I decided to visit Formnext 2019 in Frankfurt (Germany) November 20, 2019. And to give you the essence first, it was too much – 800 exhibitors in two larges halls each with 2 floors – one day is not enough, and others told me, not even two days is enough to have time to absorb what has been shown at this exhibition.
Metal Printing: one of the huge topics of Formnext 2019 was . . . metal printing aka “no more plastic”, it seemed like the motto for 2019, in the corporate sense of it.
The printers were huge, car or even tractor sized 3D printers.
The kind of faceless corporate world:
Ultimaker: So I spotted Ultimaker booth, and asked for “Daid”, nobody seemed to know, but “David” was known (as author and driving force of Cura) but not there, as he left the company 2 months ago I was told – either way, I spoke with Roger Bergs and expressed my gratitude for Cura being Open Source and he replied: “you know, we come from there, it’s part of our company culture” . . . nice to see such a commitment to the Open Source, especially compared to the next:
MakerBot: . . . and to my surprise, there was a mid-sized booth of MakerBot, the owner of the struggling Thingiverse, on the brink of collapse. After some brief delay, I was able to talk to Jason Chan, responsible for Thingiverse who was on site, and we had a brief talk:
- I acknowledged the role MakerBot played in early days of 3D printer development in contrast to the later abandonment of the Open Source principle with the acquisation by Stratasys . . .
- I pointed out how important Thingiverse was and still is for existing projects, which still reference the STL files on Thingiverse and if it were to disappear it would be devastating and break many projects out there (not all migrated to github or other 3D model repos)
- further I expressed my experience about other the 3D model repositories being functionally inferior compared to Thingiverse
- Thingiverse was unbearable slow and unreliable – Jason acknowledged and confirmed my concerns of the current functionality of the site
- Jason responded as following:
- only 2 web developers are assigned to Thingiverse maintenance as of 2019/11
- there is a backlog or debt of problems unaddressed for the years and MakerBot is aware of it (to the public it seemed nobody cares at MakerBot)
- Thingiverse is costly running it, and provides no (significant) income
- there are commitments within MakerBot to reboot Thingiverse and fix all the backend issues and resolve the “slowness” of the site (that has been said before, nothing happened – just check @makerbot Twitter account)
- development of a financially sustainable foundation for Thingiverse, means, to create income – how this is planned he didn’t wanted to reveal in more details
- MakerBot kind of was surprised of the immense success of Thingiverse of the past years
Josef Prusa: While visiting Hall 11, I came across Josef Prusa walking alone, and I just briefly shared my admiration for his success by combining Open Source and business to a self-sustaining model. I later visited the Prusa Research booth, and it was packed with visitors and and catched this short video showing Prusa Mini in action:
BuildTak: Just a brief talk with Igor Gomes, about their new products and shared a bit of my stuff as laid out on this web-site.
Creality: . . . and there it was, a tiny small booth of Creality – 4 or 5 shy representatives sitting there, and I walked toward them and greeted them in english, and a smile rushed unto their faces (to my surprise), and I expressed my thankfulness of their move to Open Source the Ender 3 entirely, that this move or gesture really was acknowledged in the Open Hardware and 3D printing community in the “West”. In a way it was bizarre, there was this small booth, while in reality, this company had more impact than perhaps the rest of the exhibitors of the entire hall – nobody else ships as many 3D printers as this company as of 2019.
Misc Small Chinese Exhibitors:
Too little time to explore their products in more depth.
E3D Online: Just briefly glanced at their booth, as I watched already videos online of their tool changer, and I was already significantly exhausted.
NinjaTek: just passing by . . .
FelixPrinters: . . . also too little time and openness left from my side cut this visit short, but their printers looked very well thought out.
Anyway, after 7 hours I was exhausted from all the impressions – it was too much of visual stimulis and constant noise – and I left the exhibition and headed back to Switzerland by train again, and arrive at midnight finally – it was worth my time.