SPECIAL EDITION 


This year’s IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show, produced a vintage crop. For the occasion, DirectIndustry e-magazine made the trip to Chicago looking for cutting-edge stories. One thing is certain—the harvest was good! Our journalists brought back tremendous video reports, from self-driving vehicles to industry 4.0 made in Taiwan, not to mention great pieces on 3D printing. Scroll down to see our newsroom’s best-of selections.

Fullpage Staubli Robots
With new players entering this market, the self-driving vehicle race might be a feature of the 21st century.


Watch our special video report. Autonomous vehicles were one of the major attractions at IMTS this year. Several exhibitors were there to demonstrate the viability of such driverless vehicles. Despite the advanced technology, they are not yet extensively used. In search of answers, DirectIndustry e-magazine boarded...

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AM competes or may surpass traditional manufacturing processes.

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A few years ago, says Tim Shinbara, vice president of technology at the Association for Manufacturing Technology, AM was no more than an attraction in the Emerging Technology Center at IMTS. But it made its way to the main show floor.


At the present time, AM/3-D printing is marginal for most industrial applications, but highly used in medical, and growing in aerospace and automotive. However, its industrial use has gained significance, and this year was the first time that AM has its own pavilion at IMTS.

Many more industries are now turning to the technology for prototyping and tooling applications. But Shinbara believes that as process stability and material offerings improve, the demand from heavy equipment, automotive and aerospace manufacturers will increase.

He also suggests that there is a trend in the U.S. toward the use of AM for large components, in the construction, heavy equipment and transportation sectors.

He notes the case of the LM3D car from U.S.-based Local Motors. About three-quarters of the vehicle is printed using a blend of 80% ABS plastic and 20% carbon fiber. The company aims to produce 90% of the car in a single piece through 3-D printing.

Going Large

Richard Martukanitz, director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D) at Penn State University, says that although AM technology is in its infancy, the list of potential applications is growing quickly.

Almost all large companies have active programs [to identify] where AM may improve their products, and they are now actively pursuing analysis involving product cost, reliability, and performance.

But how does this play out when it comes to large 3D printed products? Dr. Martukanitz explains:

Large-scale AM is already available through the Sciaky Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing Process. This has the ability to produce near net shapes, requiring final machining, up to 5 m in length. Powder bed fusion processes are also scaling to larger sizes for producing parts up to 1.2 m in size having high feature quality.

Having Vision


Courtesy of Vader

Vader Systems has developed a technology for liquid metal 3D printing that uses wire as an input material and produces dense parts at high speeds.

Magnetojet moves molten metal using electromagnetic pulses, creating discrete droplets on demand. Early interest has come from aerospace and defense companies, explain co-founders Scott and Zack Vader.

Because our technology replicates inkjet printing, and additional print heads can be added without great expense, it is highly scalable. We have a vision of a machine that contains hundreds or thousands of print heads which will make the 3D printing of large parts very attractive.

Flying High

GE Aviation has used AM for many years, explains Mike Cloran, marketing manager at its Additive Development Center. As well as employing the technology in the design and development of its new jet engines, it is now also creating fuel nozzle tips for CFM International’s LEAP engine and engine sensor housings for the GE90-94B engine.

AM changes how certain parts are made, allowing GE to engage in designs that would be impossible to create using traditional methods. Another potential advantage is reduced part count, by replacing assemblies with single parts. Also, with AM lighter parts can be designed and manufactured, thereby saving weight and increasing fuel efficiency of the engine.

However, he says:

Today, there is a limited build envelope, a limited number of alloys and a limited amount of speed and efficiency to build the parts. But GE expects to see more alloys produced more efficiently and this technology will become ubiquitous not only in aerospace, but across industries.

The corporation expects to produce more than 100,000 end-use AM engine parts by 2020.

Jet engine with 3D printed parts

Courtesy of General Electrics

An AM Future

Dr. Martukanitz believes AM’s niche is in lower-volume components that benefit by customization or advanced designs for improved performance.

When the selection of the part is performed correctly, AM competes or may surpass traditional manufacturing processes in terms of cost. But the printing of 3D components takes time—20- to 50-hour build times are quite common. However, systems developers are improving the technology for faster build times.

While large AM components currently are attracting attention, Shinbara has doubts about the mass customization of large parts.

For mass production of big-sized 3D printed products to be competitive, there needs to be drastically improved deposition speeds and many more engineered materials with comparable mechanical properties to at least wrought, if not forged, products.

Larger products tend to require more arduous mechanical property or environmental conditions.

[These] are most affordably met with metallic or at least the carbon-based composite materials currently available.

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Will the Western players fear the little island’s ambitions?

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Watch our special video report. Is the Taiwanese Touch the beginning of a new trend in the industry? Taiwan is the world’s 6th manufacturer and the 5th exporter of machine tools. Seventy-five percent of machine-tools made in Taiwan are exported. At IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show that took place...

Fullpage Universal Robots

Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Showcased at IMTS, the AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) project from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory demonstrated...

Courtesy of Kuka


KUKA’s new platform allows customers to access and analyze robot data on any device. Built on open standards, it leverages the latest web and mobile...


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  • Courtesy of Vader

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    Using the MagnetoJet printing technology to convert solid metal wire to precise molten metal droplets, the Mk 1 is the first 3D printer that uses liquid metal. Can it change the 3D printing industry?


    What if a 3D printer could produce parts and components from liquid metal? That’s exactly what is promised by the Mk 1 Liquid Metal 3D printer from Buffalo, New York-based Vader Systems, on display in the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion at IMTS in Chicago.

