It's easy to get distracted at RAPID. Particularly this year.

This iteration of SME's annual additive manufacturing conference, which took place this week in Detroit, was a smarm of activity, bloated to near record levels and choked with 3-D printing users, enthusiasts and vendors, all touting new technologies, new applications and new innovations across the industry.

The showroom floor and its massive showcase of these technologies was an absolute flood of rep-rap start-ups churning out bright plastic prototypes and big-time metal printers promising slick, final part production. Robocop was there, along with life-sized Avatar character prints and a whole display of printed costume pieces from Legacy Effects.

It was a massive, glitzy show filled the brim with amazing, glitzy things all vying for attention.

But despite all of that – despite all of the 3-D printed cars and Hollywood effects, despite the giant, weird art objects and oddly fashioned show models – the one thing that seemed to generate the biggest crowd and the most attention all week was what really appeared to be a totally normal CNC machine tucked into the back corner of the show.

But of course it wasn't really quite so normal.

Released just this year, MC Machinery Systems' LUMEX Avance-25 is the first-to-market machine to combine 3-D printing with high speed milling in the same build chamber.

Watching the machine run is mesmerizing. It switches as effortlessly between additive laser heads and machine tools as you would expect from any modern CNC,  lasering up new layers of titanium from the powder bed, then grinding them into perfection, layer by perfect layer. The end products came out shined, polished and tooled to perfect specs. Some manufacturing geeks lost whole days of the show staring inside, watching the magic unfold.

There's a good reason this tool caused such a stir. The release of the LUMEX has made MC Machinery and its parent company, Mitsubishi, the star of a whole new industry that is just dripping with promise: Hybrid manufacturing.