It’s tradeshow season in the world of 3D printing once again, and perhaps it’s time we provided our opinion on where to see the best 3d print trade shows.
Tradeshows are quite an important event to participate in, as an attendee, exhibitor or even a speaker. Fortunately, there are many good choices.
That wasn’t the case years ago when 3D printing was viewed as a “fad” and appeared only as a kind of sideshow at “real” manufacturing events. That’s not true today where we now see multiple dedicated 3D print events taking place worldwide.
Certainly you cannot attend them all, and in fact there is often duplicated information so it is not in your interest as an attendee to go to more than a few per year at most. But as an exhibitor, it is important to expose your products and services to the most people possible, so an appearance at most shows is highly desirable, if it fits within budget.
Major 3D Print Tradeshows
Here’s what we know about some of the most notable — and largest — shows taking place in the next year or so:
IMTS 2020: This is a monstrously huge general manufacturing show, where vendors of all types of manufacturing equipment will show their wares. This means that 3D printing is actually only a small part of the show. Historically there hadn’t been that much 3D print content, but with the rise of additive manufacturing in industry and an increasing number of vendors providing solutions for manufacturing, we will be seeing a lot more 3D print content and expanded floor space dedicated to additive manufacturing at IMTS. Note that this show takes place only once every two years, so if you miss IMTS 2020, you’re going to have to wait until IMTS 2022. This is a serious industry event, and one we look forward to attending again in 2020.
RAPID + TCT: This is the largest show in North America dedicated to 3D printing and associated products and services. While it has been in existence for decades, it has evolved significantly in recent years. Today it’s overflowing with all types of 3D printing products and services, with typically hundreds of vendors exhibiting. RAPID + TCT does not have a fixed location, and hosts their event at random locations in the USA in the May timeframe each year. This is on our annual “must-attend” list as an excellent event for keeping up with the industry and for networking.
formnext: This is perhaps the “youngest” major event on the schedule, being only a few years old, but it is certainly the biggest by far. Held annually in Frankfurt, Germany in November, the event is likely going to host more than 1,000 vendors this autumn for its biggest year yet. Not only will there be many vendors, their exhibits are notably larger than in other events and this seems to host the most new product launches. If there is one show to attend, this is it, as virtually all vendors of note will be present, as well as around 30,000 attendees. Usually we send our entire team to this show to cover its breadth.
TCT Show: Held annually in the UK, this event has proven to be a favorite among attendees who will see a few hundred exhibitors. This is one of the older events; it has been running successfully for many years. We will be attending this one again this year.
AMUG: The Additive Manufacturing User Group holds a conference annually somewhere in the USA, usually in the March-April timeframe. It’s less of an exhibition and more of a conference, as there are plenty of user-group style sessions where participants can learn and share new approaches. I’d say more about it, but I can’t because I’ve never been able to attend: they do not allow journalists entry.
Other 3D Print Tradeshows and Conferences
Some of these events have “satellite” versions taking place in other regions. For example, TCT Show also runs TCT Asia, taking place in 2020. Similarly, formnext now has an Asian version as well. These are typically smaller events, but offering the same style as the original.
Maker Faire has long been an event where smaller 3D print companies tend to launch their products, usually because the costs to participate are far lower than the big-time events. Two Maker Faires in particular were of note: the San Francisco Bay Area and New York versions tended to be large and well attended. However, with the recent demise of Maker Media, who operated the main Maker Faires, it is not clear whether these events will survive. It is possible they may morph into something branded differently, but similar.
CES is held annually in Las Vegas in January. In past years this was a reasonably good event with up to 150 3D print vendors exhibiting. However, recently 3D print participation has significantly dropped to only a couple dozen exhibitors. We no longer attend this event because of the drop in interest.
There are countless other smaller events held regionally, and others highly focused on specific niches within 3D printing. For example, it is possible to find conferences dedicated to construction 3D printing, medical 3D printing, food 3D printing, and RepRap/open source 3D printing. Depending on your needs and location, some of these might be appropriate.
There has never been a better time for choosing a 3D print event. I strongly recommend going to one as you will be exposed to concepts, equipment and materials you’ve never imagined.