Times Square, NYCTimes Square, NYC — 39 million people apparently visit the square every year. At least half of them were there when we were.
For the last 10 days or so I have been on a transatlantic odyssey covering Florida, New York, Pittsburgh and New York (again) — all in the name of AM and 3D printing. Full details of the epic will be available in the next issue of the magazine and across the www.prsnlz.me website, but here are some of the highlights.
The first leg of the trip saw Duncan Wood and I head to the Sunshine State for the 25th edition of the AMUG conference. With more attendees and exhibitors than ever the AMUG is proving to be an excellent talking-shop for the AM industry, especially as users of all AM technologies drive the conversation. The presentations tended towards the main sponsors, Stratasys, especially on day one but subsequent days saw an good spread of content covering the technical aspects of AM. The networking opportunities once again proved to be one of the main drivers for attendees and the organisers work hard to ensure there is the time and environment for such contact.
From Florida we were New York bound for the first time to visit Shapeways and Solidoodle. After a minor Apple Maps-based mishap (for which we accept no responsibility!) we arrived at Shapeways HQ on Manhattan. An unassuming door led through to what can only be described as tech-startup cliché heaven — beer in the fridge, a ping-pong table in the entrance lobby and a gathering of the hippest young things at stand-up desks beavering away. Beyond the stereotypes it was apparent that this place is a hive of activity and creative thinking with scrawls of ideas on every window and smooth surface. We chatted with CEO Peter Weijmarshausen about startup culture, 3D printing, risk, business building, design… essentially everything that Shapeways is about.
From Manhattan we took a couple of subway trains (which is 100% more than was actually required) to Long Island City (LIC), home of the Shapeways production facility. Greeted by a friendly beard (Duann) and bass-heavy hip hop (courtesy of Tupac) it was immediately evident that the culture didn’t stop at the 59th Street Bridge. Although still a work in progress the LIC facility is starting to look every bit the ‘future factory’ that Shapeways dreams of.
From LIC we moved on to Brooklyn to pop in on the Solidoodle team. With their mission to bring the cost of 3D printers down (their machines start at just $499) Solidoodle have brought some 60 jobs to the local area and even use their own machines to make parts in the production line.
The next day saw us on an 0600 flight to Pittsburgh, home to — amongst other things — ExOne. Firmly established at the industrial end of the spectrum ExOne have a solid business plan that they are unapologetic about following. We saw a lot of parts being produced by ExOne, many of which were quite familiar to us, as well as the company’s range of large machines. Speaking with President and COO Dave Burns proved an enlightening experience both in terms of the technology, but also the business models and opportunities afforded by 3D printing technology.
Following a weekend that included some downtime — including seeing the New York Knicks (Go Knicks!) beat the Boston Celtics in the first round NBA playoffs — it was again time to don the walking boots and take to the streets of New York. First stop was the Makerbot store in Greenwich Village where Bre Pettis spent some time with us before the store opened for business. The store is equal parts retail and education, which goes some way to explaining the 40 minute average hang time of the visitors. This dual purpose of commerce and education is a representation of the company as a whole, which was one of the first companies to successfully commercialise the consumer/maker 3D printer and continues to innovate in the space.
The final afternoon took us across town to the Javits Centre for the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo. Although we only had time for a flying visit it was obvious that the conference sessions and expo area had generated significant interest. If nothing else this hectic end to the trip reinforced my enthusiasm for TCT Show + Personalize this September, now entering its 19th year as an AM and 3D Printing focussed event.