TCT Live 2012: Professional tools

19 September 2012

We show you what to look out for if you’re investigation 3D printing’s professional side at TCT Live

Prodrive’s Paul Doe will be one of the most anticipated speakers at this year’s TCT Live, speaking about the BMW Mini WRC team

Tomorrow: A Maker and Hobbyist’s guide to TCT

With the expansion of 3D printing in all areas of design and manufacture, TCT Live offers the chance to assess the market under one roof during the two day event. If you’re a newcomer to the technology, or even an old hand, it provides an easy way to have all your questions answered.

Now firmly settled into its new home in Birmingham’s NEC, the free event has an interesting line-up of seminars and talks covering a wide range of industries benefitting from 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

Building parts and breaking hearts

These massive pieces of kit are industrial equipment, and therefore come with industrial price tags, so it pays to do your homework at an event such as this before blowing the company’s budget.

Stratasys will be wielding its Fortus range, billed as 3D Production Systems, these will meet many people’s desires for large build areas and speed using its FDM materials.

In the rival corner 3D Systems’ professional range peaks with the high resolution ProJet SLA range. These machines vary from something that would fit into a space in the office, to monsters that require their own rooms.

Before melding together with Stratasys, Objet makes one final independent appearance at TCT Live with the Connex 500 still the daddy of this family. Its ability to print in high resolution in the latest ‘ABS-like’ material will surely attract it a lot of interest.

EOS is all about printing for industrial applications, with its machines offering laser-sintering systems for metals, plastics and even sand for accurate castings.

Voxeljet might not have its giant 4 x 2 x 1 metre build-space VX4000 at the show, but it is part of a range of innovative designs that might fit what you’re looking for.

Proving concepts and looking pretty

From high precision desktops through to fully equipped industrial units there are a number of companies that can offer solutions for all the rapid prototyping needs you may have.

3D Systems offers its Z Printers; formerly ZCorp machines they have a proven record of producing great for visual models in colour.

HP will have the Designjet 3D printer, a nicely designed desktop unit for prototyping using ABS plastic. Elsewhere Objet will display its versatile Objet Pro 30, capable of printing a variety of 7 different materials and multiple combinations.

Mcor Technologies is introducing the Mcor IRIS at the show, a paper 3D printer providing full 3D colour prints that are robust, eco-friendly and cheaper than plastics.

Well worth a look are Danish newcomer BluePrinter, which is looking to expand its UK network using proprietary technology called Selective Heat Sintering (SHS), using a thermal print head to sinter thermoplastic powder into 3D objects.

Anyone specialising in jewellery should head straight for Solidscape, DigitalWax and EnvisionTEC, all producing high-resolution machines for this high precision industry.

The building bureaux

If you prefer having prototypes professionally finished, or short run production pieces outsourced then a bureau is ideal, and there will be no shortage of variety at TCT Live.

Most at the show are already dealing with major players in design and engineering all around the UK and even the wider world, so don’t let the fact that they aren’t on your doorstep put you off. With everyone vying for the same business, it’s a great opportunity to ask questions and get the best deals.

If it’s a particular type of machine build or material that you require then seek them out: IPF produces its parts on the only bureau service Objet500 Connex machine in the UK, while John Burn Ltd offers a full range of 3D Systems equipment. Working primarily with one type of machine means that the people doing the hands-on work are used to the behaviours of the materials and can easily save you time and money with a project.

Elsewhere (Belfast to be exact), Laser Prototypes is a great example of modern bureaux tackling logistics and cost–effectiveness while maintaining a personal service, while Sculpteo offers web-based upload efficiency with direct parts.

Star Prototype China are newcomers; with an experienced British head at the helm, the company is building on its Chinese workforce’s ability to finish parts and ship in a competitive fashion.

Materialise is one of the biggest bureau providers in the world, and its UK branch is well equipped to help you devise a production route regardless of the size of the project – from its online i.Materialise system, to its huge Mammoth 3D service printers.

Professional software

Big name CAD software companies will be there in some form, although they’ll be primarily represented through their UK resellers.

These companies offer a great way to learn more about the latest version of a product before you spend a small fortune on a package, plus most of the vendors will be able to offer you a helpful support package with what you buy.

The usual suspects Cadventure (SpaceClaim), Innova Systems (SolidWorks), Xisis (SpaceClaim, Geomagic) will all be lining the halls at the show.


This year’s latest workstation technologies will all be on show from both Hewlett Packard and Workstation Specialists.

3Dconnexion will be standing by once you’ve decided to blow your budget on the above hardware and software with its supportive navigation devices for 3D CAD.

Scanning for reverse engineering

The ability to reverse engineer parts with speed goes hand in hand with 3D printing; as a result, many of Europe’s big name scanning and metrology firms will be in attendance.

Physical Digital and Central Scanning both provide a UK based bureau–type service to cover all scanning and reverse engineering needs.

For those of you wishing to take scanning in house Steinbichler, FARO, Artec and Romer all have their latest laser scanners and measuring arms there for you to peruse and compare.

Tomorrow: A Maker and Hobbyist’s guide to TCT

Highlights from the speaker programme

Paul Doe
Lead engineer, Prodrive, BMW Mini Team
11am, Tue 25 September

Rapid Results: Prodrive’s development of the Mini John Cooper Works World Rally Car

The BMW Mini team has come in leaps and bounds, thanks in part to the vast experience of Paul Doe and his team at Prodrive. Find out how its 3D printed parts are tough enough to withstand even the most gruelling races.

Sean Horning
Project engineer, Burton Snowboards
12pm, Tue 25 September

3D printing functional prototypes at Burton Snowboards

A brand known on powder-covered slopes the world over, Burton is developing its kit with the help of 3D printed prototypes, giving its users the best form and fit whether professional boarders or beginners.

Mark Bloomfield
Founder, Electrobloom
2pm, Tues 25 September

3D printing unlocks customisation on-demand fulfilling your customers’ needs and desires

With a mantra of ‘be different’, customisation is key to Electrobloom. Designing 3D printed jewellery and attire, Mark Bloomfield is sure to have tips on delivering on-demand products to a growing market.

Phill Dickens
Professor, Loughborough University
10.15am, Wed 26 September

Developments of additive manufacturing and its future

A key figure in the rise of 3D printing as a mainstream manufacturing tool, Phill Dickens, a professor of manufacturing technology, continues to be at the cutting edge of what the technology is capable of, and the direction in which it might be heading.

Russ Harris
Professor, Loughborough University
2pm, Wed 26 September

Additive manufacturing in the National Health Service

A medical engineering and advanced manufacturing professor, Russ Harris is also a key member of Loughborough University’s Additive Manufacturing Research Group, putting him on the cutting edge of new medical uses for digital technology.

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