2019 AMUG Conference Introduces Technical Training Lab Sessions

The largest version of the event so far gave technology suppliers a context for interactive deep-dive tutorials on their own products. It seemed to work.

The primary purpose of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference—or so its all-volunteer staff of organizers hopes—is connection, camaraderie and knowledge-sharing among hands-on users of AM technology. The 31st annual conference was held this week, returning to the Hilton in downtown Chicago, and it broke another record: surpassing 2,000 attendees for the first time. In what could be described as a good problem to have, AMUG’s leadership struggles with how to maintain the intent and feel of the event as it continues to increase in size. One notable change to the structure of the event this year, “Training Lab” sessions by event sponsors, offered a successful response to this concern.

Indeed, how to integrate sponsors into the intent of the AMUG Conference is a significant part of the challenge of scale. Technology providers want to sponsor the event for the sake of reaching its attendees, and their support is vital for allowing the event to succeed at a larger size. But giving them a traditional commercial platform would shift the event from something less like AMUG to something more like a trade show, a shift that event organizers resist. So how does this event (which began as a small gathering of users) give sponsors their say within a context that is still emphasizes opportunities for direct interaction?

The response implemented this year took the form of Training Labs sessions hosted by the event’s 19 leading sponsors. These sponsors were given timeslots within the conference program in which they were invited to provide not conference presentations comparable to and competing with the main conference track, but instead educational sessions encouraged to be interactive and hands-on.

For example, one sponsor company gave a session on design rules and practices for parts made with its own 3D printing technology. Another gave brief courses in powder handling and build setup on its own machine. And multiple sponsors opened their machines wide and taught attendees who came about the machine’s features and its maintenance. For a group of “users,” these highly specific technical experiences were welcome and well-received. Training Lab sessions I attended were overfull—around 40 people where around 30 chairs had been provided seemed typical—and the attendees were sufficiently engaged in the deep dive that latecomers were willing to stand. These in-the-weeds technical sessions were a refreshing departure from conference presentations more typical of AMUG, and expanding on this type of content might suggest a way forward for maintaining the distinct feel and opportunity of this event.

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