As of yesterday a large number of events have begun to be cancelled across North America due to virus concerns.
NBA Season Cancellation
The NBA announced they were abruptly suspending the entire regular season of basketball games as one of their players was found to be carrying COVID-19. The thinking was that in a close personal contact sport such as basketball, a virus could easily spread among players. By extension, the locker room facilities used by these potentially infected players are often shared with other teams in other sports, adding to potential virus spread.
The NBA did the right thing, although it was quite costly for them. With no games being played, there is no revenue from ticket sales, nor advertising revenue from TV presentation. However, that league will no doubt have saved some lives by making this dramatic move.
3D Print Event Cancellations
Back in the world of 3D printing we have not yet seen the same scope effects, at least in North America, although there are surely intense discussions taking place behind the scenes.
While numerous 3D print events have been cancelled and postponed in Europe, the two most notable events taking place in North America are also affected, at least in terms of official cancellations or postponements.
AMUG, the popular annual user group for 3D printing, has just issued the following statement on their site:
The Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) today announced the postponement and rescheduling of the 32nd annual AMUG Conference and its annual Business Meeting. Due to unprecedented circumstances around the globe, in the United States and in the greater Chicago area, AMUG leadership has determined it is in the best interest of its members, sponsors, exhibitors and event partners to postpone the conference. “This was a very difficult decision, but the Board of Directors agreed that in the best interest of our members and those that support the event we will postpone our annual Conference and Business Meeting, which were scheduled for March 22-26, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois,” stated Carl Dekker, AMUG President. “We would like to thank everyone for their continued support of the users group, their patience and their understanding. There are a lot of details to work out, and we will be reaching out to our members, sponsors and exhibitors shortly with more information.”
Their previous statement on March 5 indicated they intended on continuing the event, but plenty has happened since then and they’ve made their move. The next AMUG event will be next year.
Will RAPID Be Cancelled?
Meanwhile, the other major North American event, RAPID + TCT, taking place in Anaheim in only a few weeks, has this statement on their site from the organizers, SME:
“In line with current CDC guidance, we have determined that all SME business activities will continue as planned. Our member meetings, student programs, fundraisers, conferences and events are all continuing with the same commitment and effort that SME always brings to our work.
SME has served the manufacturing industry for almost 90 years. We connect the people, communities, and technologies of manufacturing, and we care deeply about our global manufacturing community.
We are proud of the unique responsibility we carry, and we embrace it.
Discontinuing or postponing our activities would have a profound impact on the people and the businesses that make up this critical community. We genuinely believe that we have an obligation to proceed responsibly and to continue with our plans that support manufacturing.
What manufacturing needs right now is a calm, reasoned approach – and it’s important for leading organizations to take all necessary precautions but also to contain unnecessary panic over coronavirus.
SME will always act in the best interest of our community.
We recognize that the concern about COVID-19 is real and we take those concerns very seriously. We will continue to closely monitor guidance from the CDC and WHO. If there is any change that impacts any of our activities, we will make the appropriate decisions and communicate them.”
Somehow I think these words are going to sound a lot different than they intended in about a week or so.
3D Printing and COVID-19
For these organizations, the prospect of postponing the event, or even cancelling it could be an existential danger.
A small non-profit organization such as AMUG may incur a significant dent in their finances should they cancel the event and have to pay various cancellation fees and lose deposits.
Thus there must be important discussions take place. On one side, the choice could be to save lives by contributing to social distance measures. On the other, potential financial disaster.
What will RAPID + TCT choose? I have no idea of the behind-the-scenes discussions no doubt taking place, but in my mind there is a very good possibility the event could be cancelled. Certainly some companies have already withdrawn, as several had already announced their withdrawal from AMUG prior to notification of its full cancellation.
RAPID + TCT may have little choice in the end, as vendors are increasingly restricting company travel, and attendees may be uncomfortable traveling at all. And then there’s always the possibility of social activity regulations being imposed by the government, which has already happened in certain jurisdictions. On top of these are new travel restrictions for flights from the EU into the US, which necessarily impacts European involvement in North American events.
Regardless of whether you’re interested in either of these events, I recommend you begin or continue practicing appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices, which have been provided by most local health authorities.