AMUG’s annual conference is fast approaching, and AM professionals are looking forward to this memorable experience. Attendees arrive to share knowledge, ideas, and laughs as they enjoy keynotes, panels, hands-on workshops, awards, friendly competitions, and fun-filled outings. The 2023 AMUG conference runs March 19-23 at the Hilton Chicago.
Make Parts Fast had the pleasure of interviewing two committee chairs to learn about some new and legacy agenda items that make AMUG the unique, can’t-miss event of the year.
New drop-in workshops
From Monday, March 20, through Thursday, March 23, there are 75 total sessions scheduled across nine tracks, 62 of which are presentations or panels. There are also eight workshops sprinkled throughout the four days. The biggest day of the conference will be on Thursday, which has the most presentations and workshops. Ed Graham, track leader committee chair, shares updates on what’s new with workshops and tracks.
This year, AMUG’s adding something new. On Thursday, March 23, 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm, there are five hands-on, drop-in-style workshops where attendees can come and go as needed.
Graham: There’s a “Foundry In a Box” workshop where people cast molten metal into sand-printed or plaster-cast molds. There’s a “Design With the End In Mind” support removal on metal DMLS printed parts. We’re doing an “Advanced Casting” with polyurethanes into printed rigid molds. We have a “Beyond Adhesives” hands-on workshop for assembling plastic parts. Extol comes with ultrasonic and vibration welders — all different techniques and technologies for joining plastic parts together.
This is fascinating stuff because by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands on it, you start to appreciate what goes into it from many different aspects, maybe from the build aspect or the support removal and post-processing aspect. It gets you in the know by doing that hands-on.
And none of these are dedicated workshops. Maybe you want to weld the part quickly over here, then you want to go remove some metal supports from a metal part over here, then jump into the “Foundry In a Box” and cast a molten part. It’s really interactive and live.
Drop-in workshops are first come, first serve.
Graham: Each track will run its own workshops, which are kind of first come, first serve. Whatever you want to do, probably get to it first because there are no signups. But plenty of people will be in each session to help moderate and keep the session on track and moving.
The drop-in workshops are intentionally scheduled at the end of the week to lighten things up before closing the conference.
Graham: It’s just a great time, and there’s lots of activity and excitement. Especially because the first few days of the conference might be heavy in presentations and panels, so by Thursday, it’s like, let’s roll up our sleeves and have some fun.
There are still dedicated workshops scheduled each day.
Graham: Every day does have workshops. Monday has three, Tuesday has two, and Wednesday has one, but the heaviest load is on Thursday.
Aside from workshops, AMUG has nine tracks for presentations and panels. And last year’s medical track has evolved into the healthcare track.
Graham: Another thing that’s new this year is we’ve always had a medical track, and this year we call it the healthcare track. We wanted to break it out a little bit more because there’s a lot of focus on dental in 3D printing. So, our healthcare track will have the typical medical sessions we’ve had in the past, but it’ll also have more dedicated ones focusing on dental applications.
New dedicated space for the technical competition
The AMUG Technical Competition is a fun way to celebrate achievements and propel the AM industry forward. Knowing that the judges look for new, innovative parts and projects forces people to put on different hats and think outside the box. As far as Bonnie Meyer, technical competition chair, knows, there’s nothing else like it in the additive industry.
The competition has three categories: Advanced Finishing, Advanced Concepts, and Members Choice.
Meyer: Advanced Finishing is really about artistry. You can print something, but it takes a skilled artist to do some painting or other finishing techniques to make these things come to life.
Advanced Concepts is more about the unique. I had a judge last year say they were looking for something that could be patented. Is there something new and different? Did somebody figure out a way to do something unique? Something we haven’t seen before?
We introduced a new award called the Members Choice a year ago. The attendees do that. We have an app for the event, and they vote on an entry through it. That’s their favorite. And there are no criteria. They can vote for whatever they want, whatever’s their favorite. There are no requirements that have to be met on that one. Last year we gave out our first Members Choice award.
Some categories are judged by DINOs (Distinguished INnovator Operators).
Meyer: We have a panel of judges for each category, and the judges are DINO recipients — people who have been part of AMUG for many years. They have a lot of technical experience in various areas and are typically experts in their field. We choose this panel of judges, who determine Advanced Finishing and Advanced Concepts, winners. Whereas the Members’ Choice is just by the members, and the judges have no extra votes.
