With the pandemic preventing a full fair from taking place at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Industrial Trade Center, 29 exhibitors took part in the two-day event, and 710 people were in attendance. The forum included live showcases and seminars, which allowed attendees to gain an insight into the latest trends in 3D printing, and get feedback on technical questions in real-time.
Yasushi Kajiwara, Managing Director of Messe Frankfurt Japan, stressed that for the event’s organizers, holding events in person remained crucial to future growth within the industry.
“Despite the unique challenges we faced this year, Formnext Forum Tokyo has again shown its effectiveness at supporting business and idea exchange,” said Kajiwara. “With the business community facing its greatest challenge in recent years, we remain convinced of the importance of physical events.”
COVID-19 shuts down printing events globally
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of additive manufacturing’s highest-profile events to cancel, rearrange or go digital in 2020, and Formnext Forum is one of the few events to go ahead. Formnext organizers Messe Frankfurt had initially attempted to arrange a similarly scaled-down version of its premier show earlier this year, but it was eventually rescheduled as an online event instead.
Having decided that the risk of viral infection made Formnext “impossible” to hold safely, Formnext Connect, a restructured trade show, is planned for November 10th-13th 2020. The event’s program is set to retain its long-standing structure including conferences, showcases, challenges, awards ceremonies, and webinars, but it will all be hosted via an integrated digital platform rather than in person.
Despite the obvious drawback of not being able to communicate in the flesh, attendees will still be able to network with like-minded professionals and make sales inquiries in real-time, either by text or via video calls. Likewise, the Formnext 2020 Start-up Challenge, which was launched in June, is scheduled to go ahead as planned, albeit with a virtual awards ceremony rather than a physical one.
The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT), which organizes the IMTS trade show, has taken a similar approach to Messe Frankfurt and canceled its event for the first time since WWII. A series of online-only IMTS Spark sessions have been held in its place, while the IMTS Network site was launched as a way of communicating the latest ‘human interest stories’ in the industry.
Although IMTS and Formnext have taken the plunge and gone all-digital, the organizers of other 3D printing events have introduced updated safety measures and gone ahead as planned. TCT Asia for instance became one of the first expos to reopen its doors after the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, featuring 220 exhibitors and reportedly welcoming over 8,000 visitors to the show in Shanghai.
Now Messe Frankfurt has further tested the 3D printing industry’s appetite for returning to physical events, by holding its Formnext Forum trade show in person, rather than virtually like its main event.
Formnext Forum’s limited turnout
Compared to TCT Asia, Formnext Forum attracted a considerably smaller crowd, featuring 29 exhibitors, and attracting 710 attendees. The event, which aimed to highlight the latest news and trends in 3D printing, included 13 expert-led seminars covering topics such as optimizing quality assurance, R&D, and supply chain management amongst others.
Messe Frankfurt also arranged a live-streamed ‘Discover 3D printing’ webinar for those that couldn’t attend, which was hosted by the ACAM Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing. The virtual session was delivered with Japanese and English subtitles, and audience members were able to ask technical questions at its conclusion, receiving answers in real-time.
According to the event’s organizers, many of those that attended in person, preferred physical events to online shows, as a means of developing networking opportunities. “Most of the visitors that we have met already have a basic knowledge about AM and have visited us with a clear purpose,” said Hiroshi Takahara of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
“We welcomed a visitor with a strong desire to establish a business relationship who came all the way from Osaka this morning,” he added. Kajiwara agreed, and concluded that despite the low footfall at this year’s show, the potential benefits of striking deals in person had made holding the conference worthwhile.
“Many trade visitors reported positively on the new AM trends that they picked up at the show, while exhibitors were also satisfied with the high-quality visitors that came to their booths,” added Kajiwara. “We look forward to welcoming the AM industry again in 2021, when the circumstances will be more stable.”
Formnext South China will be held in Guangzhou, China from September 9th-11th 2021, whereas next year’s Formnext Forum Tokyo is scheduled for 28th-29th September 2021.
In the meantime, interested parties can register for online events via our 3D Printing Events guide.
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Featured image shows the XYZprinting stand at Formnext Forum Tokyo 2020. Photo via XYZprinting.