The 2023 edition of AMUG will be held at Hilton Chicago, from March 19 – 23, 2023.

If you’re a Communication & Marketing Manager new to this industry and trying to set out your events agenda for the year, there is a great chance that you get recommended AMUG, the Additive Manufacturing Users Group. Held in the USA once per year, the conference ambitions to educate and advance the uses and applications of Additive Manufacturing technologies but not in the usual way, in an “open space” style, as the event is designed by users and for users.

The story goes that AMUG started in 1988 with just a handful of people meeting to share knowledge of 3D Printing. At the time, the founding industry users group was called 3D Systems North American Stereolithography Users Group, users group solely focused on the advancement of stereolithography (SL) use with the owners and operators of 3D Systems’ equipment. Today, AMUG educates and supports users of all AM technologies. And the best part is, while AM companies can provide support in the organization of the event, this “open space” style has allowed users to shape the development of hardware, software, materials, and applications based on their needs.

As an AM and User-centric event, I do not doubt AMUG is fulfilling its mission. I mean, that’s one thing, one should all recognize after 34 editions of playing host to industry professionals from various vertical industries adopting AM technologies – this 2023 edition being the 35th one – but AMUG seems to be one-of-a-kind type of event, and its uniqueness may be the secret ingredient to its success: volunteering.

Volunteering, a tradition and a passion

It’s hard to talk about volunteering in an industry or a world that is fostered by capitalism in short. Surprisingly, this secret ingredient of the AMUG sauce seems to be a “contagious disease” people get, the first symptom being a passion to serve people. Our conversation with Mark Abshire, AMUG President, confirms it:

My first experience attending the AMUG Conference as a user was in 1991. It was truly an open environment where users discussed everything from basic part orientation to the advanced algorithms involved in part-building parameters. But the most important assets I walked away with were the relationships developed with others in the same industry– friends I could rely on for solutions and advice to get the most out of my AM equipment.

By 1994, I was participating as a speaker and had entered the Technical Competition. In the following years, I served on the board in various positions, including Vice-President, Secretary and Registrar.

Moving from just an attendee to being a part of the conference is an evolutionary process for many of our members. While viewing conference presentations, you realize that you have some knowledge and experience worth sharing, so you submit an abstract, become a presenter and now you are a participant. Or perhaps it is entering the AMUG Technical Competition with the opportunity to display your expertise to your peers. The next step is to commit a little more time as a committee member. And utilizing these experiences can easily grow into a leadership contribution as an AMUG Board member.”

Abshire who shares this experience today is one of those people we call the veterans of AM. He started his career in the field three decades ago and right before that, he worked in the ‘subtractive manufacturing’ arena as a machinist/toolmaker.

It may be hard to believe, but you don’t decide on a whim to volunteer for AMUG. As a matter of fact, it requires a certain expertise in the industry and patience – depending on the committee that raises one’s interest.

According to Abshire, apart from the Board of Directors which consists of volunteers elected by the membership, members have to submit a form and rank three committees where they would like to serve.

We have an abundance of volunteers each year and most get their first choice, but unfortunately, with a plethora of volunteers, not all submissions can be placed. We try to limit the number of committees that a person can serve on so that we can include as many individuals as possible. In addition, I challenged our committee chairs to fill their teams with at least 25% that have not been on their committee in the past. Our committee chairs excelled with almost 30% of our committees filled with members serving in new roles. This new participation brings fresh ideas and new skills”, he explains.

In figures, what does it look like?

Today, AMUG is 10 volunteers serving on the Board of Directors, supported by over 100 members who volunteer to serve on 20 committees – The committee members serve for a year in areas directly related to the conference and the organization. Other opportunities are given to people who would like to serve onsite during or prior to the conference.

An excellent example of onsite volunteers, as per the words of Abshire, is individuals with fishbowls of numbers at the door to lunches. Each attendee will pull a random number from the fishbowl, which specifies where they will be seated. This creates a valuable networking experience by providing an opportunity to meet new people daily and expanding personal networks with those with similar interests and experiences.

What about technology, you may ask?

Well, with the ability to share openly, the good, the bad and the areas for improvement that may help AM technology providers enhance their solutions, the past decades reveal an evolution in three phases in the adoption of AM technologies.

According to the organization’s President, “when 3D Printing began, the primary use was ‘Form’ to convey an idea. As machines, materials and software advanced, a level of accuracy allowed us to include ‘Fit’ as an application. And over the last few years, new materials introduced have allowed us to include ‘Function.’ AM is now on the cusp of mainstream manufacturing that requires the trifecta of Form, Fit and Function. The next generation will advance these basics in the next three decades, and AMUG considers itself an integral part of training the next generation for these challenges”.

A big part of this transformation is seen through a rich agenda that is continuously adapted to feature topics ranging from technology basics to advanced applications to business considerations. For this 2023 edition, for instance, key highlights of the program include:

  • Keynote speeches
    • Collaborations Between an Animator, an Architect, and a Surgeon: The Keys to Impactful Innovation in Medicine by Rob Ducey (LAIKA) Studios and Nicholas Jacobson (CU Anschutz Medical)
    • High-Performance, Low-Cost Liquid Propulsion Enabled by AM by Max Haot (Launcher)

Robert Ducey of Laika Studios and Nicholas Jacobson of the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus will take the floor on Tuesday, March 21. They will unveil the results in innovative designs for pediatric epilepsy, cardiology, and cleft palate and share lessons learned as part of their collaboration.

Max Haot on the other hand, will present on Thursday, March 23. One may expect an interesting look into his company’s E-2 liquid rocket engine.

Other highlights of the program that are worth mentioning include:

  • Innovators Showcase, including presentation of the Innovators Award.
  • 2022 Technical Competition Winners Presentation
  • 2023 Technical Competition Winners announcement

The full agenda remains available via the AMUG website.

So, yes, after 35 years, Users continue to drive the advances, innovations and applications.

AMUG is only a collection of these users that have propelled Additive Manufacturing to the forefront of almost all Industries over the last 35 years. The AMUG Conference is where AM users network with AM manufacturers to identify the hardware, software and materials that are needed in multiple industries. Expect AMUG to continue to be a driving force that amplifies the voices of the users to bring new products and applications forward”, Abshire concludes.

This article has first been published in the January/February edition of 3D ADEPT Mag.

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