Formnext Forum Austin signals the exciting year ahead for 3D Printing with the Storm Before the Storm.

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The additive manufacturing (AM) sector has faced numerous challenges and setbacks throughout the years. Just when it seems like the sector is about to make significant progress, external factors intervene, slowing down its growth. However, the sector always manages to regroup and learn from these setbacks, leading to new advancements. But what if the sector had a year of uninterrupted progress? What would that look like?

The recent Formnext Forum Austin, which took place on August 29-30, provided some insights into what a year of uninterrupted progress could entail for the AM sector. The event showcased a level of innovation and enthusiasm that surpassed anything seen before. In fact, it hinted that 2024 could be the year where the sector experiences unprecedented growth.

One interesting aspect of the Formnext Forum in North America was its choice of location. Despite being launched in Austin, the event will not return to the city anytime soon. Instead, it will be held in Chicago in 2024 and 2025, first as part of the International Manufacturing Technology Show and then as a standalone event. This unintentional pattern of moving from one location to another closely mirrors the growth trajectory of the AM sector itself.

The choice to hold the event in Austin was not due to its beauty in August but rather because it was difficult to book a large space for the event in a city like Chicago without significant lead time. However, this decision highlights the adaptability of the organizations within the sector. Just like 3D printing companies qualifying metals for aerospace to meet stringent regulations, the choice to host the event in Austin showcased the sector’s ability to overcome challenges and succeed in unfavorable conditions.

Despite the challenges faced during the event, such as the scorching heat and the not-so-pedestrian-friendly setup of the city, Formnext Forum Austin was a success. The attendees’ response and engagement were the true measure of its success. The opening reception at Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden, although intense in terms of heat and noise, created a sense of camaraderie among the participants. It set the tone for the rest of the event, which had a more social atmosphere rather than a formal industry conference.

The AM sector is characterized by its resilience and adaptability. It has weathered numerous challenges and setbacks and continues to grow and innovate. Formnext Forum Austin exemplified the potential of uninterrupted progress for the sector. It provided a glimpse into what could be achieved in the future if the sector is given the opportunity to flourish. With each obstacle faced, the sector learns, adapts, and comes back even stronger. The future of additive manufacturing looks promising, and 2024 could be the year when the sector finally takes a giant leap forward.

The first year of the Additive Manufacturing (AM) industry has shown great potential for the future. Although there may be some improvements in terms of efficiency and structure, it is important to maintain the looseness and flexibility that people appreciate. This has been proven at the recent Formnext Forum Austin, where the main presentations provided strong support for the theory that 2024 could be a year of uninterrupted progress for AM.

One of the significant developments in the sector was Apple’s confirmation that they would be using 3D printing on the Apple Watch Ultra. This not only validates the rumor that started circulating in July but also highlights the importance of AM in Apple’s watch supply chain. It also opens up possibilities for the company to explore the use of AM in other consumer electronics markets, which are crucial for Apple to maintain its dominance.

Interestingly, Apple’s announcement coincided with Huawei’s launch of its new Mate 60 Pro phone, where they also revealed the use of 3D printing for end-use consumer goods. This created a buzz in the US tech economy, especially amid the ongoing US-China trade war. The tensions between the two countries seem to be escalating, and this phone war between the world’s largest economies is becoming more apparent.

Although these topics were not directly discussed at the event, there were noticeable connections. It is worth noting that I saw at least two Apple employees at the show, indicating their interest in the AM industry. Furthermore, the event’s main presentations touched on the importance of logistics in the AM sector, which is expected to intensify in the coming years. There is also a growing trend of reshoring, with more companies bringing their manufacturing back to the US, which is likely to reach critical mass in 2024.

Two talks from the first day of the event further confirmed these trends. Brandon Ribic from America Makes discussed how they are streamlining the US AM ecosystem through information-sharing, standardization, and growing the AM workforce. He emphasized the need for collaboration and everyday implementation of AM technologies to stabilize US supply chains. Similarly, Dr. Gregory Hayes from EOS and Matthew Sermon, Executive Director at Program Executive Office Strategic Submarines for the US Navy, highlighted the importance of supply chain resiliency and workforce development in the AM industry.

Overall, the first year of the AM industry has shown promise for the future. The support from renowned companies like Apple and Huawei, the emerging phone war between the US and China, and the focus on logistics and reshoring indicate significant growth potential. With the efforts of organizations like America Makes, the AM industry is moving towards becoming a crucial logistical tool in various sectors. The upcoming years are expected to bring uninterrupted progress to AM, making 2024 a year of significant advancements in the industry.

