DEARBORN (WWJ) — There’s been a lot of hype about 3D printing lately — 3D printed pizza, chocolate, toys, cell phone accessories — even precision manufactured products like hearing aids. With 3D printers falling to under $500 in price, there are predictions that there will soon be one in every home.
Well, the world’s 5,000 foremost experts in 3D printing will gather at Detroit’s Cobo Center in June for a global conference.
Sponsored by SME, formerly known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the 25th annual Rapid conference will be held at Cobo June 9-12. It’s the first time the event has been in Detroit since 2007.
Of course, SME uses some different words for 3D printing — phrases that now sound a bit antiquated, like “rapid prototyping” or “additive manufacturing.” But after all, this technology has been around for more than 25 years — although the machines that now cost hundreds of dollars used to cost hundreds of thousands.
“We’ve been in this industry so long it’s interesting to see the hype coming from the consumer side,” SME event manager Maria Conrado said. “Now we’re expanding and cultivating this industry into automotive, aerospace, consumer goods like jewelry.”
Conrado said SME acknowledges there’s a gee-whiz aspect to all this, and will offer stuff like a “3D playground” where attendees can select a small item they can watch being printed. Event manager Maria Conrado says SME is arranging to have some 3D scanning equipment in the playground so people can duplicate something they want duplicated. There are also talks under way to bring in a 3D printed car to the Rapid show floor, as well as 3D printed special effects pieces from Hollywood. Attendees are also being challenged to design, print and race their own 3D printed slot cars.
More seriously, SME says the event is on pace to be the biggest ever. More than 100 exhibitors are expected. They’ve already reserved more than 12,000 square feet in exhibitor space, on pace to pass the record set in 2007 of just under 17,000 square feet.
Conrado said she said SME believes 3D printing won’t fundamentally change manufacturing, but will instead “streamline it” and allow for faster product design and production, innovative applications, and more customization. There will also be cost reductions for things like medical devices.
Conrado said the SME’s student program, Bright Minds, will bring in student groups to Rapid on June 12, pairing those groups with mentors to explain the technology. If you have a student group you’d like to bring to the event, contact Conrado at firstname.lastname@example.org. She said SME hopes the event leads to more students getting involved in manufacturing.
The event will also feature tech briefings and networking opportunities for professional attendees.
In addition to the exhibit floor, SME’s Rapid Technologies & Additive
Manufacturing Community will once again sponsor two exhibitor awards. The awards recognize excellence in innovation and exhibiting, including the exhibitor innovation award to the exhibiting company with the most innovative or technologically advanced new or improved product on the show floor, and the Best in Show award, honoring the exhibiting company with the greatest “wow” factor – both technically and aesthetically – by being interactive, visually appealing and engaging.
Exhibitor and general attendance registration is now open. The event will be located in Cobo along with the Big M manufacturing conference and the International Manufacturing Research Conference.