What a couple of weeks that was!

Wow, I feel like I have hardly stopped over the last couple of weeks, what with European and US travel mixed with birthday celebrations and working hard to get something new prepared… more of which another time!

The enjoyable mayhem started with a one day whistle-stop tour of the MACH exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. I only attended on the Monday and was surprised to see the aisles so quiet, however from speaking to a number of exhibitors since it appears the Monday was marred by post-holiday-back-to-work blues with the rest of the week more than making up for the slow start. Visitors numbers are reported to be greater than 30,000 across the five-day show.

In terms of AM there was disappointingly little on the show floor, but the companies that did attend were certainly there to be taken seriously. Renishaw’s impressive stand was kited out with the ‘traditional’ tools of its trade as well as the companies AM offerings, and looked well against a backdrop of traditional subtractive technologies. There must be more than one of the big machine tool manufacturers looking at AM now, with Matsuura having already shown them one possible route…

After MACH it was straight onto a plane to Leuven in Belgium for the Materialise World Conference. Having never attended before I was unsure what to expect but was soon reassured to find a well planned, well executed and thoroughly enjoyable lineup ahead of me. As would be expected the speakers line up fitted the Materialise product offerings very well, with a big emphasis on the medical and biomedical applications that Materialise’s CEO Fried Vancraen is so fond of.

While understandably Materialise-centric the event was sufficiently varied as to not be overtly promotional and kept the interest of the throng of visitors across the days. One of the most memorable presentations came from Hubert Vermeersch at the University Hospital of Ghent. In the presentation Hubert took us through the first face transplant to be undertaken in Belgium, which was aided and even made possible with Materialise’s technologies. The graphic nature of the presentation was completely overshadowed by the awesome skill, dedication and technological expertise on show to the point that I quickly forgot about being squeamish and was absorbed in the procedure — the video of the surgeon connecting the first blood vessel is truly amazing.

After winning the Materialise quiz night with our superior knowledge of AM (ahem) it was all over too soon. I managed to get the champers home in the end!Image

A night in my own bed was followed by a very early start and back to Manchester Airport for the second time in less than 20 hours. It was time for the AMUG…

If you haven’t been able to visit an AMUG conference event yet (and sadly so few have) I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you’re willing to go with an open mind you will come back with notebooks stuffed with information from the presentations, but importantly also from the other real-world users that attend. An atmosphere of sharing and open conversation is fostered, with no topic barred. The multiple breaks throughout the sessions (where co-ordinator Tom Sorovetz will make you eat) along with the lunches, dinners and planned events all make for an atmosphere that is at once inclusive but not cliquey.

The presentations were somewhat skewed towards the two Diamond sponsors Stratasys and Objet. Or is that one Diamond Sponsor… anyway, anyone looking for information from either the Rehovot or Minneapolis side of the business would not have come away disappointed. For anyone else there was enough to make the trip worthwhile beyond the sponsored speakers.

The evergreen Todd Grimm with a presentation entitled ‘The Fountain of Truth’ in which he summarily dismissed himself, other consultants and (even!) the media as sources of truth. A little disheartening but I take his point. He then went on to do a very good job of selling the AMUG back to the AMUG, insinuating that only other users can be trusted as a source of truth to be relied on… I’d be interested to know you thoughts on this, gentle reader.Image

After AMUG came the triple whammy of Birthday, Bank Holiday and working on TCT’s BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. You’ll hear all about that on Friday at 11:11am…