Thoughts from the “Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo” in Chicago
Posted by Plish on July 13, 2013
I was extremely excited to check out the Inside 3D Printing conference. I had forgotten to put it into my calendar and almost missed it. While the speaker lineup for the conference looked interesting and provocative, for someone like myself who has been using 3D rapid prototyping technologies for somewhere between 10 and 15 years, there wasn’t enough to catch my eye for the price tag. So, I opted for registering at the door and walking the ‘expo’ portion of the conference. Besides, I had a few questions on some newer materials that I was hoping someone could answer.
When I walked through the doors I was, to say the least, underwhelmed. I believe I counted 14 exhibitors. Some of the exhibitors I was already well acquainted with (e.g. Stratasys, 3DSystems, netfabb), others, not so much. Nevertheless, there was some cool stuff at the show and below are some things I found really interesting, as well as some pictures of the event.
First and foremost, I was really impressed by the folks of www.thre3d.com. Check out the website. There you’ll find what they call (and what most likely is!), “The biggest interactive 3D printing directory.” It is a great resource for all things 3D printing. Research manufacturers, compare products, learn about different types of 3D printing. It’s a great resource. While you’re browsing, if you see something that you think needs improving, let them know via the feedback tab. They are very open to improving the service and genuinely nice people!
When you want to communicate to others what a finished design might look like, high-caliber rendering requires some serious computing power. It’s not uncommon to start a render before going to sleep and hope that when you wake up, the rendering program hasn’t crashed and you can see the finished result. Lagoa changes all that. Lagoa is a cloud based rendering system – lightning fast (minutes and seconds, not hours!), real-time, reasonable pricing and even has a free subscription! This needs to be seen to believed. I already have a free account and am starting to play with it.
There was also a very cool 3D paper printing technology from Mcor Technologies. Using a regular ream of copy paper, this technology is much cheaper than plastic printing and great for form and fit type models – plus you can print models in full color. You can also use them to make investment castings. And when your model isn’t needed anymore? Recycle it or compost it. Check out these models, and remember, that’s paper!
Here is a video of me using this slick haptic input from 3DSystems. It was fun to play with and was a new experience for me. Future versions of this will be even better, and that’s even more exciting! (Watch the screen and you can see the little ball carving out the clay)
One of the service bureaus had this flexible, printed ‘fabric’:
Want to work in wood? Here’s a printed wood material that just got the ideas going:
Here’s a little album of the rest of the things that caught my eye.
I do need to say that while I didn’t get to the conference sessions, the people I spoke to were by and large, fascinated by what they were learning. Many had no idea that this technology even existed. I spoke with a gentleman from Montana who paid $800 for a ticket to fly in and then bought a $20 expo/keynote pass. He had some questions he needed answered and got his answers – so the conference was worth it for him.
Personally, even though I wasn’t blown away by this conference, as you can see from the above pictures, I was still inspired by some of the things I saw. Since this was the first show, no doubt it will only get better as it continues to grow and attract more vendors, and more attendees!
If you were there, I’d love to hear your thoughts!