The AMUG Conference is unlike any other event. The enthusiasm for additive manufacturing is contagious, and the knowledge among members is unmatchable. AMUG as an organization truly lives up to its mission, and the annual conference reflects its dedication to the people of this unique industry. Here are some highlights from the 2023 AMUG Conference.
AMUG members agree that AM isn’t here to take over or magically solve all manufacturing problems. It’s an innovative solution for creating parts, next to machining and injection molding, that has advantages and drawbacks and lends itself well to specific applications.
Lightweight components with complex geometries are AM’s bread-and-butter. Aerospace, defense, and medical are still the top sectors willing to adopt 3D printing and gain the most value. But collaboration across industries is where innovation really takes off.
Wednesday’s keynote speakers, Rob Ducey, technical supervisor at LAIKA Studios, and Nicholas Jacobson, MDes, clinical research faculty at CU Anschutz Medical Campus, showed how an unlikely pair of AM-enthusiasts could swap stories and solve problems together. Their “Collaboration Between an Animator, an Architect, and a Surgeon” discussion demonstrated the vast use cases for 3D printing and how leveraging the right technology can save lives.
In industry, most manufacturers’ current challenges are volume and scale. 3D printing has been traditionally used for prototyping and low-volume production, but there’s a push to integrate AM into higher-volume applications. However, experts caution against viewing AM as the holy grail or buying 3D printers without thinking it through. As Diana Kalisz, vice president of materials for 3D Systems, explained during Thursday’s morning session, there must be a reason and value for 3D printing.
“One of the biggest challenges to moving 3D printing into manufacturing is that you’ve got to have a champion on the customer side willing to stick their neck out and who knows what they need,” said Kalisz.
Customers often approach AM experts with a list of unnecessary attributes and desires that prompts engineers to go back to the drawing board and understand the problem better.
“Many people have no idea how hard it is to make anything,” said Kalisz.
Yet customers propel the industry every time they speak up about their problems and hint at desired solutions. AM experts who learn from customers build technology around what matters most. Customers keep the conversation going and are encouraged to share more so that the industry and technology can continuously advance.
“Don’t hide your problems,” said Kalisz. “We need to get more knowledge out there so the technology and industry can improve.”
Kalisz gave the audience a glimpse of her upbringing and divulged her adventurous engineering journey. She even talked about working with Chuck Hall, who invented 3D printing in 1983. Then, a few AMUG members took the mic and expressed gratitude for Kalisz’s influence and leadership in their lives. After the audience wiped tears and scheduled reminders to send thank-you notes to mentors and treasured colleagues, Kalisz received the esteemed Innovators Award. AMUG bestows this award on individuals who have contributed innovations that have advanced the AM industry.
Other prestigious awards included the President’s Award, which Mark Abshire presented to Mark Wynn of Yazaki North America to honor Wynn’s AMUG leadership and service, and the coveted Distinguished INnovator Operator (DINO) Awards, which recognize AMUG members for their contributions and years of service in the AM industry.
Scholarships were awarded to recognize individuals who demonstrated passion and vision for additive manufacturing education and advancement. Dr. Les Kalman, assistant professor in restorative dentistry at Western University in Ontario, Canada, was awarded the Randy Stevens Scholarship for AM educators. Brent Griffith, P.E., is pursuing a Master of Engineering in additive manufacturing and design at Penn State University and was awarded the Guy E. Bourdeau Scholarship for AM students.
“Both of our scholarship winners exemplified a passion for additive manufacturing that was triggered many years ago but has not waned. Beyond that, the committee recognized their visions of changing how things are done coupled with diligence to make the changes a reality,” said Rajeev Kulkarni, chair of the AMUG Scholarship Committee.
Let’s not forget the inspirational Technical Competition chaired by Bonnie Meyer. Contestants displayed their projects Monday night during the AMUGexpo and openly discussed their methods and mishaps. Last year’s winners took the stage on Wednesday morning to discuss their experience and inspire others to enter the friendly competition.
This year, Ben Loerko of the University of Dayton Research Institute won the Advanced Concepts award, and Daniel Goncalves and Jung Kyu Im of Custom Prototypes took home the Advanced Finishing award. Though DINOs selected the two winners, all AMUG members got to choose their favorite innovation for the Members Choice award. On Thursday, last year’s winners, Daniel Goncalves Jung Kyu Im, spoke about their successful project, then Ben Loerko received the 2023 award.
But all business and acknowledgments aside, I can tell you firsthand that AMUG sure knows how to throw a party.
Celebrations started Sunday at the New Member Welcome event, when AMUG leaders gave first-timers an overview of what to expect, such as additive weight gain from the networking meals. Afterward, attendees flooded the AMUGexpo floor, catching up with old friends and making new ones. During the week, breaks between educational sessions were filled with delicious food, infectious laughter, and enlightening conversations.
On Tuesday evening, they bussed attendees to an undisclosed location for dinner and libations, which ended up being the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. On Wednesday evening, they hosted a steampunk-themed casino night where AMUG leaders dressed in 19th-century-inspired waistcoats and glasses.
Along with the fun and new friendships, this was an event to remember and an excellent education that will pay dividends in members’ lives and move the industry forward.
The 2023 AMUG Conference took place March 19-23, 2023, at the Hilton Chicago. Next year’s conference will return to Chicago on March 10-14, 2024. Registration opens on October 1, 2023. Note that the event is not open to the public. Registrants must directly own industrial additive manufacturing equipment and use it for professional applications.