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Formnext Connect: forging links in the AM industry in the virtual space

Exclusive chat with Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President Formnext at Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH

Though this year’s Formnext won’t be the buzzing Frankfurt-based meetup that additive manufacturing industry teams have come to love, it is still shaping up to be the leading (online) AM event of the year. The international exhibition is making the best of this year’s challenging situation with Formnext Connect, an all-virtual three-day event that will highlight the latest in additive manufacturing technologies and provide a fruitful platform for networking and making industry connections.

We caught up with the event’s organizers to talk about how this year’s Formnext will play out and what participants can expect.

A virtual 2020

2020 has been a tumultuous year, to say the least, with COVID-19 having drastic impacts on both personal and global levels. Because of travel restrictions and the obvious concern of people gathering in large numbers, industry events and international exhibitions have had to find alternatives to avoid having to be cancelled outright. Fortunately, we live in a time where connecting virtually is possible, through email, as well as online video meetings, webinars and more.

Formnext Connect 2020 virtual
Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President Formnext at Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH

For Formnext organizers, the priority with the virtual event is to make participation as seamless and efficient as possible, while still capturing some of the magic of the in-person event. “At a physical event, it makes sense to stroll through the aisles and be inspired by the solutions on display,” explains Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President Formnext at Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH. “In the digital space, however, this approach is not necessarily desirable. Here, the participants want to find the best possible solution quickly and in a targeted manner through good filter options and a clearly structured user interface.

“Performance problems and buffer times for CPU-consuming graphic elements are not acceptable and would spoil the experience. In addition, events like Formnext are made by random, inspiring encounters. We are trying to translate this to the digital world using our AI-based matchmaking algorithm.”

The online event will also offer participants a host of high-quality content in the form of presentations, expert talks, roundtables and showcases. These will cover all aspects of AM processes and the industries that use them, and will be integrated through live and on-demand streams. The event also comprises Formnext TV, which will stream news from exhibitors and share other valuable insights for attendees.

“By focusing on these key elements, we believe that our attendees and exhibitors will have a successful Formnext Connect and be able to generate real value from their participation,” Wenzler adds.

Exhibitors and attendees

Last year, Formnext welcomed a record 852 exhibitors from around the globe at its massive exhibition space in Frankfurt. Prior to COVID-19, it anticipated an even bigger AM event for 2020. However, having to rapidly change plans and come up with a digital event solution, Formnext organizers are realistic that exhibitor numbers won’t be as high.

Wenzler says: “Although the whole world can participate, experience from other events shows that the number of participants will not be unlimited. Unfortunately, we had limited time to organize the fully virtual event, so it is quite certain that we will not able to welcome 852 digital exhibitors. However, I expect several hundred exhibitors with a similar international character to previous events.”

Formnext Connect will provide exhibitors with a first point of contact for potential sales, as well as facilitate the creation of connections between people and companies through chat and live video conference appointments. As Wenzler explains, exhibitors will be showcased simply: with a description, logo, link and contact person information. However, they can also opt for an enhanced profile with the addition of pre-recorded or live-streamed videos. “Furthermore, exhibitors can generate more attention for their appearances through targeted sponsoring,” he adds. “Thus, sessions, Formnext TV contributions or banner placements are possible.”

Among the announced exhibitors for the virtual event are leading AM players 3D Systems, Additive Industries, Arburg, Carbon, EOS, Formlabs, GE Additive, HP, Markforged, Materialise, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Renishaw, Siemens, SLM Solutions, Stratasys and Trumpf. Other companies and research institutes active in the AM sector have also confirmed their exhibitor status, including Autodesk, BASF, Covestro, Dyemansion, Evonik, H.C. Starck, Heraeus, Höganäs, Oerlikon, Postprocess and Fraunhofer Institute IPT, ILT and IAPT.

In terms of visitors, the event’s organizers admit that it will be hard to predict how many people will attend, especially because behavior at online events is drastically different from in-person events, with attendees typically only tuning in for a portion of the offering. “Nevertheless,” Wenzler says, “we expect several thousand participants.”

Registration for Formnext Connect is free using the discount code FN20RE3.

An industry on the rise

In the face of the hardships caused by COVID-19, additive manufacturing technologies have proven to be uniquely useful and have helped many industries to overcome the supply chain hurdles that occurred early on. This has put an increased emphasis on the AM industry and is leading manufacturers to increase adoption of the technologies or, if they hadn’t already, begin to take AM seriously.

“The additive manufacturing industry has made it clear during the crisis what potential lies in flexible, diversified and decentralized production,” Wenzler concludes. “There is no doubt that AM will be one of the leading technologies that will help us out of the recession. It will play a major role in the development of new products, the design of resilient supply chains and the development of sustainable business models.

“An exchange between AM suppliers and AM users is therefore essential, and we have seen a strong interest for a large-scale meeting opportunity for AM. With Formnext Connect, we hope to provide this platform and to facilitate this exchange.”

As Formnext Connect approaches—November 10 to 12, 2020—more details about the virtual event’s program will be released. Watch this space for updates!

This article was published in collaboration with Formnext.

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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