Formnext 2018 Healthcare: Production is the Key

Last November,  Frankfurt, Germany received the biggest crowd in Additive Manufacturing. Formnext2018 is the major showcase for the AM technology and its accessories. Formnext 2018 filled two halls of Frankfurt Messe, which means a double than last year.

Additive manufacturing is becoming more mature, we can now produce final components in polymers or metals in quantities that make sense in the manufacturing world. In addition, we have full control of this new process, full production was the tone of the show. Machine builders showcased features about fast builds, parts quantities measured in pieces per year, and process automation like heat treatment and build plate management inside the machines.  Most of the demo parts were fully filled build plates.

Picture Courtesy of Materialise

On the healthcare side, companies presented equipment capable of making biomodels with multiple textures and materials, models that can simulate surgical procedures perfectly; polymer cutting guides to make precise bone resections;  equipment capable of making polymer and metal implants with the right geometry, properties, and osseointegration;and computer systems capable of create shapes based on human body physiology.


Most current build preparation systems, with optional functions or not, can simulate the build process with good precision and geometrical correction about the thermal, stress, and supports displacement, in laser powder bed fusion process. Similar systems will be available to other AM process soon. New supports calculation algorithms are making the built more stable and repeatable. DED and EBM processes are being supported by some systems and should have the same coverage as FDM and LPBF processes in a short time.



What is called by the industry post processing, I call finishing,  are advancing fast. Things like automated support removal, build plate separation, heat treatment and surface finish are being really integrated into the chain and had a big exposure in the show.




ASTM and ISO held a joint workshop discussing the standards development for additive, all the most important officers of both organizations were present and a good panel with the biggest standards specialists in industry discussed the main challenges we face while developing it.



Additive manufacturing is a new technology, now available for the manufacturing of real-life products. AM has the innovation capacity for any sector, from fixture devices to medical devices,  aerospace parts, to tooling and production equipment to complete final automotive components. AM should no longer be seen as a substitute to well-established process that make products properly with well-adjusted supply chains. It is important to keep in mind that AM is initial, final and complimentary to processes like machining and injection molding in making large quantities of parts. These traditional processes have precision requirements not met by metal AM yet. By being a polymeric or metallurgical process, AM   has its limitations and needs proper use.

Additive Manufacturing is a process to add to the traditional manufacturing process. It must be integrated into the factories, must be understood and developed. Yes, additive machines and systems have its “marvelous” features as well as challenges, but our industry will progress to implement and improve itself. We can soon experience an exponential jump to better-designed products and massively improved manufacturing. Formnext2018 confirmed we are on the right path!




About the Author:









Fabio Sant’Ana has Precision Mechanics degree and Business Administration Bachelor’s , born and raised in São Paulo he has 25 years experience in helping companies to aquire and take full advantage of 3d Machining and Additive Manufacturing Equipment . Entrepreneur and knowledge avid is member of stardarts organizations ASTM F42 Additive Manufacturing , ABNT CEE-261 Manufatura Aditiva e ABNT CB-26 Odonto-Médico-Hospitalar . CAD/CAM , Surface Modelling and EBM specialist he is passionate in connect people and companies to the right tools to accomplish the mission.



  • Dear Fabio,
    thank you for your article. Would you mind sharing some of the firms offering computer systems capable of creating shapes based on human body physiology?
    Thank you,