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Should AMUG Go Digital?

AMUG’s DINO award [Source: Tuan Tranpham]

A recent discussion on LinkedIn suggests AMUG, the annual additive manufacturing event, should go to a digital format.

A post by 3D printing veteran Tuan Tranpham talked about AMUG’s annual award, the “DINO”. The DINO, standing for “Distinguished INnovator Operator”, is given to recipents “in recognition of raising global awareness of Additive Manufacturing.” According to Tranpham, only 159 individuals have been awarded a DINO over the 31-year history of AMUG.

Tranpham lists the minimum requirements for a DINO nominee:

  • Active in AM for ten (10) years. AM activities must be related to industrial/commercial interests, which extend to activities that support/enable those interests, such as practical research and standards development. Nominee must have direct, personal involvement with the AM industry, its technologies, and/or its users. “Peripheral roles” within a company that has AM involvement will not satisfy the eligibility requirement.
  • Appreciable contributions of time/effort to AMUG through volunteer activities. Any activities with AMUG can apply, such as pre-conference work on a committee or onsite conference help.
  • Attendee of at least three AMUG Conferences prior to the current year.

That last point seems to have hit a nerve, however, as one commenter, Peter Rogers of Autodesk, based in Japan, suggested it would unnecessarily deter non-US AM practitioners from being awarded a DINO. He said:

“It is a slight shame that it is so focused on the US… a lot of amazing work happening in Asia as well, but understand it would be difficult capturing all those nominations.”

And:

“I completely agree that AMUG is an awesome organization and that the events themselves are worth attending, but they are all based in the US. The level of difficulty for people to travel there from outside the US makes the barrier to entry a lot higher… so naturally that is reflected in the past winners lists as well. Hopefully the covid disaster will clear up and people will be able to travel again. If not, are there any plans to run the conference digitally to increase the global audience too? Would love to attend, but getting there physically seems like it might be tricky.”

AMUG Vice President Andrew Allshorn replied:

“There is nothing like AMUG anywhere else in the world #forusersbyusers People from all over the world travel to AMUG and it’s bringing more and more every year…”

And:

”I was taken to my first on by a boss before I had my own business. Once I’d been I knew I would be going every year as there is no other AM event like it. Never thought I’d have the honour to become the VP. Hard work but very rewarding … hope to see you in Chicago next year.”

I think both are correct, but there’s bigger things afoot here.

Additive Manufacturing Across The World

AMUG has always taken place in the US, which, even in non-COVID-19 times, is far easier to travel to for US citizens. The closer distance makes for less expensive travel, and those in other locations would be paying far more (in money and time) to travel to a US location. In some cases it’s an expense that could only be justified every few years. Another way to look at it would be to ask a typical US AMUG attendee if they were able to pay to travel to an Australian event. I suspect a large percentage would not be able to, especially every year.

The US has also become a more difficult place to enter for non-US citizens, as many have been unnecessarily hassled at the border. I am Canadian and have personally been placed in a cell when crossing the border for no good reason, and have subsequently avoided US travel unless absolutely necessary, as have others. I’m not sure those in the US are aware of how challenging it can be for some people to enter that country from other places.

Some conferences, notably TED and some INFOSEC events, have decided to locate their events outside of the US for these and other reasons.

In the 3D printing world things continue to evolve. While 3D printing first emerged in the US, it is now a global phenomenon. We can see this in our own statistics, that show our readership is only about 40% from the USA, and the remaining 60% is from other countries around the world — and that’s for an English news source. The actual amount of 3D printing activity in non-US locations is likely even higher than 60%!

AMUG Conference Options

I think Rogers is on to something here: in order to truly address the entire world of 3D printing, it may be necessary for AMUG to broaden their horizons beyond the US.

What is the best way to do that? One obvious way might be to host events in different locations around the world, but I suspect some regular US AMUG attendees might be scared off by travel costs to faraway places. But that’s the point of this discussion: long distance travel is hard to do!

In these virus-laden times, another approach would be to “go digital”, and this would create an even field for anyone, anywhere to attend the event. However, digital events are not quite the same as an in-person event, and in particular for the networky-style of an event like AMUG. There’s also the possibility of a hybrid event that involves both physical and digital components.

AMUG could be at risk because of all this: as non-US use of AM increases, someone, somewhere could launch a similar competing event that does indeed address non-US locations. If successful, they could eventually land in the US, taking the place of AMUG.

Regardless of how AMUG structures their event in the future, we cannot attend AMUG due to other reasons.

Via LinkedIn

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