After two rough years, 3D printing stocks seems to be trending up again and this is due to several factors. One is the significant investments pouring into the industry from very large corporations, including software giants like Siemens, Dassault, SAP and more. Another is the fact that some of the companies that have laid the foundation for this industry are starting to think big: Belgium based Materialise is one of the clearest example and the latest Materialise World Summit 2017 event confirmed the positive trend for adoption of 3D printing in key production segments ranging from aerospace and automotive to medical applications.
The global conference that the leading European 3D printing factory organizes every two years or so (which is roughly the rate at which technology doubles in terms of capabilities according to Moore’s Law) brings together some of the most relevant manufacturers and adopters of 3D printing worldwide, both as speakers and as participants. Companies like Airbus, Renault Sport, Lego, GKN, Safran, Dassault showed off some of their achievements in the “industrial AM track” while top medical professionals gave the audience an idea of what is possible today in the “healthcare AM track” of conferences.
Compared to the event from two years ago, the number of conference tracks was reduced from four to two and the price of attendance was considerably higher however the 2014 event was an exception and the content provided truly too much for everyone to fully benefit from it. The (justified) high price tag of the conference, which still offers some of the most advanced and updated content available on the evolution of AM, is meant as a way to select an audience that makes 3D printing a significant source of income.
The two-day event also included (as in the previous years) a “networking” area where conference sponsors, Materialise partners and internal Materialise Divisions could show off some of their 3D printing capabilities and products. These ranged from the Bicicletto futuristic e-bike from Italian company SPA to 3D printed parts form EOS, HP and Concept Laser, to advanced 3D printing materials from BASF and DSM.
The initial plenary session was kicked off by Materialise founder Wilfried “Fried” Vancraen, who made an assessment of the past few years – and Materialise conferences – which saw a tiny $1 billion AM industry grew to become a more serious $6 billion dollar industry shaping up to continue on an exponential growth path. Representatives from Siemens and US-based Mayo Clinic supported this theory with clear examples of what they were able to achieve through 3D printing in their respective fields.
The conference tracks were characterized by an integrated digital system which enabled the audience to participate in real-time surveys, type questions and share thoughts on social networks. The over fifty speakers spread across a two day period spoke on behalf of industry leader of pioneers such as Safilo, GE, Airbus, GKN, Atos, Johnson & Johnson and several medical institutions. The main industry experts were also invited to attend, with Rachel Park asked to moderate one of the round table sessions, along with other known journalists such as Giorgio Magistrelli, 3DPrint.com editor in chief Sarah Goerke, Franc Coenen from 3D Print Magazine and more.
The clou of the first day was the Evening Event held in the exclusive Concert Noble location in Central Brussels. Vancraen and the entire C-level Materialise team went to great lengths to script a very intricate sketch to thank all their partners. It began during the conference sessions with the announcement that Vancraen would make the “biggest announcement in the company’s history” during the evening event. It continued with leaked rumors about a “huge deal with HP”.
Finally it “materialized” in a wooden box, which Vancraen himself was seen (on video) loading into a truck and driving to the venue. This box contained the “Materialiser”, not a 3D printer but the very first 1D printer in the world, where the one dimension is time. In fact it turned out to be an empty box, and the “time” was that spent together by Materialise and its partners to make dreams like personalization, uniqueness, sustainable manufacturing become reality.
The logos of Materialise’s partners were projected on the stage and up there, with the likes of Ferrari, Lego and Airbus, at mid-height, on the right hand side, there was the logo of 3D Printing Media Network. It may just be a little logo but it does make us feel proud (and thanks to Sarah for pointing it out!). We do look forward to continue to support Materialise in building the future of manufacturing and the future is a very long time.