With the near-future 3D printing event calendar effectively wiped clear, Formnext sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
In-person gatherings are impossible these days due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. While the 3D printing industry has been among those mobilizing for virtual gatherings — many of which have been fantastic — video chats still are a workaround until person-to-person contact is again permissible.
There’s no real telling when that will be; projections vary widely on both local and global scales. Many areas have already experienced their COVID-19 peaks, and others are expected to peak soon (my native Ohio is anticipating a peak in mid-May, for example, while Beijing is reportedly stretching cautiously back toward some sense of normalcy).
The spring events calendar is fully virtual — or postponed/cancelled. But where does that leave the rest of this year’s outlook?
As of early April, it looks like the additive manufacturing industry’s largest single event is a go.
Formnext today announced that it has “high hopes for a fall show.”
“Due to the coronavirus, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. In these testing times, however, in addition to concern for family, employees and economic stability, the AM industry in particular is demonstrating strength and solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus. AM enables the short-run and location-independent production of medical devices, equipment, and spare parts. In fact, the industry is showing tremendous spirit in terms of design, the free sharing of print data, and also in production itself,” says Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext, Mesago Messe Frankfurt.
He continues, “We are all counting on the situation to improve over the summer, making Formnext one of the first opportunities for the world of additive manufacturing to come together and exchange ideas in person again.”
As of April 2, organizers reveal that 559 exhibitors are already registered for the 2020 event.
3D Printing And COVID-19
3D printing has seen something of a surge in popular attention as the pandemic has affected global health and business. The technology has been put to use in some truly remarkable applications that have saved human lives. As both a stop-gap in supply chain issues and as a solution in and of itself, 3D printing has been put to great use as a rapid response form of manufacturing for much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as for general manufacturing usage.
With so much attention focusing again on this industry — with, naturally, some hype again to dig through, but nowhere near what we saw a decade ago with desktop 3D printing — it’s clear that events gathering participants and disseminating facts are in demand.
And so it makes sense that Formnext would be seeing optimism rolling in; with the event slated for mid-November, there’s hope that in the course of more than half a year the world will even out enough to allow for not only international travel, but large-scale gatherings.
There are of course some cautions to keep in mind.
Vaccines are in development, and COVID-19 won’t really “go away” until there are effective preventive and curative measures available at a mass scale. And those vaccines, while seeing speedy R&D and moving ever-faster toward human testing, are optimistically months-to-a-year-plus away from market.
We all have some thinking to do about our strategies in this instance.
Personally, I’m very hopeful for autumn travel; there are three back-to-back November events I’d love to attend in the UK, Belgium, and Germany. However, I’m not booking anything just yet. I have an infant; my parents are in their 70s and both with underlying respiratory health concerns. While I’m a relatively healthy 30-something, I absolutely will not risk spreading illness to those in my life who don’t have that base level of health and immune system bounceback. I don’t know whether I’ll be travelling at all this year, which would be a disappointing first for me in my time working in this industry.
And that’s just me. Once I decide whether or not I’m hopping on a plane, the rest of Team Fabbaloo also have to make their decisions. And then other teams have to make their personal and group decisions, and so on, all the way up to those 559 exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees.
Will we be able to gather for Formnext 2020?
It’s a hope. And it’s heartening that organizers and exhibitors both are actively planning for an event that is, as of now, happening.
I hope to be there; I hope to see you there, reader. I hope to see the excellent exhibitors in hardware, software, materials, and services noted in the Formnext press release.
“…[I]t is clear that people would increasingly like to see a return to normality, both in their private lives and within the business environment. The excellent registration figures for the Formnext 2020 show cause for optimism in this regard,” the press release states.
There is optimism. There will be a return to normal. And there’s a lot to look forward to when that time comes.
In the meantime, we — like everyone else — will keep an eye on the latest projections and make the best decisions we can given incoming information from experts.