Winners of 2020 Formnext Start-up Challenge Impress with Automated Designs, New Materials, and Optimized PostProcessing


For the sixth time, the international Formnext Start-up Challenge has recognized young companies from the world of additive manufacturing for their innovative business ideas and cutting-edge technical developments.

Five outstanding start-ups managed to win over this year’s jury with their innovations: Addiguru (USA), AM Flow (the Netherlands), Molyworks (USA), NematX (Switzerland), and TOffeeAM (UK). Molyworks also took home the AM Ventures Impact Award, which was conferred for the first time as part of the Formnext Start-up Challenge. These international winners will now present their breakthrough ideas during Formnext Connect.

The winning submissions range from solutions for automated design and post-processing to production monitoring and new synthetic materials. In offering innovations that are largely affordable and easy to implement, the 2020 award winners are seeking to further expand the scope of AM applications.

Photo courtesy of Mesago
Photo courtesy of Mesago

Their diverse developments also reflect the fact that the ongoing progression of additive manufacturing will require advancements along the entire process chain. The intelligent software TOffee, for example, is created to make the process of implementing new AM designs more potent, which opens the door to better-performing components.

Through effective, self-learning process monitoring, Addiguru also wants to make AM production much more efficient by significantly reducing the costs involved. AM Flow’s end-to-end solution, meanwhile, focuses on post-processing, which often remains a challenge in 3D-printing larger lot sizes.

With a new high-performance polymer, NematX is hoping to facilitate the production of even more robust components. And finally, Molyworks has unveiled a combined mobile unit for melting down scrap metal and turning it into AM-ready powder on-site.

“The high quality of these impressive developments and the wide range of areas they cover show that not even the coronavirus can stop the innovative power of the AM industry, “ states Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President for Formnext at event organizer Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH.

The debut of the AM Ventures Impact Award also put the focus on a topic that continues to gain importance: sustainability. It proved very popular with participants in the 2020 Start-up Challenge, as well, with half of them applying for this additional accolade. “Making a contribution to sustainable development is no longer just an added bonus for startups; it’s crucial to their success, and it also provides them with major business opportunities,” points out Arno Held, CEO of AM Ventures. “Plus, more and more investors are factoring sustainability into their decision-making, and it won’t be long before they all do.”

The Formnext Start-up Challenge recognizes companies that are no older than five years for their innovative and viable business ideas. Its distinguished judging panel consists of prominent representatives from the realms of industry, science, media, and investment.

The winners of the 2020 Formnext Start-up Challenge

External real-time monitoring
Addiguru offers an easy-to-use real-time monitoring system for additive manufacturing that it says won’t break the bank. Its monitoring technology is manufacturer-agnostic and integrates well into both established and newly developed AM units that work with metal. It involves a camera that connects to an external computer and looks down onto the powder bed from above. The US start-up’s software automatically recognizes the relevant images and sends the photos taken to a self-learning algorithm for analysis. This then detects anomalies and informs the user accordingly.

Automated post-processing
If you ask AM Flow, the “dark secret” of additive manufacturing is that an imbalance in investment (mainly in 3D printers and software) has led to a significant bottleneck – one that comes after the actual 3D printing in the production process. This was what prompted the Dutch start-up to develop an end-to-end solution for post-processing and offer Industry 4.0 technology for the AM sector. By digitalizing and automating the production process, AM Flow primarily wants to significantly reduce the labor costs involved in post-processing, which are typically still quite high. The company’s comprehensive solution covers everything from component recognition, handling, and sorting to packing and transport. It uses a variety of technologies – including 3D shape recognition, industrial image processing systems, and AI software – to automate products and processes once 3D printing has already taken place.

