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Winners of the Formnext Start-up Challenge impress judges with atomic precision, glass 3D printing and medical applications

13 Oct 2021

For the seventh time, the international Formnext Start-up Challenge has recognized young enterprises from the world of additive manufacturing for their innovative business ideas and technical developments. In 2021, the winning innovations range from nano and glass 3D printing through to new medical solutions for spine patients. They come from the following winners: Atlant 3D Nanosystems (Denmark), Azul 3D (USA), Fited (USA), Print Parts (USA) and Nobula (Sweden). This year the AM Ventures Impact Award presented at the same ceremony goes to Vispala Technologies (India).

In 2021, the quality of the start-ups and their innovations developed a step further. They boast numerous patents – some already awarded and some still pending – and promising applications. In some cases, over 50 million euros have already been poured into the young enterprises' developments, and so it is no surprise how market-ready and promising their innovations were. They promise greater precision for 3D printing, considerably faster production or new applications, for example in medicine and aerospace.

Atlant 3D Nanosystems, a start-up from Denmark, is developing a platform for the 3D printing of components with atomic precision. The US start-up Print Parts is also involved in nanotechnology. The company has developed a solution that uses a signature based on nanoparticles to detect and register 3D printed parts throughout their entire lifetime. The young US enterprise Azul 3D is promising nothing less than to revolutionize the entire 3D printing market with its new HARP technology. HARP is intended to significantly speed up production while offering the precision for which the company is known. Fited is a start-up aiming to achieve better chances of healing for people with deformed spines. The company has developed a smart solution comprising the automatic design and 3D printing of scoliosis braces. And Nobula from Sweden has developed a more versatile solution for glass printing including printer and printing material.

"The ever increasing quality and focused development of young enterprises show the great potential within the AM industry and highlight the fact that the sector produces critical developments that in future will influence our industry, medicine and other areas of of life," states Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext at Mesago Messe Frankfurt, the trade show organizer.

The Formnext Start-up Challenge 2021 recognizes companies that are no more than five years old. The competition evaluates new and viable business ideas with a distinguished panel of judges consisting of prominent representatives from the realms of industry, science, media, and investment.

The international winners will present their award winning products during Formnext in Frankfurt from November 16 to 19, 2021 and exhibit them in the Start-up Area.

AM Ventures Impact Award 2021

The AM Ventures Impact Award was presented for the second time as part of the Formnext Start-up Challenge and again proved popular among the participating start-ups. A good two-thirds of the participants also entered the Impact Award, which honors sustainable approaches with a positive impact on environmental protection or social aspects, for example. The winner, Vispala Technologies, impressed AM Ventures with its use of 3D printing to provide affordable, highly functional and aesthetically appealing prosthetics. What is special about the project is that the company concentrates on people in developing countries and rural areas who up to now have had no access to such products.

The Winners of the formnext Start-up challenge

Multiple materials and atomic precision

The Danish start-up Atlant 3D Nanosystems specializes in the prototyping and manufacturing of micro- and nanocomponents using multiple materials and atomic precision, and the young enterprise has already applied its technology to develop several solutions. The Nanofabricator platforms are advanced manufacturing systems for R&D, prototyping and manufacturing. These systems can simultaneously process up to 6 materials on substrates with different morphologies and up to 300 mm in size. Atlant 3D Nanosystems developed the Nanofabricator LiteTM in accordance with strict NASA specifications and will test the system with NASA in the next few months to enable microfabrication in micro- or zero gravity.

Fine detail and ultra-fast printing

The US start-up Azul 3D is out to shake up the market for additive manufacturing with its newly developed HARP technology. High Area Rapid Printing (HARP) technology uses flowing oil between light-driven resin and the UV source to enable faster, non-adhesive 3D printing, thus enabling a significant increase compared to current printing speeds. All in all, Azul 3D promises to combine fine details and excellent surfaces for SLA printing with an ultra-fast print time and large print volume.

The orthopedist's dental brace

Fited has developed a new solution for treating spinal deformities.

The company utilizes the same principle already applied to dental braces: Custom design and 3D printing: Invisalign for the spine. The aim is to replace today's hand-made scoliosis braces as they are often time-consuming and expensive to produce. They are also uncomfortable and inaccurate, and wearers frequently have to undergo surgery. Fited's solution is based on an automatic design and delivers elegant, 3D printed braces within a short period of time. It is expected that they will prevent the need for surgery in 72 percent of cases. Fited braces are also breathable, custom-made and light. The company sees an enormous demand: 4 percent of the world's population suffers from a spinal deformity. The start-up consists of an interdisciplinary team of experts from biomedicine, mechanical engineering, design and software technology, thus giving it a network with access to a large section of the market in the United States and Europe.

Digital signature with nanoparticles

The US start-up Print Parts has developed a digital signature embedded in parts produced by additive manufacturing. It makes components scannable, serialized and cloud-connected. The platform combines management, authentication and tracing of 3D printed parts.

Programmable nanoparticles are embedded in additive materials or subsequently added to the components. Smart scanners can detect and register particles in these "SmartParts". Component histories are stored on the SmartParts platform and managed by Build Manager or an existing MES/ERP system.

Versatile glass printing

The Swedish start-up Nobula has developed a desktop glass 3D printer that aims to be less costly and more versatile than existing solutions. The company has filed for two patents, one for the glass 3D printer and one for the printing material technology, which will enable Nobula to provide custom glass 3D printing for science, development and production.

The official award ceremony is to take place on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 on Formnext's AM4U stage.

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. (

Background information on Messe Frankfurt
The Messe Frankfurt Group is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. The Group employs approximately 2,450 people at its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main and in 29 subsidiaries around the world. The company generated annual sales of approximately €257 million in 2020 after having recorded sales of €736 million the previous year. Even in difficult times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we are globally networked with our industry sectors. 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. We are expanding our digital expertise with new business models. 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).
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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. (  

Background information on the VDMA Working Group Additive Manufacturing (Honorary Sponsor)
Within the Working Group Additive Manufacturing, over 170 companies and research institutes collaborate under the direction of the German Engineering 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. (