In order for additive manufacturing (AM) to reach its full potential and become a game-changer in logistics, there needs to be a robust domestic supply chain for AM materials. This means that the AM sector in the US must function as a network of collaborating entities rather than a battlefield of competing forces. While we are not quite there yet, there are positive signs that the necessary developments are underway. The organizations essential for facilitating this transition are already working towards it, and there is a greater political will and action to support the growth of AM. Furthermore, Joe Biden’s need for a significant victory in his policy platform provides an additional boost for the AM sector.

The current macro conditions appear to be favorable for the adoption of AM. The economy is showing resilience, and large corporations are more willing than ever to take risks. Additionally, the belief that AM is a future-facing technological solution worth investing in is gaining traction. However, there are still variables that could hinder uninterrupted progress in the AM sector.

Two of the biggest challenges facing the AM sector are workforce development and cybersecurity. Workforce development is a significant hurdle to overcome, as the manufacturing workforce in the US has been decreasing, while the demand for skilled workers is growing. The US manufacturing workforce has shrunk from 19 million in 1980 to just under 12 million in 2023, despite a 50% increase in the population. This decline poses a problem, as the submarine industrial base alone needs to attract, hire, and train around 10,000 new workers every year.

The broader manufacturing sector is also facing the challenge of growing its workforce, with an estimated 500,000 open manufacturing jobs in the US currently, a number expected to rise to 2.1 million by 2030. To address this issue, it would be beneficial for planned growth in manufacturing to focus on areas with high potential for automation. However, this is just one piece of the puzzle. The success of automation infrastructure will also depend on manufacturing’s compatibility with cloud-based software platforms.

Another major concern in the AM sector is cybersecurity. This is where partners like the US Navy and America Makes play a crucial role in ensuring the sector’s continued progress. Cybersecurity is a critical factor in harnessing the potential of AM and can either hinder its growth or facilitate transformative partnerships.

Despite the challenges ahead, there is reason to be optimistic. It is likely that companies will recognize the need for cooperation and will come together to drive higher levels of collaboration in the AM sector. This united effort can catalyze transformation and propel the sector forward. By addressing workforce development, cybersecurity, and fostering collaboration, we can pave the way for AM to become a reliable and widely adopted production system.

Title: The Crucial Role of Collaboration in the Future of 3D Printing


In a rapidly evolving industry like 3D printing, it is crucial for companies to come together and collaborate rather than compete against each other. This notion was reiterated by Samuel Manning, the public relations manager at Markforged, during a recent discussion about the future of cybersecurity and digital supply chains. Manning believes that in order to drive progress and innovation, the entire 3D printing industry should unite rather than remain fragmented. This idea of camaraderie and collaboration was evident at the recent Formnext Forum Austin, emphasizing the importance of working together for the advancement of the additive manufacturing (AM) sector.

Expanding Horizons through Collaboration:

Manning envisions a future where all 3D printing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will work together in some capacity, aiming to overcome challenges collectively rather than individually. His perspective highlights the necessity of unity to overcome obstacles in an industry that is continually growing and evolving. By sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources, companies can push the boundaries of 3D printing technology and accelerate its adoption in various sectors.

Strength in Numbers:

Competition often drives innovation and fosters growth, but it can also hinder progress if companies solely focus on their individual success. Manning’s statement stresses the need for a collective effort within the 3D printing industry to ensure that all companies thrive. Collaboration allows companies to leverage each other’s strengths, pool resources, and tackle complex challenges more efficiently. This way, the industry as a whole can progress and stay ahead of the technological curve.

Towards a more Secure Future:

One area where collaboration is particularly critical is in the enhancement of cybersecurity and digital supply chains. As 3D printing becomes an integral part of manufacturing, it is important to address potential vulnerabilities in the digital ecosystem. By working together, OEMs can develop robust security measures that protect both their own operations and the wider industry from potential cyber threats.

Cultivating Camaraderie in the US AM Sector:

The importance of camaraderie in the US AM sector cannot be overstated. Over the years, companies in the industry have developed strong relationships and fostered a sense of camaraderie. This was evident at the recent Formnext Forum Austin, where attendees witnessed firsthand the collaborative spirit and shared vision for the future of 3D printing. By continuing to support and work alongside each other, companies can elevate the entire sector and establish a strong foundation for future growth.


As the 3D printing industry continues to evolve, collaboration will be key to unlocking its true potential. Samuel Manning’s insights remind us of the importance of setting aside individual ambitions and focusing on the collective growth of the industry. By working together, OEMs can overcome challenges, enhance cybersecurity, and drive innovation, ultimately propelling the entire 3D printing sector into leadership positions within their respective industries. The camaraderie witnessed at events like Formnext Forum Austin further reinforces the importance of collaboration and the positive impact it can have on the industry as a whole.

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