AMUG

AMUG’s volunteer story

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A big industry event such as AMUG 2024 is powered by the efforts of volunteers, but those who get involved typically find that their hard work is rewarded in ways that they never imagined, writes AMUG’s Shannon VanDeren


The reality for many of the conferences and events aimed at designers and engineers that take place each year around the world is that they rely heavily on volunteers to further educate attendees about new technologies and processes.

Assembling an event logistically, corralling speakers and panellists to share learnings and experiences, moderating sessions, identifying potential sponsors – all these activities and more rely on volunteers. The bottom line is that, without them, these events could not deliver the same calibre of information. They might not exist at all.

When it comes to event organisation, the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) is no exception and there’s greater need than ever for more people to help out.

The AMUG Conference has grown tremendously over the years. Decades ago, we had far fewer volunteers, but that was when the event served maybe a couple of hundred attendees and we offered a much smaller programme. But from the start, volunteers have made the magic happen.

Jump forward to today, and with nearly 2,000 attendees, and equivalent growth in content and space requirements, we require far more people to deliver the same value as we’ve delivered for 30-plus years.

AMUG counts on its volunteers. They are critical to our ability to assemble and execute what has become a much-loved conference. Without them, it could not exist, and the reality for industry would be that five full days of information exchange would vanish overnight.

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Team effort

Peer-to-peer learning plays such a key role in all walks of life – but in our example, companies investing thousands, maybe even millions, of dollars in a new technology need to find answers and solutions. This is not just about how to roadmap a future workflow underpinned by 3D printing, but also dealing with day-to-day things like the operation of machines and how to keep processes running smoothly.

Our volunteer committees meet all year long, spending hours in web meetings with one another, and then tack on hours upon hours working with speakers, panellists, sponsors, members, contractors, hotel staff, venue staff, union representatives and more. Without these hours spent over 360 days, we would not have the annual five-day gathering where so much information and knowledge can be passed on, so many contacts made and relationships built.

Last year, we estimate that over 35,000 hours of volunteerism took place to make AMUG 2023 a success. There are less than 9,000 hours in a year – let that sink in for a moment! This effort is both phenomenal and essential. Many hours go into the business side of things, but an equal or greater amount of time directly influences our attendees’ skills, careers and understanding. The work of volunteers has a direct impact on the understanding, practices and applications for those working in and around AM.

Track leaders build the education segment of the programme, solicit speakers and panellists for quality content. Members of our Scholarship Committee select worthy candidates from a pool, altering career trajectories the better.

A Technical Competition Committee supplies a forum for AM users to display their talents and share the stories of their techniques and processes from which others can learn. Our hands-on workshop leaders conduct sessions where users learn by doing.

We also have a New Member Committee, which works diligently to make firsttimers feel a part of the community, so that they too can benefit from the impromptu conversations and educational opportunities that make this event more than just another conference. These are just a few examples of how volunteers elevate the skills of all those who participate.

We’ve grown, stumbled and rallied over the years, our progress made possible by a committed group of people who genuinely wish for the best outcomes for AMUG and its members.

Everyone benefits

The best part of our volunteering story is that people give a lot, but they get a lot in return, too, in terms of personal growth and satisfaction.

As volunteers, we meet new industry colleagues, gain new insights and pick up tips along the way. As volunteers, we create friendships and build collaborations. And, we add to our happiness as we serve others, which releases endorphins!

You might not be involved in AM, but regardless of your industry specialism, it remains true that someone, somewhere will benefit from learning about what you do and how you do it.

These are rewards that money could never deliver. AMUG is unique, but in terms of the rewards of volunteering, its story is strikingly similar to so many others.


About the author:

Shannon VanDeren is President of AMUG, having previously held many volunteer roles.

For her contributions and AM experience, she was presented with AMUG’s prestigious Distinguished Innovator Operator (DINO) Award in 2017. VanDeren also leads her company, Layered Manufacturing and Consulting, as an AM enthusiast and evangelist. www.amug.com


This article first appeared in DEVELOP3D Magazine

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