3dp_Hannover_Messe_logoAs a sign of how important the technology is becoming to the resurgence of industry and manufacturing in the United States, 3D printing was the only specific technology mentioned by President Barack Obama as he spoke at the opening ceremony of the Hannover Messe trade show on Monday. 3D printing played a huge role at the show itself this week, as more than 50 companies showed off almost 100 additive manufacturing technologies, services and applications. Industrial manufacturing applications made up a large percentage of the exhibitors, as 3D Systems, voxeljet and Prodways were just three of the dozens of companies showing off their industrial 3D printers. Konica Minolta was also on hand to feature their new 3D LiDAR and digital manufacturing systems, while Canon showed off their new 3D printer and VR technology.

But it wasn’t all global corporations on hand; of the more than 350 American companies that travelled to Hannover Messe this year, the largest in the show’s 70-year history, more than 200 of them were small- or medium-sized businesses. One of those small businesses was Ohio-based 3D printer manufacturer MakerGear, who managed to score a meeting with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As a guest of the non-profit JobsOhio and Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, MakerGear CEO and Founder Rick Pollack was given a unique opportunity to discuss the future of 3D printing with two of the world’s most influential leaders.

“JobsOhio has done outstanding work supporting and retaining companies like MakerGear, and we are honored to be part of Hannover Messe. To be able to share our story with President Obama and Chancellor Merkel is such a rare opportunity. President Obama has taken additive manufacturing seriously, and he sees the positive effect it is having on so many different industries,” said Pollack.

Obama and Merkel meet with MakerGear CEO Rick Pollack at Hannover Messe.

Obama and Merkel meet with MakerGear CEO Rick Pollack at Hannover Messe.

The meeting took place at the Hannover Messe opening ceremony after President Obama gave a speech highlighting next-generation manufacturing and 3D printing as one of the tech sector’s top priorities. Obama also took the time to push for a quick resolution of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TPP), the controversial free trade agreement between the US and the 28 countries that make up the European Union. Obama urged for the deal to be signed in 2016, suggesting that with the upcoming presidential election, this year may be the last opportunity to sign the far-reaching deal. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have said that they oppose TPP, as has Republican front-runner Donald Trump, making the deal unlikely to be made once Obama leaves office.

In his speech, President Obama highlighted what he sees as ongoing international trade barriers that make the passage of TPP vital. Those include high tariffs on many exports, and country-specific regulations and standards that are incompatible, often forcing companies to make different products for different regions. Obama suggests that not only would the TPP eliminate those barriers, but it would lead to stronger standards for consumers, workers and the environment. While many critics of TPP suggest that the deal would do the exact opposite, many of the Hannover Messe attendees seemed to be swayed. In a broader sense, Obama also made the case for the continued partnership and shared trade between the US, Germany, and the EU, and he made it clear that 3D printing would be an important part of that.

Obama and Merkel try out new VR technology at Hannover Messe 2016.

Obama and Merkel try out new VR technology at Hannover Messe 2016. [Photo: Christian Charisius/dpa via AP]

“As President I have worked to make sure that we are sustaining the spirit of innovation in the United States. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs in new online tools to help entrepreneurs start new businesses fast. Over the last six years the United States has created more than 14 million private sector jobs including hundreds of thousands in manufacturing. Here at Hannover Messe you will see examples of American growth and ingenuity including a full 3D-printed electric car,” President Obama said before joking that he and Chancellor Merkel go for a drive, provided his Secret Service detail signed off on it.

2016 was the first time that the United States has been invited to be a partner country for Hannover Messe, and it was also the first time that a US President attended. The global industrial manufacturing trade show typically draws more than 200,000 attendees, including investors, buyers, resellers, distributors and government officials from more than 70 nations. Hannover Messe 2016 officially began Sunday, April 24th and continued through Friday, April 29th. You can find out more about Hannover Messe, and see the entire list of events and exhibitors on their website. Thoughts on Obama’s mention of 3D printing? Discuss in the Obama Mentions 3D Printing at Hanover Messe forum over at 3DPB.com.

Here is President Obama’s speech in full:

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