    MagnetoJet technology

    The Mk 1 uses the company’s patent-pending MagnetoJet printing technology to convert solid metal wire to high-speed, precise molten metal droplets. Jenae Pitts from Vader Systems explains the system:

    MagnetoJet technology replicates the idea of inkjet printing and is the merging of two complementary technologies for printing molten metal—magnetohydrodynamics and liquid metal jet printing. It expels molten metal through a nozzle using electromagnetic propulsion producing discrete droplets on demand.

    The liquefied metal gets as hot as 800°C.

    Safe and Inexpensive

    The aerospace, defense and manufacturing industries have already shown an interest in the Mk 1, which will help in the manufacture of aluminum parts currently machined with lathes and computer numerical control (CNC) mills. It uses safe and inexpensive commodity-grade wire to produce fully dense printed parts, which is a departure from the traditional 3D metal printing processes, which currently uses expensive, dangerous, and difficult to source input material.

    This process is nearly twice as fast. We are printing at deposition rates above 1 pound/450g per hour … it has the potential to be disruptive to the manufacturing industry.

    By adding multiple print heads, the Mk1 can be customized to different applications.

    Quality of Output

    The Mk 1 is now working with aluminium alloys 4043, 6061, and 7075, which are highly sought after. Until now, 6061 and 7075 have been extremely difficult to weld and impossible to print with 3D printing technology, but early results show massive potential.

    The quality of the parts we are printing appear to be fully dense, to be resistant to micro-cracking, and to have internal microstructures that make them very strong. We are still undergoing metallurgical testing on our parts, but the early indications are promising.

    Market Opportunity

    Many believe that additive manufacturing is the future of high volume, highly customized production manufacturing.

    It will open up new possibilities in material design, manipulation of specialized alloys and new combinations of welded material. The attraction of additive manufacturing will only grow and we plan to be a big part of that revolution.

    Vader Systems estimates that in 10 years additive manufacturing could end up comprising 20-30% of the machine tool market sales, which is presently a $20-$30 billion market.

    Future Plans

    The initial run of 20 machines—known as the Mk 1 Experimental—has already been sold out to early adopters including manufacturers and academic research labs, but Vader is taking orders for 2017 at IMTS. It will begin shipping the production version of the Mk1 early in 2017, then start development on printers with multiple heads in 2017. For 2018, expect higher temperature metal printers that use copper, silver and even gold.

    Courtesy of Local Motors

    Visitors to IMTS were able to take a ride on Olli, the new self-driving electric transit vehicle from Local Motors. Currently operating on roads around...

    Courtesy of Force Robot


    At IMTS, Force Robots demonstrated its Touch Robot, which combines the dexterity of a human hand with the power of a machine. Its new tool changer enables the...

    Courtesy of Mazak

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    Mazak unveiled its new VARIAXIS i-800T Multi-Tasking machine combining liquid nitrogen cryogenic technology and five-axis milling and turning capabilities. It...

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    An increasing number of U.S. manufacturers are embracing the concept of smarter machining and the Industrial Internet of Things.


    The IoT is fundamentally reshaping the industrial landscape, according to Beth Parkinson, director of market development at Rockwell Automation’s Connected Enterprise.

    Machine and equipment builders are now starting to look at how they can leverage IoT technologies to expand capabilities in how they build intelligence into their equipment, including expanding the ability for remote monitoring, reporting and management to prevent unplanned downtime.

    Smart Thinking

    Smart manufacturing is a highly connected, knowledge-enabled industrial enterprise, where devices and processes are connected, monitored and optimized to enhance productivity, sustainability and economic performance.

    Jennifer McNelly is executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, which focuses on improving and expanding manufacturing in the U,S. She says that 35% of American manufacturers currently use data generated by smart sensors to enhance their processes.

    This means taking into account advances that allow smart objects and machines to interact and communicate with one another, configure themselves, analyze data, predict and prevent failures and adapt to changes within the manufacturing process.

    Upgrading Machinery

    TE Connectivity is investing in factory IIoT solutions that are compatible with existing automation, especially for upgrading existing machinery.

    This includes  ARISO Contactless Connectivity, which aims to overcome traditional limitations of space, vibration, dust and dirt, and user-friendly “field-installable” connectors that require no tools. For Gijs Werner, strategic marketing manager:

    One of the biggest advantages of smart manufacturing is remote maintenance management and enabling subsystems to take autonomous, decentralized decisions. The overall effect of integrated manufacturing systems is a reduction in downtime and significant productivity gains.

    Smart machining is progressing at a rapid rate, agrees Daniel Walldorf, Industrial IoT business development:

    There is more to come. Self-learning and self-optimizing machines will be the next step. You won’t have to teach machines anymore, they will learn by themselves.

    Towards the Virtual Design of Machinery?

    Werner says,

    We are already seeing complete virtualized machine designs. This will be more and more common practice in coming years, whereby end-users can ‘touch and feel’ machines before they are built. Today the focus is mainly on the functional or mechanical side of machines but I expect this to be expanded to a virtual world where machines can be demonstrated as part of the complete supply chain where setups can be demonstrated, tested, changed and the optimum can be found before complete systems are built.


    Camille Rustici

    Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…

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    Hicham Dhouibi

    Hicham Dhouibi is a mechanical and process engineer and writer with years of experience in automotive, plastic processing and telecom industries.

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    Abigail Saltmarsh

    Abigail Saltmarsh is a freelance journalist with 25 years’ experience for industry publications (Packaging Europe) and national magazines (The New York Times, International Herald Tribune).

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    Jamie Carter

    Jamie Carter is a journalist based in Wales, who writes about technology for the South China Morning Post, Mashable, MSN, the BBC Sky At Night, TechRadar.com and Korean Air’s Morning Calm.

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