After much anticipation, the day is here: Materialise World Summit 2017 is kicking off at Brussels’ Square – Meeting Center. Materialise has had two years to prepare for this week’s event, as the company gathers thought leaders every other year to join together and share ideas about the additive manufacturing industry. Industry 4.0 is deeply in focus across the board, and the day is already off to a strong start.

(L-R) Andreas Saar, Scott Schiller, Steve Immel

Before day one began, coffee was served in the exhibition area and I had the chance to catch up briefly with Scott Schiller, Vice President of Global Market Development, HP 3D Printing; Andreas Saar, Vice President, Manufacturing Engineering Solutions, Siemens PLM; and Steve Immel, Director, Strategic Partnership, Business Development, Materialise. Saar noted ahead of his keynote later in the morning that he was very optimistic regarding Siemens’ place in additive manufacturing, while for his part Immel was enthusiastic regarding the quality of attendees and partners present for this year’s event. Hundreds of people then filed down to attend the official opening of MWS17 as the morning’s first keynotes were set to begin.

Peter Leys

Peter Leys, Materialise’s Chairman of the Board, opened the morning and introduced the plan for Materialise World Summit 2017, including the goal to have conversations arise through networking as some truly great minds are gathered here. The keynotes and sessions presented here are sources of inspiration and a starting point for further development. He explained that while the first speaker needed no introduction, CEO Fried Vancraen was not only the founder, but has continued to lay the foundation for Materialise.

At Materialise, we believe we are in a unique position as we are poised in the middle of our industry. We are open to collaboration with all the key players as we are certain we can bring 3D printing to a broad variety of applications either through our software or our services,” Vancraen began.

Fried Vancraen

Rather than focusing on the historical perspective and the realities of today, Materialise’s energetic CEO took only a short look back before moving forward. As of the first MWS, held in 2010, the additive manufacturing industry had annual revenues of about $1 billion — smaller, Vancraen noted, than the California wine industry. The question of why that was became central to MWS10, and so each World Summit since has had one main focus. The 2012 event saw the first 3D printed fashion show and the real kickoff of hype in 3D printing as popular media picked up these stories and ran with them; 2015 turned to meaningful innovations away from the fairy tale dangers of hype. It was here that Vancraen pointed to the company’s mission statement:

Our mission is to innovate product development that results in a better and healthier world, through our software and hardware infrastructure, and an in-depth knowledge of additive manufacturing.

It is this mission statement that lies at the heart of not only the company, but this week’s event here in Belgium. The philosophy of truly innovating and making tangible impact on industry through advanced technologies and additive manufacturing is permeating through MWS17.

Minister Alexander De Croo

Following Vancraen, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, took to the stage to explain from a politician’s standpoint why digitization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are important — and why that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, apply only to politicians.

“​The​ ​attitude​ ​we​ ​have​ ​toward innovation​ ​is​ ​not​ ​as​ ​positive​ ​as​ ​it​ ​should​ ​be​ ​or​ ​as​ ​it​ ​used​ ​to​ ​be,” Minister De Croo explained. “A​ ​few​ ​things​ ​come​ ​to​ ​mind​ ​that are​ ​not​ ​that​ ​positive.​ ​The​ Fourth​ ​Industrial​ ​Revolution​ ​is​ ​something​ ​that​ ​will​ ​destroy​ ​half​ ​of​ ​the​ ​jobs we​ ​have​ ​today.​ ​It​ ​seems​ ​the​ ​only​ ​thing​ ​we​ ​want​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​is​ ​data​ ​protection​ ​and​ ​how​ ​we should​ ​protect​ ​people​ ​from​ ​big​ ​data.​ ​It’s​ ​almost​ ​like​ ​we​ ​are​ ​afraid​ ​to​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​what​ ​the promises​ ​may​ ​be,​ ​what​ ​the​ ​benefits​ ​may​ ​be.​ ​How​ ​we​ ​can​ ​use​ ​data​ ​to​ ​make​ ​the​ ​world​ ​a​ ​better place​ ​for​ ​people​ ​and​ ​not​ ​be​ ​stuck​ ​on​ ​one​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​story.”

He continued, “I hope you understand I am rather an optimist on technology and I’m convinced that you are too. We should do more effort to make sure the whole public is an optimist on technology. Most of them are, most use tech on a constant basis in their everyday lives. People hear how technology will make their lives less free, how technology is used against their own freedoms; I don’t think this is the case today. Please do not let the discussion about technology be a discussion of politicians. If you want to have a society discussion about innovation and technology, you should be part of that too. Don’t leave it all to us. Use the possibilities you have today, the technology, the press, be part of that discussion. We need more people who are innovative in their work to also be innovative in their speech.”

Describing himself as a technology optimist, Minister De Croo came back to a few points regarding the digital age — namely the freedoms and potential possible. Belgium in particular and, more broadly, the European Union have the potential to take on the world and lead this industrial revolution, he explained. Necessary to furthering development are trust, open communications, and very importantly continuous education. We will be hearing more from the Minister’s point of view directly within the coming days as he expands for us on his views on technology.

The morning keynote sessions continued on as we heard from Yuniku, as Félix S. España and Dr. Ir. Alireza Parandian engaged the audience with a look into how 3D printing processes make customized eyewear a possibility on a mass scale, followed by Siemens’ Saar, who explained how additive manufacturing is “reshaping everything” and Siemens PLM is there to help lead the way in rethinking, and finally the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Jonathan Morris, who spoke to innovative uses for 3D printing in a hospital setting. Each of these keynote addresses contained a wealth of information — read more about the insights shared here.

3DPrint.com will be at MWS17 throughout the event; be sure to follow here and on social media at #MWS17 to hear more from innovative thought leaders in 3D printing. Discuss in the MWS forum at 3DPB.com.

[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

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