3D printing’s largest event is still planning to go on, in-person, this November.
With the trade show calendar virtually all virtual for the foreseeable future, it’s been interesting to follow the plans for the industry’s largest annual gathering. Following an update last month in which Formnext announced not only the intent to go on, but 559 exhibitors already registered, showrunners have again put out notice that the show will go on.
Mesago Messe Frankfurt still expects Formnext to go on as planned.
That’s the headline of their latest press release, which went out late last week. The update includes some updates to those plans, as organizers are necessarily considering the safety of everyone involved. Digital options, reduced visitor density, and contact tracing are among such considerations, though it doesn’t sound like organizers are quite ready to announce specifics for these quite yet.
Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext, Mesago Messe Frankfurt, shared a look at organizers’ mindset in continuing to plan for an in-person gathering, saying:
“We remain convinced of the unique value and advantages of a physical exhibition. And although digital interaction will never be able to replace face-to-face contact, it does offer more scope than previously thought possible only a few weeks ago.”
“Ultimately, even in these challenging times, we want to organize a trade show that is as responsive as possible to the current situation and the needs of participants and the market.”
More information is forthcoming about what digital options will be enabled. Among these will be exhibitors’ ability to present their products and solutions in a virtual arena.
The announcement also explains:
“The health of exhibitors, visitors and employees naturally remains a top priority. Together with Messe Frankfurt, therefore, concepts are currently being developed to ensure the highest standards of health protection. These include, for example, reducing visitor density, guaranteeing high hygiene standards and introducing contact tracing. These concepts are currently being coordinated with the responsible authorities and will be duly implemented in due course.
In addition to health protection, Formnext 2020 is being designed in consideration of a number of other important factors, such as the wider economic environment, the economic situation in the AM sector, and developments in the European and global travel industry.”
No updated exhibitor numbers appeared in this announcement
German Events In 2020
Formnext takes place in Frankfurt, and thus is subject to German laws and regulations.
Earlier this month, the Federal Government and the Federal States of Germany included trade shows in its statement of public events that are seeing restrictions lift.
“This is great news not only for the trade show industry, but for the entire economy,” Wenzler says in Formnext’s announcement. “Trade shows are an important driver of innovation and value creation in industry, especially after months of economic standstill in many industries and sectors.”
This is very true, and that such events can be held — while of course adhering to responsible guidelines for all on premises — is cheering.
But it is of course not the full story. The pandemic is, as well all know, not gone. COVID-19 is still spreading, even if rates have been slowing due to appropriate measures being taken the world over.
The Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) issued a statement on May 8 noting that:
“The German federal states will decide in future, as of when exhibitions can be realised, if guidelines for hygiene and personal distance are fulfilled. Government and federal states agreed May 6th 2020 that simultaneously, exhibitions will no longer be regarded as mass events.
Jörn Holtmeier, managing director of AUMA – Association of the German Trade Fair Industry – says: ‘This is an important step in direction of rebooting the trade fair industry. As exhibitions are platforms for innovation and cooperation, they will stimulate the recovery of the German economy in the short and medium run.’ The German exhibition organisers and AUMA, too, are prepared to provide the responsible authorities with expertise and experience concerning the realisation of exhibitions. For this purpose, AUMA has already prepared recommendations that meet the high demands for hygiene and personal distance.
The step-by-step reopening of hotels and restaurants, planned by the federal states, is an important signal for exhibitions, says Jörn Holtmeier. The reopening of borders and the resumption of transnational business traffic, too, are crucial for the success of exhibitions in the second half of the year.”
The reopening of many economic sectors is a careful balance these days, as economic crisis and health and safety must both be seriously considered.
One factor many have been pointing to in terms of realistic mass gatherings is categorized differently than Formnext, as Oktoberfest — the massive cultural festival that attracts around six million celebrants each September/October to Munich — announced its cancellation in late April.
Oktoberfest “simply cannot exist in these times,” Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter said of the cancellation. Some of the few other historical cancellations, outside of times of war, have been due to pandemic, including closures for cholera in 1854 and 1873.
“It hurts, it’s such a pity. We have agreed that the risk is simply too high,” said Minister President Söder in the Bavarian State Chancellery. “…As long as there is no vaccine, as long as there is no medicine, special care must be taken.”
Digital And Physical Event
It’s especially interesting that Formnext is considering adding a heftier virtual component to the 2020 event.
While many events cannot be very effectively digitized — Oktoberfest doesn’t have quite the same cheer hefting a lone Hefeweizen via Zoom — the 3D printing industry has been seeing an uptick in successful virtual events.
Webinars, conferences, conversations: the digitization of digital manufacturing has been moving over to conducting business online. Many of these efforts have seen success that’s surprised even the planners.
That Formnext is considering some digital aspect is certainly beneficial, as no doubt attendance will be impacted for 2020 no matter the lifting of restrictions. Some simply aren’t going to risk international travel this year.
We’re curious to hear more about the plans for reduced visitor density, as well; last year, Formnext attracted 852 exhibitors and 34,532 visitors. Some combination of physical and digital event will likely be the way forward for 2020.
Whatever happens in November, we’re very glad to hear that the additive manufacturing industry will have a form of Formnext to turn to for the latest in 3D printing. Whether we meet face-to-face or digitally, it will be heartening to keep this event happening.