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Formnext Chicago: A Comprehensive Showcase of Additive Manufacturing

With Formnext in Chicago, we and our partners can leverage AM in the United States to reach the next level of innovative manufacturing technologies. There’s huge potential among U.S. companies that still haven’t encountered or taken advantage of AM.
Jun 04, 2024

Formnext Chicago is set to arrive next year. AMT President Doug Woods and Sascha Wenzler, vice president Formnext at Mesago Messe Frankfurt, talked to Peter Zelinski, editor-in-chief of Additive Manufacturing Media, about the long road to this event, the importance of Formnext coming to additive manufacturing’s biggest market, and the 2025 event landscape in a highly competitive market.

There are U.S. trade shows that already address the 3D printing industry, like Rapid + TCT and IMTS. For current and future users of additive manufacturing, what is the purpose and promise of Formnext Chicago?

Doug Woods

First, this is an additional location for what has become the best-known, most attended, and most important additive show in the world – Formnext. Until now, the only U.S. trade show showcasing 3D printing technology for industry – a show that,

to its credit, has run for over 30 years – was Rapid + TCT, which began as Rapid. The show started as a rapid manufacturing show and morphed over time. It has started paying attention to the maker movement and 3D printing applications beyond industrial production, including by offering additive solutions to manufacturing. Meanwhile, IMTS is the best place to find all things manufacturing technology.

But Formnext offers something different from both of these events. What we’re all missing is the concept that makes Formnext the most successful additive show in the world: the way it brings together the entire AM value chain. It’s not just 3D printing; AM as an innovative production solution involves much more. Formnext provides a venue for everything involved in AM, from the materials providers to additive equipment, post-processing solutions, engineering, inspection, and software needs.

Sascha, since 2015, you and your team have developed Formnext in Germany. It has become the largest and arguably the most important AM event worldwide. Why do you now want to bring Formnext to the United States?

Sascha Wenzler

With international Formnext-brand events, we’re following a strategy of holding locally adapted Formnext formats in relevant AM markets based on our highly successful flagship event in Frankfurt. That’s why we have a Formnext expo format in Shenzhen, China, and a Formnext Forum in Tokyo, Japan, for instance.

As Doug said, in the United States – the largest marketplace for AM – we see a huge need for a professional B2B trade fair for investment goods that focuses clearly on the whole industrial process of additive manufacturing and the needs of the various industries using this fascinating technology. With Formnext in Chicago, we and our partners can leverage AM in the United States to reach the next level of innovative manufacturing technologies. There’s huge potential among U.S. companies that still haven’t encountered or taken advantage of AM. Together with our partners AMT and Gardner Business Media, our approach is to exploit this potential just as we’ve done very successfully since founding Formnext in Frankfurt. This is the only way to expand the application of AM beyond the core of professionals into a broad range of industries and ultimately significantly increase the business contacts of our exhibitors.

The organizers of Rapid + TCT 2025 have decided to hold their trade fair on the same dates that have been announced for Formnext Chicago. What does AMT think about this?

Doug Woods

It’s important to understand the sequence of steps. When Mesago began considering its entry into the U.S. market – when the partnership had begun, but we hadn’t decided on a date for a U.S. event – we went directly to SME and the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) to look for ways to collaborate. Unfortunately, these discussions did not lead to a collaboration.

I can appreciate the difficulty for an exhibitor wondering how to handle this. Unfortunately, we now find ourselves in a situation in which many market participants have to make a decision. There’s always competition, especially in the United States. In a market as large as the United States and with a technology as important as additive manufacturing, there’s room for more than one format, but we’re consciously positioning ourselves in this environment with the unique selling proposition of a dedicated technology trade fair like Formnext.

There is also the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference. In 2025, the date of Formnext Chicago is close to that of this conference, also in Chicago. Sascha, what is your perspective on this?

Sascha Wenzler

You’re right, and Doug already mentioned it regarding Rapid + TCT. It’s a really unfortunate situation when you look at 2025. We were the first ones to announce our date back in 2021. Now, with 2025 coming up very soon, there are three events scheduled close together, or even on the same date.

In this context, AMUG is a very different format compared to Formnext. This makes 2025 a real challenge for all the players, be they exhibitors, visitors, or organizers. However, AMUG is a conference in a hotel atmosphere where the users of AM meet and share their ideas. It’s not a traditional trade fair with a much wider reach and range that’s also designed for showing and selling machines, products, and solutions to customers.

Both formats create value for the community. In our group of partners, we’ve always been open to discussing possible ways to realize synergies with AMUG or support each other. I’m always more about looking to the future than dwelling on the past. That’s why I’m convinced there are opportunities if everybody moves out of their comfort zone and thinks about how a full year can offer possibilities for different events and formats that benefit the industries we serve and create added value. This is where AMUG and Formnext can complement each other very well.

To read the rest of the Automation & Robotics Issue of MT Magazine, click here.

Peter Zelinski
Editor-in-Chief at Additive Manufacturing Media, Gardner Business Media
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