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Reflections on RAPID + TCT 2024!

RAPID+TCT ShowRAPID + TCT's long-awaited return to the West Coast made for an exciting convergence of industry leaders, innovators, and additive manufacturing (AM) enthusiasts.

The 2024 edition of North America's largest AM and industrial 3D printing event brought over 9,500 people to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Speakers, exhibitors, and attendees enjoyed a dynamic three-day program, which showcased more groundbreaking ideas, advancements, and opportunities for collaboration and discovery than ever before.

With a new location came fresh new features. These included Executive Perspectives, a series of open conversations between AM leaders, the Discovery Zone, a section of the show floor dedicated to emerging talent and technology, and the Hollywood Showcase, a special exhibit highlighting the intersection between movie magic and the AM industry.

A Maturing Industry

This year, each day at RAPID + TCT began with an Executive Perspectives panel featuring leaders from organizations such as HP, EOS GmbH, Formlabs, DMG MORI, Nano Dimension, and Materialise. Moderated by Laura Griffiths, Head of Content for The TCT Group, these discussions provided a candid look at the state of the AM industry today.

RAPID+TCT ShowAs many of the participants highlighted, it is an interesting time to be working with additive technologies. In the words of Shai Terem, President and CEO of Markforged, "We as an industry are turning a corner… Probably almost every company in the world is using AM for prototyping." However, while that progress is encouraging, the sector still has a long way to go toward achieving widespread adoption on the factory floor.

The conversations touched on the industry's future, emphasizing the need to collaborate and, in some cases, consolidate. While panelists agreed on AM's potential, many cautioned against overhyping the technology at the risk of eroding trust and credibility in the broader manufacturing sector. Instead, they said, companies should direct their attention toward problems only AM can solve. "There are five or six areas where no one can beat us," reflected Yoav Zeif, Ph.D., CEO of Stratasys. "We need to focus on where we have the advantage."

Despite the challenges facing the industry, the panelists shared a positive outlook. "Over time, you're going to see… the industry coming of age and maturing," remarked Ric Fulop, Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Desktop Metal, in his closing thoughts. "I'm very bullish on the next five to 10 years."

Masters, Maestros, and Movie Magic

On the show floor, attendees could explore exhibits from over 400 companies, a new record for RAPID + TCT. Standout presentations included a golf simulator from nTop, which allowed attendees to try out the 3D-printed golf clubs from COBRA Golf — designed with nTop's software — that Bryson DeChambeau debuted in the 2024 Masters.

Additive Industries displayed a race car made for Stake F1® Team KICK Sauber that included more than 200 3D-printed parts produced using the company's MetalFAB system. Elsewhere, the Stratasys booth welcomed a special guest in Panic! At The Disco's Dan Pawlovich, who was there to show off the 3D-printed drum kit that accompanied him on the band's 2022-23 tour.

Grid Logic's multi-material fabrication AM-HIP process, which combines 3D dry powder printing with hot isostatic press technology, was also making waves. This system allows the company to print up to five metal or ceramic powders plus a supporting material. The print is then consolidated using hot isostatic pressing (HIP), resulting in a multi-material, diffusion-bonded part.

But perhaps the highlight of the floor was RAPID + TCT's first-ever Hollywood Showcase, presented in partnership with Gentle Giant Studios and Direct Dimensions. This red carpet-lined pavilion allowed attendees to browse 3D-printed assets used by franchises such as Star Wars, Frozen, and Avatar, as well as learn about the incorporation of 3D scanning. A lucky few were scanned on-site and will receive custom likenesses!

From Special Effects to Saving Lives

The show floor wasn't the only place where the silver screen was inspiring innovation. RAPID + TCT's 2024 program featured over 160 conference sessions spanning 14 tracks, including aerospace, healthcare, defense, automotive, energy, design for AM, and serial production.

In "Qualified Production for the Millennium Falcon," Slade Gardner, President of Big Metal Additive, talked attendees through the process of qualifying components for space flight using technical standards published by NASA.

Meanwhile, in "Merging Special Effects and AM to Create Highly Realistic Medical Models," Christian Hanson, Simulation Engineer at the Mayo Clinic, recounted his journey "from childhood monster fan to professional artist and sculptor." Hanson's fascination with special makeup effects led him to work as a production artist, creating film effects, masks, props, sets, and museum environments.

Today, he draws on that background to produce detailed anatomical models that mirror the structure, look, and feel of real tissue. These are then used by the Mayo Clinic to train medical professionals and improve communication with patients.

An Optimistic Outlook


While mornings at RAPID + TCT 2024 began with panel discussions, the afternoons offered an opportunity to hear from AM experts in the in-depth Featured Speakers Keynote Series. The first was headlined by Josh Brost, Chief Revenue Officer of Relativity Space. Last year, the organization garnered recognition for launching the world's first 3D-printed rocket into space. Brost shared insights from the process while exploring how progress toward in-situ manufacturing in space can bolster the industrial base on Earth.

On day two, Ryan Roach, Director of Innovation at COBRA PUMA GOLF, pulled back the curtain on the company's use of industrial 3D printing to produce the LIMIT3D Irons, a "tangible, premium, high-performance product that can only exist because of additive."

The third keynote, given by Terry Wohlers, Dr. h.c., FSME, provided an overview of the latest trends and developments based on industry surveys by Wohlers Associates. The key takeaways? Applications of AM are becoming increasingly exciting, the growth of end-use parts is strong, and the sustainability of industrial 3D printing will only become more important to manufacturers. "This week's observations," he noted, "point to an optimistic future."

The event also offered plenty of moments to celebrate. In the second installment of the AM Pitchfest, seven finalists took to the stage to pitch their tools, products, and applications to a panel of judges. This year's entries included a scan-to-production platform and a 3D scanning and automation system that enhances quality control. The winner was 3D Solar for its novel use of hybrid 3D printing to increase the surface area of solar panels and improve energy capture.

Accelerating the Integration of AM

RAPID + TCT would not have been complete without the SME AM Awards. The 2024 AM Industry Achievement Award went to Paul Gradl, Principal Engineer at NASA. Gradl has been a significant force in advancing AM in the global aerospace sector. But the most rewarding moment in his career, he reflected, was watching his children experiment with 3D printing. That experience, he said, brought home the realization that "the future belongs to those who build."

While 2024 marked RAPID + TCT's biggest and best edition yet, it was only the first stop of a three-year coast-to-coast tour. In 2025, the event will return to Detroit, where it will be co-located with SAE's WCX and SME's AeroDef, exposing new audiences from the automotive and aerospace sectors to the innovations happening within industrial 3D printing. The event will then make its East Coast debut in Boston in 2026, a market known for its thriving life sciences, technology, and medical fields.

As the additive industry matures, RAPID + TCT continues to play a vital role in accelerating adoption, forging connections, and fostering collaboration within the AM ecosystem. In expanding its reach to key markets across the country, the event promises to deepen its impact on American manufacturing, driving progress and inspiring the next generation of builders.

RAPID + TCT 2025 will take place in Detroit from April 8 to 10 at Huntington Place.