3D Printing Events Could Fall Apart From The Inside

By on March 10th, 2020 in Event

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Opening day at a previous RAPID + TCT event without virus concerns [Source: Fabbaloo]

Opening day at a previous RAPID + TCT event without virus concerns [Source: Fabbaloo]

With virus fears erupting worldwide, it’s time to speculate on the fate of several upcoming major 3D printing events. 

3D Print Event Benefits

These events are showcases where 3D printer manufacturers, materials suppliers, software makers and service providers display their wares to the public. Events allow prospective customers to examine products and ask questions directly. There’s always something special about seeing and touching a machine or print sample with your own hands. 

For many companies this type of event is critical, as it allows them to form bonds with prospects who are contacted after the event. The prospects collected from an event have a very high rate of sales closing, and sometimes the “haul” from an event is what makes or breaks a company’s annual revenue. 

For smaller players events are one of the best ways to gain attention from the media and public. While the larger players have huge media staff to broadcast announcements, the startups and new ventures often do not. When I’m speaking with a startup company at a 3D printing event, I’m almost always talking to the CEO or founder, not a media person. For these companies events are critical to launch their business. 

Of course, most of the product announcements occur in and around major events. This is a way to put material in front of journalists who might not normally be paying attention to the 3D printing world, as they may be during an event. 

All of these reasons are why our staff try to attend the major 3D printing events. That’s where we learn much of what’s going on in the space. Two events in particular are notable: RAPID + TCT, which takes place in a few weeks in Anaheim, is the largest 3D printing event in North America, and they should have something over 500 exhibitors. Meanwhile, the largest event in 3D printing is Formnext in Germany in the fall, where this year there might be over a thousand exhibitors. 

3D Print Conferences During Outbreak

But will these events take place at all? 

Across the world companies and individuals are taking action to slow down the spread of the virus known as COVID-19. The coronavirus has several areas of outbreak, including China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. 

New regulations are being issued by authorities every week. For example, Switzerland banned assemblies of over 1,000 people, resulting in the abrupt cancellation of several events in that country. Neighboring countries are considering similar restrictions. 

The goal here is not necessarily to stop the virus, but to slow it down. If the virus spreads too quickly, then the number of people infected at one time could exceed the capacity for health services. But if the spread was slowed down, then there is a far greater chance of health services keeping up. 

To slow the virus the basic approach is to simply avoid touching: Touching infected people or objects touched by infected people. There are plenty of instructions being issued that explain how to properly wash one’s hands — as apparently soap is the best chemical to neutralize the virus, more than hand sanitizer or disinfectants. We wrote on some of the precautions being undertaken via 3D printing last week.

Some companies are asking staff to work at home, which fortunately is a lot easier these days with the advent of online services. Some companies don’t have that option, however. 

3D Print Event Cancellations? 

With all the cancelled events being announced, one wonders what might happen to the major 3D print events. At least two have been cancelled, more postponed, and this year’s Additive World conference has “gone digital”, which is surely an interesting strategy. 

So far there has been no word from either RAPID + TCT or Formnext, as I am sure the organizers and many of the exhibitors do wish it would proceed. 

However, it’s possible the decision could be effectively out of the hands of the organizers.

This week Prusa Research announced they are no longer attending events in order to protect their staff and assist in slowing virus spread. CEO Josef Prusa says: 

”I am sorry to announce this, but until further notice, we are canceling all the shows and events we were scheduled to go. We normally have 5-10 people teams traveling around the world 2 to 4 times a month and that is now simply impossible to do safely.

We are now close to a team of 500 people in basically one location and I am not taking any chances to expose anyone to danger because of non-critical traveling. We are also canceling the visitor’s factory tours in Prague as they are also non-essential.

So far we handled everything very well, especially because of our massive 3-month parts buffer. We didn’t have to stop or limit our production at all and we would like it to stay that way. We will try to make this up for you with more online content.”

Thus we cannot expect to see them at RAPID, for example. But what if other companies make a similar decision? Could the Exhibitor Map for RAPID slowly become more sparse? And what if companies sending people to the event decide to restrict travel? It may be there could be fewer exhibitors and attendees to the point where holding the event may no longer be feasible.

In a similar vein, Carbon has issued the following statement regarding an event this month:

“After careful consideration, Carbon has decided to officially withdraw from any industry events or conferences through the first week of April due to concerns related to the spread of COVID-19. That means we have made the tough decision to officially withdraw entirely from AMUG later this month. We will not be exhibiting, speaking or sending any Carbon staff to Chicago.”

Formnext is quite a way off yet, and we cannot know the state of virus spread for November, but they must also be watching things closely. 

Some time ago we strongly recommended attending 3D print events. We still stand by that advice, but suggest caution in light of the recent virus outbreak. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!