Formnext is coming up soon, and it’s not where you might think it is located.
Formnext is the largest 3D print exhibition on the planet, taking place each November in Frankfurt, Germany. Our team has attended this event many times, and we’ve been able to see countless new devices and network with many manufacturers.
Next week, however, Formnext appears in Austin, Texas as “Formnext Forum Austin 2023”.
No, the event isn’t moving. Instead this is the “North American” version of Formnext. In other words, Formnext is expanding their presence beyond Europe and landing in the USA for the first time.
Why do this? Why don’t exhibitors and visitors simply go to Germany each year? The answer is “follow the money”.
It costs a not-inexpensive amount of money to travel to Europe from North America, and that could be much larger if you consider that some manufacturers send teams of ten or even twenty people for these events.
There’s also an issue with equipment. Some of the 3D printers and associated gear are targeted at industrial users and can be extremely large and heavy. Shipping equipment across the ocean takes considerable time and money, and also risks damaging the equipment.
But if the event were nearby, where it was less expensive for travel and shipping, perhaps it would be possible for more manufacturers to participate.
In Germany I’ve seen many North American manufacturers have lesser displays than their European counterparts, simply because they can’t afford to get the equipment on site. This issue should be solved with a North American site, and then the shoe is on the other foot for the European manufacturers.
In reality, it’s likely we would see a high ratio of North American manufacturers at the Austin show, and a high ratio of European manufacturers in Frankfurt going forward.
This is good news for everyone, both manufacturers and attendees.
However, it may not be good news for certain other parties. They would be other groups putting on large 3D print exhibitions, such as Rapid+TCT. For many years, Rapid+TCT has been the premiere 3D print trade show in North America. While somewhat smaller than Formnext, it is quite a bit larger than alternatives.
At the last Rapid+TCT event in Chicago there were something close to 400 exhibitors, as far as I recall. That’s quite large, but nowhere near the 800+ of Formnext.
The question is, how big will the Formnext Austin event be? If we look at the floor plan for this event, by my count there seems to be around 80 exhibitors, far less than Rapid+TCT.
This is where it gets interesting. Some North American manufacturers will have to decide where they spend their marketing dollars. Should they put it all in to make a big splash at one of these two major events? Or spread it out between them and have smaller displays and teams onsite?
If they’re picking one over the other, which one will win?
In Europe, the choice is obvious: if you want to be seen, you have to go to Formnext. Up until this year in North America that choice has also been obvious: Rapid+TCT. After the Austin event concludes, manufacturers will be asking questions about what they should do for 2024.
There is likely only one long-term result here: one of these two events will succeed. If one begins attracting more exhibitors, then the other will wither.
However, there’s one twist in this equation: Formnext already has a large operation outside of North America that can help power the Austin event with cash and other resources. Rapid+TCT doesn’t really have this ability. On the other hand, Rapid+TCT is currently in the lead.
Which event do you think will succeed?