This year, for the first time ever, Formnext has named an official partner country for its 2019 expo: the United States. Through the first iteration of its partner country program, Formnext will feature a number of U.S.-centric events at its upcoming trade show in Frankfurt, including a U.S. pavilion, a U.S. theme day and more.
The aim, broadly speaking, of highlighting the United States’ role in the additive manufacturing industry is to emphasize the global nature of the industry and to solidify an alliance not only between two of the industry’s biggest players—the U.S. and Germany—but between North America and Europe. With a vested interest in the development and industrialization of additive manufacturing, both continents are coming together this November to showcase and share the latest in AM technologies, applications and regulations.
We recently spoke to three leaders from Formnext 2019 and the Partner Country program about what the collaboration will mean to the American and European (and global) AM industries: Ken Walsh, the Principal Commercial Officer and Commercial Consul for the U.S. Commercial Service and U.S. Consulate Düsseldorf; Kirsten Hentschel, Commercial Specialist at the American Consulate General Düsseldorf; and Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH.
Ken Walsh: AM’s leading nations come together
“To be named ‘Partner Country’ is a great honor,” Walsh told us. “It demonstrates how important the AM sector is to U.S. manufacturing and it recognizes the key role U.S. technologies play in shaping the future of 3D printing.”
Looking at the global AM landscape, it is impossible to deny that the U.S. has a large role to play. According to Wohlers Report 2019, North America and Europe account for 65.5% of all installed industrial AM systems. Within that, the U.S. and Germany are the two leading countries, with 35.3% and 8.3% of the installed systems, respectively. As the numbers show, both the U.S. and Europe are leading the push for AM, so in that regard, it makes sense to partner up to bolster the still-young industry.
“The U.S. Commercial Service has targeted Additive Manufacturing as a key export technology,” Walsh explained, emphasizing the mutual support. “It has also recognized Formnext as an important show in the AM event calendar, not only in Europe but globally. In fact, Formnext is an official Certified Trade Fair of the U.S. Commercial Service. There is a rigorous process to become a certified trade fair, indicating the Commercial Service’s strong interest to support this show.”
As Formnext’s first Partner Country, the U.S. will be highlighted in three key ways: through exhibitors, through the USA Day and in the standards forum.
Looking first at the exhibitors, Walsh said: “As partner country, U.S. technologies will be on display throughout the show in greater numbers than ever before. Formnext currently has over 50 U.S. exhibitors—a large increase over the 2018 show. Their exhibits will be located throughout the show and in a special designated U.S. pavilion [found in Hall 12 at Booth E101] on the show floor.”
One of the key events to be hosted as part of the partner country program is the USA Day, which will be held on November 20, 2019. Walsh elaborated: “The program during this special day will include a full day of sessions at the U.S. pavilion looking at topics like Global AM Certification Strategies, Medical Device and Aerospace Additive Manufacturing Standards, Effective Public Relations, Legal and a Pitch Fest focused on American firms.”
The third key focus area will be the Standards Forum, which will provide a platform for American and European entities to discuss the path forward for standards and the collaborative effort that is already taking place.
“Open, transparent, industry-led standards are important to facilitate the development of new technologies,” Walsh said. “To highlight the collaboration between U.S. and European-domiciled international standards development organizations, we will hold, for the second year, an Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Standards Forum on November 19. The forum brings together industry regulators, standards development organizations and manufacturers to understand how the standards development process works, how you can participate in this process and to monitor developments in this important area.”
Kirsten Hentschel: why collaborating on standards is key
Diving further into the importance of international collaborations for AM industry standards and regulations, Hentschel highlights the recent partnership between ASTM and ISO which aims to establish standards for the technology that are not constrained by borders.
“Standards-related measures enable governments to pursue legitimate objectives such as protecting human health and the environment, and they help prevent deceptive practices,” she told us. “However, the U.S. government is concerned with its use as a trade-restrictive measure. I believe the development of this great partnership is thanks to not only the personal and professional relationships between the leaders of these organizations but to the recognition by industry that advantages of collaboratively designed standards are too great to pass up. The duplication of effort is too great a burden for the industry to bear with this developing technology.”
Within the world of manufacturing standards, the additive industry has its own set of requirements which have presented both challenges and opportunities for regulation organizations such as ASTM and ISO.
“Probably the greatest differentiation with AM standards is the variety of industries in which this technology is utilized,” Hentschel said. “AM technologies must conform to regulations in industries with incredible demands for precision, like medical devices, aerospace and transportation. This is probably the reason why we are seeing such a proliferation in the number of specific standards called for by industry.”
“One of the biggest issues for standards development organizations (SDOs) is finding enough qualified talent to serve on their technical committees,” she added, emphasizing the important role Formnext will play in the regulation effort. “It is a vital yet unheralded role that these individuals play. SDOs can use Formnext as an opportunity to discuss with engineers and representatives of the firms they work for about how important it is to have participated in these standards development committees.
“We all agree that open, transparent standards development procedures are the best ones to follow, but we need the talent to volunteer to serve on these technical committees in order to make that happen.”
Sascha F. Wenzler: Uniting AM with Formnext’s Partner Country program
Formnext 2019 will be the most international edition of the trade show yet, with over 700 exhibitors from all over the world, including 285 new exhibitors from 29 countries. As partner country, the U.S. will be emphasized in terms of representation, bringing various 3D printing companies—big and small—to the European stage.
“We cooperate with the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) which is officially responsible for supporting U.S. companies all over the world in entering promising markets and attending leading fairs,” said Wenzler. “AM and Formnext represent the perfect combination for U.S. firms looking for business opportunities in Europe and other parts of the world. More than 50% of our exhibitors and visitors are international so it’s the ideal platform.”
The Partner Country initiative will foreground the leading role that the U.S. is playing in the additive industry with a view to encourage international growth and adoption for the technology at large. In November, Formnext organizers will be pulling out all the stops to make its cross-Atlantic industry partner feel at home.
“We created a lot of specialized activities and events around the Partner Country,” Wenzler added. “The U.S. Pavilion with a session stage for lectures, an AMUG-sponsored reception on Wednesday, November 20th, a Standards Forum second edition with the USCS, a specialized guided tour for U.S. visitors and we welcome a U.S. trade mission. We already published a U.S. special of our FON Magazine and will host a TV broadcasted panel discussion with European and U.S. guests. And we have some surprises left, stay excited!”
Looking at the overall importance of international industry events such as Formnext, Wenzler concluded: “The worldwide AM community is still small compared to conventional manufacturing and very tightly connected. I like this community feeling very much and we are proud to be a part of it after five years of organizing Formnext. This ‘additive addiction’ unites us and although we all work in a business environment, there is a lot of positive energy and exchange to push the borders and release the potential of AM by using it in the right places and for the right applications. The U.S. and Europe can lead the way. There is still so much to explore in the fascinating world of AM, we can do it together.”
Formnext 2019 is taking place from November 19 to 22, 2019 at Frankfurt am Main in Germany. The Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Standards Forum will be held on November 19 beginning at 2pm at Portalhaus/Room Transparenz 1.