As we’ve established in previous blogs, I’ve not been in this game a long time, my previous experience saw me working for football clubs, police forces and light entertainment television shows, none of the above required my services at conferences or expos, though far from being a expo virgin, I’ve been to several in my spare time, most recently at the Global Entrepreneurial Congress in Liverpool.
So I knew what to expect when visiting the second annual Develop 3D Live Conference and Exhibition in Warwick Arts Centre in a professional variety; what I didn’t expect is the difference having the company name plastered on your lanyard makes. In my capacity at previous expos I’ve had the ambiguous ‘Visitor’ or ‘Guest’ displayed across my chest and nobody bats an eyelid, suddenly with (not to be big headed about our site, but I am) Personalize, you get people wanting to talk to you. This allowed access to some fantastic conversations with a variety of exhibitors.
Keynote key notes
I say I’ve not been in 3D printing world a long time, but long enough to know to be exciting about Ping Fu’s keynote. She didn’t disappoint, some fascinating insight into a fascinating life. Fu illuminated the stage not just with her bright white 3D printed shawl, but also with her keynote session “Life in Two Worlds: Physical and Digital”.
The swish presentation was slightly dampened by the wireless microphone gremlins, which saw her disappointingly confined to a podium instead of being allowed the freedom of the stage to perform her array of gesticulations, which accompany the Ping Fu story. The Geomagic founder posed plenty of pause for thought moments, particularly in the way she detailed how museums could begin to scan and replicate their artefacts with 3D scanning and printing technology, in order to create an entirely new business model which isn’t solely reliant on wealthy philanthropists.
Ian Keen of Nissan was up next, Ping Fu’s always going to be a tough act to follow especially for some an in-depth CAD business analysis. Though there were some fantastically attention-grabbing stats from the Nissan talk; Nissan’s CAD staff has soared from 3 to 100 in just 20 years and the Nissan plant in Sunderland is not only the biggest car manufacturing plant in the UK but the most productive in Europe. Who knew there was that many Jukes and Notes on the road?
The exhibitors were spread around the Arts Centre in clusters meaning there wasn’t as much crowding at particular stands. I’m not going to list all of them but there was plenty to keep the interests of Personalize perked up, and I’m not just talking about the coffee. Of particular note we had a fantastic discussion with Autodesk’s Richard Blatcher & Kevin Schneider on the company’s focus on consumer based products like the 123D apps, the full interview of which is coming to a screen near you very soon!
The next session I trundled off to was 3D Printing and Prototyping , as a journalist concentrating on consumer 3D printing this had always been the apple of my eye session.
It was kicked off by Al Dean, he talked at length on a man’s tinkering obsession involving an Up!, a Kinect and a cake decorating tray all housed inside a air hostess’s trolley.
Al gave a great account on the state of desktop 3D printing in its current state, basically telling us that although there’s a long way to go before we’re all using one but the opportunities are there.
Thoughts echoed by Dr Phil Reeves whose more in-depth analytical look based on a report he’d created for IBM. Dr Phil discussed how breaking down a Bosch Washing Machine to see which parts could be 3D printed produced the conclusion that it was still cheaper to make the washing machine as is, and that will still be the case for ten years down the line.
John Tumelty of Proto Labs gave his account of the benefits of CNC machining over 3D printing in certain instances. Although John was well balanced in his argument, he was greeted with an angry question from the floor on his use of Al’s Up! as an example of were 3D printing is at, negating to draw attention to the industrial Stratasys and 3D Systems machines which can do a fantastic for rapid prototyping.
It was left to Lisa Harouni to pick up the 3D printing pieces, and pick ‘em up she did! A wonderfully adept presentation on how customisation is the key to 3D printing. CEO of Digital Forming, Harouni showed us how her browser-based software allows even the most unskilled of designers to create beautiful custom-made products exactly to their liking.
Back to the keynotes
After some of the standard dinner queue jostling (the samosas were top of the pops!) it was time for SolidWorks’ Vice President, Gian Paolo Bassi to do his thing and blow the socks off the 3D design world.
Bassi presented the improvements to the software package “Conceptual design still takes too long in CAD, sometimes it is faster to do it in a workshop out of a block of wood. But with SolidWorks latest release we’ve introduced the ability to work with natural shapes, making it quicker to create conceptual models... With the cloud based service you can now collaborate with anyone, anywhere at anytime.”
Saving the best until last, it was the turn of Materialise’s Jurgen Laudus to really show us the true capabilities of 3D printing. You really get the sense the Belgian firm are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible with 3D printing.
Laudus was able to announce during his keynote that Materialise had now launched their 3D Print Barometer to help designers identify plastic parts which can benefit from being 3D printed.
“I believe a lot of companies could benefit from 3D printing but DON’T forget the design” Laudus exclaimed, pointing out that you can not simply take a previously injection moulded design and expect it to come out of a 3D printer perfectly, the design needs adapting.
So, in all a very positive display; some excellent exhibits and some beguiling talks on the pros and cons of 3D printing. All this only whets my appetite for our own show, TCT Show & Personalize in September.