Ping Fu at DEVELOP3D LivePing Fu gives her keynote speech at Develop3D Live.
With one half of TCT's editorial contingent attending the 2013 Annual Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, this week, the other half was shipped off to Coventry to make itself known at Develop3D Live.
The event - which concentrates on the latest CAD/CAM developments both with regards to additive manufacturing and the wider design sector - was held at the Warwick Arts Centre at the University of Warwick, some 20 minutes outside of Coventry. The venue worked well for the event, with exhibitors forming little bubbles for mingling and networking.
Some of the most eye-catching displays greeted attendees as they registered, with Voxeljet, ITEC 3D and Quill Vogue among the initial cluster showcasing interactive demonstrations of what their companies have to offer. The latter had its Wash Station in operation with queues of interested industry types waiting to insert their hands into the rubber glove holes to experience the water jet cleaning system for themselves.
There were four exhibition spaces, four conference rooms and a generous supply of tea, coffee and snacks - a nice touch for those who endured a 05:00 BST start to the day on nothing more than a quick coffee at the station.
Imagining with Ping Fu
At 09:30 BST sharp, we made our way into the Butterworth Hall for the first keynote session. 3D printing industry royalty Ping Fu kicked off proceedings with her presentation, Life in Two Worlds: Physical and Digital. The founder of Geomagic - which was bought by 3D Systems in February 2013 - took the audience through her initial experience with the manufacturing industry to working on cutting-edge technological developments.
Fu - who was bedecked in a 3D-printed shawl - went into detail about how the 3D printing world and the software that facilitates the manufacturing process has benefitted a wide range of sectors. She named dentistry, personalised prosthetics, 3D documentation and fashion, and went into some detail as to how the technology can benefit struggling museums. She explained that 3D scanning technology could be utilised to create replicas of the museum's collection to be sold in their stores, providing exact copies for patrons looking for a meaningful souvenir.
Fu rounded off her presentation with some modern-day philosophising, in which she suggested the room consider that "innovation is imagination applied".
Homogenising not heterogenising
Following Ping Fu's keynote speech, the group listened to Ian Keen of the Nissan Technical Centre Europe and then there was a break before the second session began. Delegates used this time to visit the stands, network and keep appointments. The break of 40 minutes was cut short due to the fact the first keynote presentations overran, but this shorter timeframe was still adequate for navigating most of the exhibitions.
After the designated break for coffee and exploring the show came to an end, attendees had the choice of attending one of four blocks of talks - or flit between them where desired. The second keynote speeches took place in the Butterworth Hall again and included a rousing presentation from Autodesk's Carl Bass, followed by equally stimulating talks from Belmont Technology's Jon Hirschtick, SpaceClaim's Chris Randles and Efrain Rovira from Dell.
Meanwhile, the product design and engineering speeches, simulation presentations and 3D printing and prototyping addresses were taking place. TCT could only attend two of these, so we opted for the second batch of keynotes and the 3D printing talks, which features speakers Al Dean, Develop3D editor, and CEO of Digital Forming Lisa Harouni.
The second keynote session's most stimulating presenter was arguably Carl Bass, who brought up one of the main recurring themes of Develop3D Live, that the software industry needs to adapt for the new, tech-savvy generation of users; be they occasional users with a passing knowhow, or professionals who use the technology on a very regular basis.
Mr Bass argued that companies developing CAD/CAM software need to adapt their programs so they can read files that come from anywhere and any CAD system and can be used without the need for training or a manual. This notion of intuition and homogeny was something Mr Bass said the whole industry needs to bear in mind if it wants to stay competitive.
His comments were echoed by Belmont Technology's Jon Hirschtick, who described the network of programs CAD users have to access as a "spiderweb" and said that the fundamentals of CAD should be the accessibility of the software and ensuring it complements the new generation of workers' style of accessing such technology.
He suggested taking out "unnecessary language", adding that a failure to update could risk turning the CAD software sector into "the land that time forgot".
A chance to reflect
Attendees ruminated on this as they broke for lunch - which was an impressive complementary buffet comprising of plentiful quantities of tasty treats in the upstairs exhibition space, where there were excellent exhibitions by Autodesk, Proto Labs, Siemens, Samsung and Delcam - as well as dozens of others. Autodesk - a gold sponsor for Develop3D Live - had one of the most impressive stands at the event and garnered some of the biggest crowds. It was there TCT chatted to Richard Blatcher and Kevin Schneider, who was a speaker at last year's Develop3D Live event.
One of the advantages of events such as Develop3D Live is that it is very easy to join conversations or to hover and catch a little intra-industry debate or speculation. Naturally, many attempts to delve deeper with companies represented by keynote speakers were rebuffed with recommendations to find out more when their representative makes their speech, after all, these showcases are where many companies reveal their latest developments for the first time in order to get maximum coverage.
After regrouping and refuelling, as well as taking a short walk around Warwick University's campus to explore the locale a little, it was back for the final round of presentations. One half of our group chose the third block of keynote speeches, while the other half went off-piste to the sustainable design talks in the Conference Suite.
This was a more intimate affair than the keynote presentations, with maybe 20 people in attendance to hear talks from seymourpowell Head of Sustainability Chris Sherwin, Loughborough Design School lecturer Dr Vicky Lofthouse and Co-Director of design at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Sophie Thomas.
After serious computing-heavy CAD talks, it was a welcome break to hear about the future of design from the perspective of a designer. Indeed, one of the comments made last week (April 10th) at the AMNet meeting at the Manufacturing Technology Centre was that there was a serious shortage of designers present.
This eye-opening talk on how manufacturing and product development should consider what happens to materials once their time of usage has run out led to a stimulating question and answer section reminiscent of an engaging university lecture - which may be due to the fact many attendees were indeed students of design.
Develop3D Live concluded with more time for perusing the exhibition spaces and a final panel question and answer session on the main stage, giving attendees plenty of time to tie up any loose ends before making their way home, or back to their respective Warwickshire hotels.
On balance, TCT felt its day at the event was very useful and enjoyable. Despite there being 50 exhibitors, the show felt compact and easy to explore thanks to the four separate hives of stands, while the well-timed breaks in between talks gave plenty of time for networking and visiting each represented company's show team. Moreover, with 31 different speakers on-hand to reveal their industry insights, it was only a shame we could not possibly see them all.