The advanced manufacturing expo made a stop in Grand Rapids recently and I was given the chance to attend it! The point of these expos is to give suppliers the opportunity to show off and sell their newest manufacturing solutions to others and also give attendees the chance to learn about the latest technologies in the industry. I will be covering this expo as someone who has never been to one, and I will be giving my before and after thoughts on my experience!
Figure 1: Entrance to the Expo
Before: What I Expect
Even though I had never been to a manufacturing expo before, I had a good idea of just what it will entail. I’m expecting multiple companies to be set up in booths showing off their latest advancements and best manufacturing techniques! These expos seem like a great way to learn about other businesses in the area and connect with one another for possible future partnerships or work. In a nut shell, I believe that this advanced manufacturing expo is going to house a lot of tech and knowledgeable individuals and I should be able to learn a lot from it!
Figure 2: Our Perception Engineering Table
After: What I thought
When I walked through the doors and entered this expo, it seemed like the number of suppliers was infinite. Everywhere you looked there was something new to look at and learn about. The first supplier that grabbed my eye was a growing company from Switzerland called Asyril. Recently, they had designed a sorting system for small watch parts. They realized their designs potential for larger parts and how it could be applied to multiple different industries. Asyril upscaled their design and went from one machine designed for extremely small parts, to an array of four machines each having the ability to sort different sized part much larger than the first design. It was incredible to see how one design from a different country could be changed only slightly and have so many different applications in industries across the world.
There were no limitations when it came to suppliers and the number of different industries present at the expo. There were solutions for warehouse storage, automation, sorting, milling bits, and even 3D printing. My favorite booth that I visited was run by a company based out of Chicago called Dynamism. This company has all the 3D printing solutions you could ever need, even for new areas of the field. They were displaying their new desktop metal 3D printer and its ability to print in metal (hence the name). 3D printing in metal was something I had heard about before, but I had imagined it had only been done by a very small number of companies. There right in front of me this printer was creating quite incredible parts all in metal. I was told that these prints had similar strength qualities as cast metal parts and were printed using a type of metal powder mixed with wax. This was incredible to hear if you had only ever experienced 3D printed plastic parts before. Looking around the booth it was easy to see the gears turning in all the other attendees’ heads as they were able to see all the applications this desktop metal printer could be used for in industries of their own.
What I Learned
Going into this expo I didn’t have much knowledge outside of my own industry. After speaking with businesses such as Asyril and Criterion, who were both showcasing part sorting/packing systems, I was surprised to learn a significant amount about sensor sorting systems! These machines simply take images of the sorting bed and use software to tell which items to grab or re-sort. Dynamism also made it easy to see how 3D printing in metal is easy and superior to plastic. With this machine being able to create custom metal parts that no other manufacturing process can create, it is easy to see the endless possibilities and applications for this process.
A manufacturing expo is a great place for the curious mind. With all kinds of new technology and processes you can wander for hours finding the answers to all your manufacturing questions. These expos don’t need to be just for individuals in the manufacturing business. With most of these expos having a free entry fee, anyone is welcome who would like to learn a little more about the processes and machines used to make products! Overall, going to this advanced manufacturing expo was a great first experience and I will be attending many more that come into town!