelerate Your Manufacturing Projects with 3D Printing”
- Dominic F. Mannella & Kevin Johnson, Stratasys, presented “3D Printed Fully Functional Skis and Snowboards”
- John Dobstetter, Stratasys, presented “Additive Manufacturing Solutions”