Turning scrap metal into AM powder
The aim of the Californian start-up Molyworks is to establish a sustainable means of recycling scrap metal (swarf or used powder and components, for example) back into the production process in order to manufacture more metal powder for 3D printing. To that end, its founders developed the Greyhound system in a garage back in 2015. It now consists of a mobile melting furnace and an innovative powder atomization system. Molyworks’ young team has conducted trials with 21 different metals, including titanium, steel, nickel, aluminum, and copper. One of the main reasons why the company won the inaugural AM Ventures Impact Award has to do with Greyhound’s potential to save a great deal of resources. According to Molyworks, metal production accounts for seven percent of the entire world’s energy consumption.

High-performance polymers
NematX AG is a Swiss start-up that was founded as a spin-off of ETH Zurich in 2020. With its “Nematic 3D Printing” technology, it plans to usher in the next generation of 3D printing with high-performance polymers and significantly surpass the current benchmarks in corresponding end-use components. NematX’s target industries include aerospace, medicine, electronics, and industrial applications in which parts are exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

Automated design software
The British start-up TOffeeAM has come up with automated design software that requires nothing more than a design space, fluid/material conditions, and the type of performance that needs to be optimized in the component in question. The company, which was founded as a spin-off of Imperial College London, now licenses the software (known as TOffee) to its customers. TOffee is capable of optimizing both individual parts and entire systems – by reducing the overall number of parts required, for instance. It is already being used in Formula 1 and in the aviation and oil and gas industries.

Further information is available at www.formnext.com/startup.

Background information on Formnext
Formnext is the leading trade fair for Additive Manufacturing and the next generation of intelligent manufacturing solutions. It focuses on the efficient realization of parts and products, from their design to serial production. Formnext shows the future of innovative manufacturing. Formnext is organized by Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH. (formnext.com)

About Mesago Messe Frankfurt
Mesago, founded in 1982 and located in Stuttgart, specializes in exhibitions and conferences on various topics of technology. The company belongs to the Messe Frankfurt Group. Mesago operates internationally and is not tied to a specific venue. With 160 members of staff Mesago organizes events for the benefit of more than 3,300 exhibitors and over 110,000 trade visitors, conference delegates and speakers from all over the world. Numerous trade associations, publishing houses, scientific institutes and universities work with Mesago closely as advisers, co-organizers and partners. (mesago.com)

Background information on Messe Frankfurt
Messe Frankfurt is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. With more than 2,600 employees* at 30 locations, the company generates annual sales of around €733 million*. We have close ties with our industry sectors and serve our customers’ business interests efficiently within the framework of our Fairs & Events, Locations and Services business fields. One of the Group’s key USPs is its closely knit global sales network, which extends throughout the world. Our comprehensive range of services – both onsite and online – ensures that customers worldwide enjoy consistently high quality and flexibility when planning, organising and running their events. The wide range of services includes renting exhibition grounds, trade fair construction and marketing, personnel and food services. Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, the company is owned by the City of Frankfurt (60 percent) and the State of Hesse (40 percent). For more information, please visit our website at: www.messefrankfurt.com *preliminary figures 2019

Background information on TCT (Content Partner)
Established in 1992, TCT Group’s mission is to accelerate design-to-manufacturing innovation. Through global trade shows, conferences, magazines, websites and digital products TCT delivers business-critical insights on the technologies that help manufacturers make better products, more quickly and cost-effectively. Through the TCT Awards TCT celebrates the most innovative products and applications across the design-to-manufacturing process chain. The TCT Group is owned by Rapid News Publications Ltd, part of Rapid News Group. (thetctgroup.com)

Background information on the Working Group Additive Manufacturing (Honorary Sponsor)
Within the Working Group Additive Manufacturing, about 150 companies and research institutes collaborate under the direction of the German industry federation VDMA. Here, plant engineers; component and material suppliers; industrial companies that work with metals and plastics; service providers in software, manufacturing, and processing; and numerous researchers all work toward the same goal: the industrialization of additive manufacturing techniques. (am.vdma.org)

Source: Mesago Messe Frankfurt

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