New Trade Show Models And 3D Printing

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[Source: Paris Air Show]

Charles R. Goulding considers the prospect of trade show rethinking for the 3D printing industry.

3D printing has historically used the trade show model in part because 3D printers and their output products are interesting and educational to observe in person. However, I think most people would agree that an air show at a large airfield is even more attractive. This is why the recent success of this year’s large Farnborough air show in July in Britain is worth analyzing.

The biannual Farnborough show is scheduled in the alternate years between the Paris air shows. This was the first time in 72 years the physical show was replaced and the remote show brought 14,000 registrants and 96 leading expert video presentations together. This is a particularly impressive performance for an industry experiencing a severe downturn and unprecedented challenges. 

Cost Savings and Benefits 

The costs of a remote show for hosts, exhibitors and attendees are a fraction of a live show. It is estimated to cost $1 million to bring a civilian aircraft to an air show and $2 to $3 million for a military plane. Post-COVID, this argues for less frequent live shows and perhaps a hybrid live and remote model. Although watching a show and filling a bag with premium giveaways may seem appropriate at the time, most of us get back to our hotel room and wonder why we succumbed to the temptation.

Viewing some of 96 videos by leading experts is clearly a more serious endeavor. Typically, the videos are available for future use which eliminates sacrificing a second-best choice in the live workshop format. Trade shows do offer the advantage of in-person meetings and catching up with industry contacts during and after exhibit times. This is very beneficial. In fact, if we are all going to be working more remotely live trade shows with personal contact might even become more valuable.

Farnborough Air Show [Source: Mobile Chamber of Commerce]


Personally, I have mixed feelings about the live vs. remote trade show debate since I have found some live shows to have been productive and enjoyable. However, business people need to remember the business objective. As remote trade shows improve they may become a permanent part of the 3D printing marketing mix.

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