Most conferences and shows about 3D printing / additive manufacturing (3DP/AM) focus on giving vendors an opportunity to reach potential customers. The Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Education & Training Conference is different. It focuses on giving you lots of opportunities to learn about this technology and to network with fellow users. While key vendors sponsor the conference, they are there to learn with and from users. This year’s conference was bigger and better than previous years. Held at the historic St. Louis Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri, it keeps growing stronger.
AMUG is agnostic when it comes to 3DP/AM technology. Nearly all technologies are represented not only by those who develop them, but more importantly, by those who have used them for years.
I was floored when I arrived and saw the number of vendors for the two vendor nights traditionally held at the conference. These two nights include an open buffet, so attendees can meet with fellow users and establish or re-establish friendships, or check out what vendors have to offer in a relaxed atmosphere. 89 vendor-sponsors participated in this experience. It gives attendees a chance to get a closer look at established and new machines and to get answers to questions about use or design with a specific system. The number of sponsors is a clear sign that 3DP/AM is growing in use and importance to design and manufacturing operations.
Morning sessions are always general sessions and give attendees an opportunity to ask tough questions to vendors. Attendees are not shy about voicing concerns or wants and needs for this technology. One example was the conversation around training and the need for design guidelines for each of the technologies. Attendees expressed the need for more effort here. Some work is being done in this area. Some vendors are working on such a design guide. Plus, UL offers courses that can benefit users. And, of course, the AMUG Conference is a great place to get hands-on education about a specific 3DP/AM technology; attendees can attend specific afternoon sessions to get more information.
Some of the highlights this year include the return of 3D Systems. 3D Systems’ Chuck Hull originally founded the conference as a way to help users learn and make the best use of this technology. 3D Systems parted ways with the conference about six years ago, which gave AMUG a chance to grow and include other 3DP/AM technologies into this educational forum.
The new Carbon technology received a lot of attention at the conference. Joe DeSimone was on hand to go over how this technology is different from other light curing 3DP systems. More about that in another post.
Several companies announced new systems and 3DP approaches. One was XJet, which developed an interesting form of jetting with metal particles. More about that later too.
A panel of representatives from ten vendors (3D Systems, Carbon, Concept Laser, ExOne, GE, HP, Renishaw, SLM Solutions, Somos, and Stratasys) gave attendees a chance to ask a lot of questions ranging from how do you convince others in your company of the value of 3DP, to the best applications to start using 3DP, to the need for open-source software and the need for more and better materials.
One of the highlights of this year’s conference was the Inventor Showcase, were attendees had the opportunity to get to know the inventor of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Scott Crump, a little better. Mr. Crump answered questions for more than an hour about how he started FDM, what he’s learned along the way, what he sees for this technology in the future, and how he manages change and risk. It was a fascinating look into the mind of one of the founders of 3D printing. One bit of advice Mr. Crump gave to the audience as to learn design for additive manufacturing—that’s where the careers will be.
The place and date for next year’s conference will be announced soon. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to increase your knowledge about 3DP/AM with fellow users like you.