What do Bruce Wayne and Richard Horne have in common? Unfortunately it is not that they will both be speaking at TCT Show + Personalize in September - that's only half true. No, it is the fact they both lead double lives, because as Bruce Wayne transforms into Batman when Gotham City's criminals wriggle out of the woodwork as darkness falls, Richard Horne throws off the corporate shackles of a Commercial Manager at electronics manufacturer Heber when the makers' post-work witching hour cometh.
This will be Horne's first time speaking at the show, but he has been involved in Heber's stand at the event before. Unlike his previous appearances, however, Horne will be taking to the stage in September not as a "suit", as he likes to put it, but as a "woolly jumper".
Mixing business with pleasure
His presentation in the upcoming Show is entitled 3D Printing for Business and Pleasure. As an engineer first and foremost, Horne understands the technology of 3D printing, but personally he gets great enjoyment out of 3D printing and so his speech aims to bridge some of the gaps between established 3D printing businesses, makers, developers and designers.
"I really want to try and get across some of the community developments going on in this industry, how an open nature of developments can be a good thing for both big businesses and the end consumer, individual engineer or small business," he stated.
"I'm much less interested in the rush to consumers and more interested in connecting with people that need this technology for their business or hobby, that's still what drives me."
He will be talking more about his maker work at TCT Show, but in addition to sharing his thoughts with the rest of the industry, Horne will be browsing the stands and checking in with old colleagues and acquaintances, and having a look at the new developments.
It is the maker side that Horne is most keen to investigate, as the expert has indicated that Team Suit has a tendency to overshadow the woolly jumper contingent when in fact both sides ought to be working together.
Horne explained: "The disconnect between the makers and bigger established businesses is still vast.
"Things like open source licensing and the importance of attribution are still being totally ignored by big-name companies that should really understand the importance of this for their business and the wider community of designers and developers that could, in turn, support them."
He went on to say that this current 3D printing wave is partly socially driven by projects such as RepRap, transforming the industry both in terms of "survival of the fittest" and as feedback from users engineers how the technology evolves.
"I want people to be aware that projects like RepRap have helped drive forward another era in this wonderful sector. I don't want people to believe it's just a re-invention of 3D printing using expired patents, that's not the point," he added.
But even though Horne identifies the gulf that still exists between the suits and woolly jumpers, he acknowledges that gap is narrowing. He noted that compared to five years ago the additive manufacturing industry is a much more open market, with a sense of community emerging.
"I visit [TCT Show + Personalize] now to meet people, listen and make real connections. I really look forward to meeting and talking to as many people as possible at the NEC in September," he remarked.
"The Personalize section of last year's show was really buzzing and the flow of information was constant and of a very high quality. I'm really looking forward to being a part of this year's exhibition."
And Horne believes there is plenty to be excited about in the industry in general. He said that he is closely watching what Stratasys is going to do with Objet's technology following the merger, while he is thrilled to see the Form1 laser-resin printer is now shipping. Furthermore, the recent news that Autodesk has taken over Tinkercad is cheering for the maker community.
Proud to 3D print
On a wider scale, the expert noted that the medical and nano-scale developments in 3D printing are what makes him proud to be a part of the industry and he is anxious to find out what is going to happen with the rise of the $350 3D printers hitting the market.
"It could be a total car crash, or maybe another important step," he commented.
Looking at the next year or so, Horne believes the time is right for the rise and rise of accessible, low-cost 3D printers, as well as responsible investment in infrastructure to support those who use these machines.
He was less enthusiastic about the customisation boom and the hyperactive media coverage of the technology. "Things being semi-customised is a big topic at the moment, a lot of cash is being burnt," Horne said.
"The media do just what they need to get the headlines and unfortunately they are fed rather poor information by companies trying to keep the hype level high. As time goes on we will just see less positive things being reported," he added.
With one foot planted firmly in both Suit and Woolly jumper camps, Horne is bound to offer a fascinating insight into the growing industry and his half-hour slot at the TCT Show will attract a good mix of industrial and garden shed users.
For an insight into Horne's view of TCT Show, read his blog about last year's event on his RichRap blog, which gives an honest opinion about the event as a maker. He is hoping to top this experience this year.