Fast Learning

10 March 2019

The landscape of additive manufacturing is changing at speed, yet opportunities to learn from industry peers are still too scarce. The Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) aims to change that, says its advisor Todd Grimm

Attendees in pursuit of knowledge pack the exhibition floor at the AMUG Conference

I’ve stood on a stage many times and told audiences that if you have no questions about additive manufacturing (AM), and if you aren’t overwhelmed by the number of solutions available, or if you aren’t confused by the claims made for them, then you probably aren’t paying attention.

Even those working at companies with plenty of resources are still trying to figure AM out, trying to craft a roadmap and trying to take control of this relatively new and very unique solution. I’ve been in this industry for nearly 30 years, and there has never been a dull moment. The AM landscape constantly shifts while the viable applications swell.

These dynamics play a big role in fuelling my passion for AM, but there are two other factors that keep me going: one is that AM is a powerful tool for doing things differently and better; the other is the need for good, factual information that keeps up with the changing landscape.

Nine years ago, I stumbled upon the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG), an organisation that shares this passion for AM, helping individuals to keep pace with change; helping them understand how to move from the status quo; and facilitating the transfer of information, insights and first-hand experiences.

AMUG’s annual conference is attended by almost every major AM technology provider, providing an expanse of comparable machinery and software, showcased in numerous conference sessions, workshops and the large exhibition area. At the same time, it also acts as a location for those interested in individual AM technologies to hold their own user groups and share best practices, tips and general knowhow – sometimes a tricky prospect, when only a handful of certain, specialised 3D printers may exist anywhere in the world.

AMUG offers hands-on workshops that allow attendees to try out different technologies and even complimentary methods, such as casting from 3D printed parts

At my first AMUG Conference, I was blown away by the openness of the attendees and their willingness to share. There was a vibe in the conference venue that I had not experienced before. While there were great, informative presentations, the insights I gained while conversing in the halls, over dinner or with an adult beverage in hand were what made this conference different.

Nine years later, the AMUG Conference continues to be the place for immersion in AM and frank discussions about fact and fiction, good practices and bad ideas, and technology capabilities and limitations.

These conversations start at breakfast and continue late into the night.

I’m still an active AMUG volunteer and will present the opening keynote at this year’s event (Chicago, 31 March – 4 April) for the tenth time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding to be part of something that helps users discover the truths that will guide their AM efforts.

AMUG’s tagline ‘For Users. By Users’ is a guiding principle, not a marketing line. My topic for the 2019 conference will be ‘Making your own reality’; I think it’s fitting, because the AMUG Conference is a kind of alternate reality. It’s an experience in which you have to actively participate, in order to appreciate that it’s unlike any other. It is an event where you expect to get the truth straight from other AM professionals who have already ventured down the path.

Last year, a first-time attendee approached me just before dinner on the first night to thank AMUG for a great conference. He proceeded to tell me about all the knowledge he’d acquired that he could put into practice once back in the office.

Information is important, but knowledge is powerful. It is knowledge that the AM industry needs in order to reach its full potential.

I’m very proud to be a part of AMUG, where knowledge is encouraged to flow freely between AM professionals.


About the author:

Todd Grimm is president of TA Grimm & Associates, an AM consulting firm, and is AM industry advisor for AMUG.

AMUG takes place 31 March - 4 April in Chicago, USA

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