Yesterday, the second Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo opened in the expansive Kintex Exhibition Center in downtown Seoul, South Korea. And, though it was a meeting where old friends from last year could be seen again, there were some notable differences this time around, but more on that later.
The show opened with a Keynote address by none other than Terry Wohlers, and the day continued with top line speakers like Park Chounwon of the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning; Lionel T. Dean of FutureFactories; Moon Young-Iae of the Chosen University Medical School; Daniel Thompson of Stratasys Korea; Dr. Achala de Mel of University College London; Michelle Baek of 3D Systems; Tyler Benster; Fan Mingwei; Rootesh D. Shah; Andrea Frahm; and San Ko.
Out on the exhibition floor I met several colorful people including LabC, also known as SJ Park, who was there with his crew from Owl Works and their new LCD/LED resin printer Morpheus. While they were there only to show the new printer to the public as a means of raising awareness of Morpheus prior to the launch of their Kickstarter campaign next month, the printouts they had looked amazing! And big! The advantage Morpheus gives is its scalablity. As SJ Park explained, the DLP projector creates size limits, as the resolution is high in the center, but drops off as you approach the edges. The Morpheus, with its uniform LED light source and LCD masking capability, theoretically, has no real size limitations.
In addition to size, Mr. Park told me that machines of whatever type need to be easier and simpler to use and maintain…and cheaper, if we want to see the tech spread. He also told me that we can expect to see a bigger machine at the CES show, where they will officially launch the Morpheus.
As for the difference between this year’s show and last, the first and foremost was that the exhibition was joined by the RoboUniverse Conference, in an adjoining exhibition hall, and conference goers were allowed access to both shows at the same time. This show brought together Makers and companies whose specialties were complementary to 3D printing, while at the same time different enough to keep interest very high.
As one might imagine, aerial drones took center stage and came in a wide variety of sizes, capabilities…and prices. My favorite was a huge gasoline powered mini helicopter that would have been the stuff of my adolescent dreams. There was also a clever quadcopter design that had foldable arms to allow easier storage when not in use. In addition to robots of the flying variety, they also had crawlers, walkers, rollers, and several that had very specialized functions, such as PCB inspection.
The second thing I noticed was that, this year, all of the exhibitors were professional companies. Last year, there was a nice mix of companies and Makers/startups, but, this year, the show seems to have taken on a far more “professional” demeanor. While this made for better exhibits and presentations, there was a part of me that sorely missed the rugged individualism of the Maker crowd.
I mused on what may have caused this shift: maybe it was an increase in costs; maybe it was MERS fears; maybe it was a consolidation of talent. I have to confess that I fear that maybe there is the realization that consumer grade 3D printers are just not going to fly in Korea the way they do in the US or Europe, and that Korea is going to focus on their industrial applications instead. The ProtoKor show is early next month, and I am waiting to see what the 3DP/AM turnout will be there. My suspicion is that it will be far larger than it was last year…we will see.