Best of RAPID 2014 [SLIDESHOW]

Last week, 3,500 3-D printing engineers, enthusiasts, innovators and users gathered in Detroit's Cobo Center  to help celebrate SME's 21st annual additive manufacturing blowout: the RAPID Conference and Expo.

This year's show boasted a 40% increase in attendance from last year with an approximate 30% increase in exhibitor space.

But this year's show was something much more than just bigger: This year, 3-D printing at RAPID finally broke out of its prototyping namesake to fully embrace hardcore manufacturing.

Along with the plastic printers we've come to expect at the show, the rows were rife with metal printers and powder suppliers, hybrid machine and software solutions -- big, Industrial equipment for a suddenly big, industrial show.

At times, RAPID felt more like IMTS than a 3-D print show, with aisles filled not with geeky futurists, but industrial-minded engineers looking for industrial grade equipment.

Finally, after 31 years of development, 3-D printing was treated as an industrial tool that can cut costs, improve efficiency and boost quality, not just a fancy toy.

That means good things to come.

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