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Is Formnext Too Big?

 Formnext 2019 was the largest ever held [Source: Fabbaloo]
Formnext 2019 was the largest ever held [Source: Fabbaloo]

This year we had tremendous challenges handling Formnext this year, unlike any previous event we’ve attended.

Formnext Size

The issue was scale. With some 852 vendors to visit, it was incredibly challenging. In truth, there were far more than 852 vendors, as some booths were occupied by multiple vendors sharing space, and other vendors merely bought tickets and walked around the floor.

For us, the mathematics of Formnext were daunting: 852 vendors to see in only 34 opening hours meant an average of 2:24 each not counting breaks. Obviously, complete coverage was impossible without deploying a large team, which we do not have. We did our best, but offer apologies to any company we did not manage to see, and there were several.

Formnext Attendees

 A look down one of dozens of large aisles at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]
A look down one of dozens of large aisles at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]

All vendors told us they received huge visitor traffic and those visitors were of high quality. The typical visitor would ask a vendor how they could print a specific type of part in a particular material, for example. This allowed vendors to collect vast numbers of leads and should entirely justify their spending to exhibit at Formnext.

Formnext 2020 Size?

Those sentiments strongly suggest that Formnext 2020 will be an even larger event, perhaps exceeding 1000 vendors and 50,000 attendees for the first time. It’s likely the notoriety of the event will attract vendors who have not previously contemplated Formnext. We spoke to several new US-based vendors who had set up very small exhibits this year, mostly as an exploratory venture. Next year they could turn into full-fledges, large booths given this year’s success.

Formnext Possible Adjustments

 One of the several entry lobbies at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]
One of the several entry lobbies at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]

But is the event too big?

Aside from the physical logistics of attending (it would take probably 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and don’t ask about getting lunch), an attendee could easily miss a great deal.

My thinking is that the event is not yet too big. Having attended the massive CES event in Las Vegas, it’s clear Formnext could be even bigger. The venue in Frankfurt can easily accommodate much larger fairs, so that’s not an issue.

The key is to focus on what’s important. Our strategy last week was to seek out new technologies, but other attendees could easily focus on particular niches, such as high temperature 3D printing, or ceramics, for example. By focusing one can avoid spending time on irrelevant topics.

 Welcome banner at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]
Welcome banner at Formnext 2019 [Source: Fabbaloo]

This was complicated by the fact that Formnext does not seem to sort vendors by topic. Thus, if you wanted to see metal 3D printers, you would have to visit literally every row of every floor of the exhibition. That’s terribly inefficient for attendees.

To Formnext organizers, I recommend creating some type of “zones” where like-minded vendors could be placed for easier access by attendees. This was done by CES years ago when they created the “3D Zone”, and that vastly simplified the process of finding 3D printing vendors.

Without zones, some 3D print vendors were literally never found by those who would buy their products. The same will be the case at Formnext unless they zone the floor.

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