This year, competitors have a dedicated space to give projects more visibility and foster more networking and conversation.
Meyer: In past years, the competition tables were intermixed on the expo floor. People would come across them and think they’re booths or company displays. This year, we will have a dedicated space in Salon B where the parts will be on display longer, and people can come in and learn about them over more than a couple of hours at the beginning of the week.
Last year, I had a couple of entrants say that they had great conversations standing in the technical competition. Some people who entered years ago had a similar theme to their project, and they started talking about how they did it, different techniques, and how they made it possible. You can make some long-lasting connections. So, it’s more than winning. The top three winners in each category receive first, second, and third place, but there’s so much more to it than receiving that award.
Last year’s winners get an on-stage encore.
Meyer: Every year, we have last year’s winners come back and present on the main stage in front of everybody and give an overview of what they did and how they did it.
A past participant said that entering this competition is a way to celebrate your team’s hard work and success over the past year. I’ve heard from many entrants that they learned so much just by entering the competition and can take the experience forward on other projects. Last year, an entrant told me that now that they’ve competed, they know what to do next year to up their game and win an award.
It’s a friendly competition, and the parts that are on display are all so impressive. There’s a range of projects and industries, and it’s just a really impressive group of projects to see. And it gets more technical than when you go to a trade show, where you see the marketing-selected parts. These amazing projects couldn’t be done any other way without additive manufacturing at this competition.
Advice for first-timers
AMUG welcomes first-timers with open arms and plans special events to encourage networking and knowledge sharing. Here are some tips from Graham and Meyer on how to get the most out of the event.
Download the mobile app, plan ahead, and divide and conquer.
Graham: I highly recommend the mobile app. I would definitely spend time pre-conference to go through the agenda in the app and plan out your day as best as you can. If you try to do it on the fly, you’re going to miss something. Many companies will divide and conquer because there are certain sessions at certain times, and you have to pick and choose. The presentations are usually uploaded to the app, so you have access to many of the presentations afterward as well.
There’s always a lot of activity happening. People who have been there before probably understand that, so they’re probably used to the routine. But even if you were there before, things like the workshops on Thursday are brand new, so there’s more to look forward to.
But as a first-timer, definitely do your homework, see which sessions are really important to you, and plan it out in the app. The app makes it easy to set reminders and star things as priorities — there are many tools to help you.
Attend the first-timer event on Sunday, March 19, and network with DINOs.
Meyer: DINO recipients are strongly encouraged to attend that first-time reception so that there’s a mix of first-timers with people who have been to many events. It’s a nice way to start making connections right away at the beginning of the week.
Graham: DINOs come to the first-timer event so that we can welcome you, explain what you’re in for, and network with everybody. They play music and probably have karaoke — it’s a blast. It’s really a lot of fun. So, you have a lot to look forward to.
Consider entering the Technical Competition and reap lasting rewards. The deadline is Wednesday, March 8, 11:59 pm Eastern Time.
Meyer: I would love to see more entries, and I know people are working on projects. An early-career person shared with me that they used their project and experience to help get their next job, and they used what they learned and the process of creating that entry to further their career. So, the benefits are more than coming home with a physical award.
Get ready for a very different experience.
Meyer: If this is your first time attending AMUG, it’s probably unlike most events you’ve been to because it’s not a trade show. It started with one technology and is now open to all professional additive technologies. And your users are really out there. It’s a unique atmosphere of networking, sharing, and learning. Even though everybody moves companies or roles, you still see and interact with many of the same people and share information. And they do a really nice job of trying to keep the sales pitches out and focus on educating people on topics related to additive manufacturing.
Graham: This is so unique and different because it’s all about networking —sharing knowledge and education — and not sales-driven. Even when you go to lunch, somebody stands there with a bowl with numbers in it, and you pick out of the bowl, and that’s your seat. They really encourage networking.
Plus, the keynotes are amazing and show you the bigger picture, even for a DINO like me. Every year, I see this industry going places you didn’t even think of before and used in areas you didn’t think were possible. I get blown away by these keynotes and what people do with this technology. It’s really, really cool.