By: Rich Wetzel
The nation’s advanced manufacturing industry is gearing up for North America’s main event for discovery, innovation, and networking in 3D printing. The annual RAPID + TCT event is being held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh from May 8-11 - and will showcase new technology along with many presentations from experts in the industry. Although 3D printing will be the main focus, attendees can expect to see 3D scanning in the spotlight - thanks to a major 3D scanning project of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Starting in October 2016, a collaboration between FARO Technologies Inc., Direct Dimensions Inc. and the NextManufacturing Center at Carnegie Mellon University took advantage of 3D scanning to create a digital model of the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Exhibitors will be given the CAD file for a chance to display their own 3D printed version in any size or material. 3D scanning the iconic Pittsburgh bridge pays tribute to the city’s history of manufacturing along with the rest of the rust belt, which has been rebranded as the tech belt. More importantly, the project shows the tech belt as a leader in advanced manufacturing.
The scanning project is also part of an annual Puzzle Challenge and will include 6 total pieces of the bridge. It gives attendees a chance to collect pieces and explore different processes and materials of 3D printing. Once all the pieces are collected, they can be assembled into the complete design.
“RAPID + TCT showcases the latest growth and advancements in the additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry,” said Maria Conrado, SME event manager, RAPID + TCT. “Southwestern Pennsylvania is home to some 3,000 manufacturing companies, many of which are headquartered in Pittsburgh. It’s exciting that we are using additive technology to reproduce 3D models of a special landmark in this city.”
3D Scanning a bridge is no easy task. It involves collecting a large amount of data in a 3D point cloud and then converting to a 3D CAD model. FARO Technologies Inc. makes industry leading 3D scanning equipment, and with help from Direct Dimensions, Inc., they were able to transform the data into a format required for 3D printing.
“Scanning something as recognizable as the Roberto Clemente Bridge can spark many conversations,” said Michelle Edwards, applications engineering manager, FARO Technologies. “We want people to see this bridge as a 3D point cloud and begin to question their own processes. That’s how innovation happens.”
Innovation is the key to accelerating the adoption of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing processes. The manufacturing base and academic resources throughout western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio continue to grow as more customers realize the benefits of advanced manufacturing.
“As additive manufacturing has flourished with new and enhanced 3D printing equipment, materials development has been surging along as well,” said Conrado. “By letting exhibitors print their own bridges, we’re demonstrating how this technology isn’t just for prototyping anymore.”
It’s great to see how quickly the 3D printing industry is growing - and it’s likely this year’s RAPID + TCT event will come with some exciting announcements. To find out more about the event, visit www.rapid3devent.com.