Born in the early 1990s as 3D Systems North American Stereolithography Users Group, AMUG is today an institution in the AM industry. Its mission to educate, advance and connect AM users all over the world, was doubtlessly achieved during the 2023 edition of the AMUG Conference
More than a conference or a trade show, the AMUG conference felt like a reunion between friends. Friends spread all over the world, working in all kinds of fields and industries with one thing in common: an overwhelming passion for additive manufacturing.
This curiosity to learn about how other professionals are employing the latest technologies in the industry and how they plan to keep it moving forward filled every room of the Hilton hotel in a windy early spring week, in Chicago, Illinois.
This is what the AMUG conference is about: connecting, reconnecting, networking, and learning from each other. Amongst its 2,000 attendees, some of them were newbies, 650 to be precise, and some of them had been attending since the very first event in the early 90s, back when AMUG was just a group of 50 people.
There were engineers and designers, industry analysts and journalists, in industries ranging from automotive to defence, from medicine to fashion.
Kicking off the first official day of the conference in the scenic international ballroom was AMUG president Mark Abshire who, joined by AMUG scholarship committee chair Rajeev Kulkarni, presented the recipients of the Guy E Bordeau and the Randy Stevens scholarships, Brent Griffith from Penn State University, and Les Kalman from Western University.
Griffith, who first entered the AM world as a hobbyist and now manages the AM program at Labconco Corporation, talked about his research into the health and safety issues resulting from AM machine emissions, a field that he started exploring after experiencing such health issues himself.
Kalman, who is an assistant professor at Western University where he educates students and dentists on the advantages of AM and its importance in patient care, presented his research focused on pushing and advancing the boundaries of 3D printing in dentistry.
Next on stage was past president and nomination committee chair Carl Dekker who called the AMUG audience to take part in the elections for the future AMUG board.
Taking the stage on Tuesday morning was an untraditional duo, presenting a collaboration just as untraditional. Rob Ducey from the American stop-motion animation studio Laika Studios and the architect and computational designer Nicholas Jacobsen from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus illuminated the AMUG crowd on how professionals should think outside the silos of their fields and learn from each other, a core value of the AMUG organisation. The pair presented the results of their collaboration, including innovative designs for pediatric epilepsy, cardiology, and cleft palate.
The AMUG agenda also included several prizes and awards, whose winners have been announced over the five days of the event. To hold the several prizes awarded by the AMUG committee on the stage of a very crowded international ballroom were Diana Kalisz, 3D systems VP of materials, recipient of the AMUG Innovators Award, and the two winners of the technical competition award, Ben Loerke from the University of Dayton Research Centre and Daniel Goncalves and Jung Kyu Im.
Last year’s technical competition winners, Meld CEO Nancy Hardwick, and Dinsmore director of operations Bill Braune had a chance to present the technologies and projects that won them the prestigious award in 2022.
On the last day of the conference, Launcher CEO and founder Max Haot shared with the AMUG crowd an overview of the additive manufacturing innovations in Launcher’s E-2 liquid close-cycle, high-performance rocket engine.
What better way to conclude the conference than to start planning for the next one? After the announcement of the 2024 board of directors, voted by the participants throughout the event, AMUG Director of Education and Conference Jordan Weston, took the chance to gather feedback and thoughts from the members.
Despite not being a trade event per se, the AMUG 2023 conference dedicated an entire floor to the Expo.
The hottest topic in the exhibition hall? New materials with a focus on sustainability. For example, Formlabs’ new TPU 90A powder promises lower waste and higher efficiency, with a refresh rate of 20%.
In the three rooms on the lower level of the Hilton hotel, established companies which also sponsored the event, such as EOS, Dyndrite, Stratasys, 3D Systems, and many others, exhibited back-to-back with newcomers such as the German start-up 1000 Kelvin and the vibration compensation provider Ulendo.
Monday was the key day for the exhibition hall to have a look at commercial announcements, as selling products was not allowed during any presentation or even casual conversation during the event. As pointed out by Todd Grimm, AMUG keynote speaker, industry veteran and president of T. A. Grimm and associates, that is not what AMUG is about.
Ahead of the imminent recurrence of Earth Day on April 22, the AMUG 2023 agenda featured several sessions focusing on the environmental benefits of AM.
In the south side of the international ballroom, Sherri Monroe, Additive Manufacturing Green Trade Association (AMGTA) executive director, presented a comparative study aimed at highlighting the benefits of employing AM in manufacturing. The study took into consideration the life cycle of an aerospace component manufactured with traditional methods and compared it with one produced with AM. Although the environmental benefits were undeniable, the results were more complex than the research team expected, with countless factors playing a part in the picture.
Carrying on the sustainability theme, Arkema Business Manager Steve Serpe and Director of R&D Jeffrey Klang went through the ABCs of sustainable materials, where A stands for advanced, B for bio-based, and C for circular.
An evergreen topic, Design for Additive Manufacturing, was widely discussed throughout the event. 3D Printing Mentality product developer Steven Szymeczek delivered a talk on how to enable current design and engineering disciplines to create the next generation of AM-empowered designs, in an era where users have the advantage of having a wide choice of 3D printers.
On the automotive front, a presentation on how automakers can accelerate production with new powder bed technology offered by Stratasys brought all car lovers into the same room. Fadi Abro from Autodesk moderated a conversation between the three panellists, Jonathan Dankenbring from Rivian Automotive, Dallas Martin from Toyota North America, and Kevin Sheehy from Stratasys direct manufacturing.
Saying that networking activities were encouraged would be an understatement. For every presentation in the extremely packed AMUG schedule, there were just as many opportunities for meeting people in the industry (over abundant food and drinks, of course).
And the networking activities extended way beyond the conference, with off-site events and networking lunches where every attendee was asked to draw a table number from a bowl when entering the lunch hall, so they would sit at a table with new people and make new connections.
Feedback from attendees was not only encouraged but required, maintaining the promise summarised in the AMUG motto: for users by users.