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Formnext Announces COVID-19 Protocols For Fall Event

Formnext in pre-COVID-19 days [Source: Fabbaloo]

Formnext, the largest 3D printing event worldwide, announced more about how they intend on holding the event this coming November.

Due to the pandemic a number of 3D print events have been transformed into primarily online events, some have been postponed, and still others have been cancelled outright. Some have been “postponed for a year”, which in my mind is effectively a “cancellation”, but perhaps there are some legal reasons for terming these moves in that way.

We’ve seen other major events make changes of this type, but Formnext, being in November, has the luxury of time to decide if and how they will proceed with a physical event.

Formnext is the world’s largest presentation of 3D print technologies, and is the place where most of the year’s product announcements will originate. Or at least that’s how it’s been for the past few years.

Formnext COVID-19 Protocols

Previously Mesago, the company producing Formnext, said they intend on continuing with the event as originally scheduled in Frankfurt, 10-13 November. However, that begged the question: “How will it be run differently?”

Now we have some answers to this question, as Mesago announced more details of how it’s going to work.

For an event expecting upwards of 30,000 on-site attendees, I was quite curious as to how they were going to manage things.

Here are the major elements of their health protection plan:

Touchless Registration: The event will have a “fully electronic registration and payment system” that will not involve human contact. Attendees will have to declare their state of health as well.

Larger Aisles: The new floor plan design will incorporate 6m wide aisles, rather than the 3m used in previous events. There will also be a 1m “communication strip” alongside each booth. I can tell you those aisles can get quite crowded, but making them wider will obviously take up much more space and make walking the floor take perhaps twice as long. However, Mesago says the new sizes are calculated to ensure appropriate separation of attendees.

Social Distance Monitoring: On-site cameras will be continuously monitored to ensure attendees maintain appropriate social distances. This involves not only video monitoring staff, but also “trained personnel” on the floors, who will perform “professional crowd management”. I’m not sure exactly what the professionals will do in case of a violation, but it could be interesting.

Booth Design: Mesago will issue new guidelines for booth design to maximize social distancing, including new guidelines on catering. Food is a big thing at Formnext, with some booth designs being indistinguishable from that of high-end restaurants. Mesago will also provide pre-made “turnkey” booths that comply with guidelines for companies to make use of without having to design their own.

Air Circulation: Mesago will increase the air circulation in the exhibition halls to ensure a complete turnover of air each hour. This should evacuate airborne bugs much faster than typical events, and is quite a feat considering the massive size of the halls used to house Formnext.

Cleaning: Mesago says they will be increasing the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing to lower the probability of virus exposure.

Digital Access: Mesago will be providing a “much stronger digital focus” that lowers physical interactions. For example, they will have digital product unveilings, and these could be available to those unable to attend.

That’s a very good start, but even with such preparations there will be those who will be nervous about attending. Many people say they will not be traveling until there is a widely-deployed vaccine, and that’s definitely not happening by November.

Attending Formnext 2020

Depending on the situation in November it may be that travelers from some countries may face restrictions if traveling to an event like Formnext. Today in many regions travelers are required to quarantine for 14 days, and if that is the case in Germany in November, it’s unlikely Formnext could proceed.

This effect happens for both attendees and exhibitors: both are people who could be infected. Employees of some exhibitors may feel uncomfortable traveling and may not attend, and if there are too many declines in a company, that company might not be able to exhibit. It will be interesting to see how many companies actually exhibit at Formnext, which had been expecting as many as 1,000 exhibitors.

If many companies are not attending, then there will be questions about how they will go about announcing the new products they’ve been developing for years, with plans to announce them in 2020.

Nevertheless, we’ve got our tickets ready for Formnext, and we’re hoping the situation in November will be amenable to travel. There are five months to go, so there’s plenty of time for things to happen, good or bad.

Via Mesago (PDF)

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