It is not quite a week since TCT Show + Personalize 2014 finished yet the buzz of the 3D printers, the chitter-chatter of business being done and the sound of the 3D Systems’ band are still ringing in my ears.
This was my second TCT Show and while the first can be a bedazzling head-spinning affair the second has you feeling a lot more comfortable (though a lot more busy) in your surroundings as people greet you like old friends to tell you about the latest innovation or business deal they have just struck.
Here are five things that I learnt during this year’s show:
Our conferences are great
The first might sound like a bit of own trumpet blowing but I have learnt more about the industry sitting in on conferences sessions of TCT Show than the copious reading of press releases, interviews conducted and tradeshows visited put together. The sheer breadth of speakers is staggering and testament to the months of planning we put into to bringing you an unrivalled line-up for free, zilch, nada.
In one session alone I chaired talks from BAE Systems, Adobe, Autodesk and Todd Grimm, the word illustrious springs to mind. It wasn’t just the names of brands either it was the insight offered into how those three mega companies are adopting the technology and, as usual from Todd, how the tech is being used in the here and now.
A personal highlight was chairing the keynote kick off on day three; Andy Christensen’s presentation on the medical applications of 3D printing was slick and informative, albeit occasionally gruesome in its depiction of surgery. We both joked that describing medical uses of 3D printing as the killer application seems counterintuitive and that due to the low-volume and tailor made production of patient specific devices perhaps it is better described as 3D printing’s lifeblood.
Business gets done
If you were lucky enough to be in the seminar theatre at 2pm on day three you’d have had perhaps one of the greatest declarations we’ve ever heard at TCT Show from Ashok Varma, CEO of Efesto. Ashok exclaimed to the gathered crowd that he expects to close $10,000,000 (you’ve read that correctly, ten million dollars!) worth of business as a direct result of TCT Show + Personalize 2014.
Ashok wasn’t alone, I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to who were delighted with the quality through the door and the business they’d done at the show. It is easy to forget that amongst the hype of this technology we’re all here to do business and the people who do business come to TCT Show.
Community is growing
This year we joined forces with 3D Hubs to bring one of their Maker Meetups to the TCT Show, you only have to take a quick glance at their site to see how, within the space of a year, the 3D printing maker community is not just burgeoning but bursting at the seams.
Those 3D Hub'ers attending got to see over 50 machine manufacturers as well as a host of material development and associated technology companies first hand and perhaps for the first time. This is a community, who are proven consumers of the very tech on display, exhibitors’ eyes lit up as soon as 3D Hubs were in the room.
The additive manufacturing and 3D printing company as a whole though is one tightly knit community, although there may be boardroom wrangles between certain companies all of the conversations I was party to between exhibitors were towards the benefit of the industry as a whole; sharing advice, contacts and ideas abandon.
Where there is a will…
Though, in the end, TCT Show + Personalize 2014 was a roaring success it wasn’t all plain sailing, with any tradeshow there will be bumps in the road and my suspension was severely tested as there was a slight snag with the Innovation Showcase - a feature which Laura and myself were given the responsibility to make look great in its position slap, bang in the middle of the show floor.
An item we were particularly proud of acquiring was the actual helmet worn by Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord/Peter Quill character in the smash summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. Chris Pratt’s face was scanned by the British physical special effects and propmakers FBFX, the original design was adapted to fit his face, it was printed by IPF, finished by FBFX and worn expertly by Chris Pratt.
Although we had planned ahead and got the dimensions of the helmet plus stand we hadn’t accounted for one thing; the bar joining the Perspex together at the top was obscuring the view of the most significant part of the helmet.
After several attempts of a patch-up job all was looking lost and it seemed as if we might not get to exhibit the one item we’d bent over backwards with Marvel’s security team to get our hands on. Fortunately, with minutes to spare before the visitors flocked in Joe from FBFX hatched a plan, speaking to our logistics team we managed to lower the shelf down significantly enough that the item was on display in all its glory and was somewhat a star of the show, especially with the Bright Minds kids!
Form is temporary class is permanent
If you regularly read this blog you’ll know that crowbarring in a football cliché is somewhat of the trademark of mine but this one felt appropriate for this year’s TCT Show.
Being spread over three days with a significant increase in floor space meant that though our visitor numbers increased it felt a little less crowded than last year. But if there was one thing that was said to us repeatedly over the course of the three days it was that the quality of the people through the doors was exceptional.
It feels as if the hype bubble that surrounds this technology is slowly being deflated but at the same time a significant number of those whose interests were peaked last year have spent some time doing research and have returned to the best 3D printing show to do their business. Whether that’s the F1 teams we spotted milling round, the coffee shop owner I spoke to who asked about installing a machine in his shop, representatives of Bosch we heard enquiring at a brand-new 3D printing outfit or established bureaus looking to expand their reach, TCT gets quality through the door, always has done, always will do.