3D Systems 3D Printed Band
3D Systems' 3D Printed Band
The TCT Show + Personalize show floor is a breeding ground for networking and lead generation and the reason why so many companies rush to snap up the best pitches for the event is because they know their presence alone at the annual trade fair gleans valuable business.
And TCT Show + Personalize 2013 proved to be no exception, with many exhibitors stating how this year was their best ever.
With more than 130 dedicated stands, not including those where companies and individuals had decided to double-up - there were plenty of people to meet, machines to see and new concepts to learn about the whole range of the 3D printing, additive manufacturing and product development applications.
Big boys in the playground
The biggest stands were - naturally - commandeered by the biggest businesses, the sorts that are hard to miss in the technology headlines or on the stock market. Upon entering Hall 3A at the NEC in Birmingham, visitors could not miss the impressive arching structure of the buzzing Statasys camp, or the live demonstrations going on at the ever-swamped Mcor stand - which was drawing a crowd even before attendees realised there was the possibility of a complimentary Guinness if they were lucky.
Walking through the hall, the next big hub to be found belonged to Renishaw - which competed with Stratasys in terms of stand height - where the signature eye-catching white and orange colour scheme ensured their central position would not be overlooked. Renishaw's machines were a constant draw for the company, who can be found at most of these big industry events in the UK and Europe. Rapid Manufacturing Manager Jeremy Pullin tweeted: "Really great to see so much buzz on the floor … Awesome TCT Show."
Experts in additive manufacturing in metals ExOne were over the way from the engineering giant and complemented Renishaw's orange with their own green and white colour scheme so well it was almost deliberate - but big businesses at trade events have more important things to consider than complementary colours, which is why business was at the top of the agenda for the ExOne team, whose stand was never empty of curious, enterprising visitors looking to learn more about the lucrative additive manufacturing growth area of metal materials and the company's newest ventures such as tungsten.
Moving into the very heart centre of TCT Show + Personalize, it didn't take long to realise the toe-tapping jazz music that was merely background noise at the show entrance was getting louder. That's right - the party was right in the middle of the show floor at 3D Systems' stand. A modern white platform adorned with a showcase of Cube desktop 3D printers and a mix of colourful, fun and practical examples of what 3D Systems' machines can do welcomed visitors of any age, background and level of knowledge in the technology - which of course is the industry giant's mission. The 3D printed band - which consisted of working musical instruments made partially using the 3D printing process - delighted visitors for the full two days and at the evening exhibitors' reception drinks. At some points in the day, it was noted that the musicians' clear enthusiasm (egged on by eager music lovers) was maybe driving up the volume a notch or two above ambient, as the fantastic bluesy, folksy tunes could be heard very clearly in the audience of the speaker sessions. This only added to the fun of the show, however, even if organisers did have to put on their curmudgeonly-old-neighbour hats and ask the maestros to turn it down.
Next to this nucleus of 3D printing excitement was the Rapid News stand, the central focal point complete with a seating, meeting and greeting area forming the boss at the very heart of the show floor, which was home to the exhibitors' reception drinks on the first night and served as the very heart of the bustling event.
Focal points and friendly faces
Walking around the exhibition floor, it was hard to miss focal points such as the Bright Minds classroom, which was consistently packed with eager school children from the local area who were guided and encouraged to get up close and personal with 3D printing with the help of Black Country Atelier and 3D Systems. Around the corner from this little educational pocket was the much-hyped RepRap Hub, the crowd at which varied in size between throng and swarm, only thinning out as exhibitors had to pack up their stands at the end of the day.
Richard 'RichRap' Horne said in his own write-up of TCT Show + Personalize: "I have attended the last eight [TCT Shows] - this year however was the very best so far. The whole event was bigger, better and had a real buzz. From hackerspace to aerospace - you guys totally rock!"
EuroPac's eye-catching stand drew interest thanks to the dot-covered hatchback car that was parked squarely at the front of its plot of show floor as a sample item to be measured. The team there was demonstrating the latest Artec 3D scanning gadgetry, while also taking the time to catch show visitors and scan their faces and entire bodies.
3T RPD, which was opposite the Rapid News stand, also provided a colourful and busy showcase for 3D printing technology. Marketing Manager Lynn Painter said: "We very much liked our stand being opposite Rapid News and felt we were in the hub of things. That was particularly true during the reception on Wednesday evening. We felt that the level of knowledge and calibre of enquiry lead to longer and more involved conversations. We also saw a lot of existing customers. Overall, there was a great buzz."
The John Burn team, who were located adjacent to the main stage, were just as enthusiastic, noting there was no shortage of interesting design, prototyping and 3D printing discussions with interested parties to be had, while the company tweeted the event was a "great platform for companies like ours to showcase what we can do … see you next year!"
Never too early
And indeed, it is never too early to start thinking about TCT Show + Personalize 2014, as deals and ideas were already being formed as the pallets were being filled and the stands were dismantled as night fell over the NEC on Thursday September 26th.
Next year will be a three-day bonanza as the event partners with Interplas and therefore there will be even more scope for lead generation, education, whacky exhibitions and ground-breaking speaker sessions.
Already, companies of all sizes are getting in touch to make sure they stake out the best plots for TCT Show + Personalize 2014, while there are plans for a bigger RepRap Hub. Just some of the things to look forward to in the 51 weeks between now and the next event.