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No man is an island — and neither is any industry. While leadership will naturally emerge, and some innovators rise to prominence ahead of others, the only way for actual growth to occur is through an exchange of ideas. Competition is healthy, but collaboration is necessary.

As Materialise World Summit 2017 went on, certain themes became ever clearer at this gathering of 3D printing industry experts. The first day of the conference was not shy about introducing the key idea of collaboration/co-creation, and speakers and attendees kept fast to this focus as the event continued. What differentiates this event from many other conferences is that it is so heavily geared toward professionals and experts, with networking heartily encouraged and included prominently on the agenda. With such a meeting of the minds, ideas can flow freely as plans are presented and exchanged — and that’s just what Materialise sought to encourage with this year’s theme:

“Think. Beyond. Together.”

From the opening keynotes on, speaker after speaker at MWS17 came back to a discussion of the journey. While there was a look back at how each participant came to be where they are today, more focus was placed on what lies ahead, and how to get there. The way forward is clear, in that attention must be paid to each step along the digital journey, and who to join up with along that path.

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,” Materialise CEO and Founder Fried Vancraen said in his opening keynote, setting the tone.

Additional experts spoke to this topic throughout the two days, with just a few of them remarking:

We believe partnerships are important, this is the only way to drive this technology forward,” said Siemens‘ Andreas Saar during his own keynote. “Materialise has proved that this works; we integrate seamlessly without data interface changes.

“We have heard from the Mayo Clinic how this technology can take us to the next level. How do we do that?” said Materialise’s Vice President of Software, Stefaan Motte. “Not by just engineering that implant, not by making the design of that surgical guide; obviously that was an engineering feat, but it was not THE success factor. We reached out to top clinicians, to hospital administration, and understood the context in which personalized medicine would need to live. Looking at the ways in which images are acquired. Requirements there from a regulatory point of view. That was a key success factor.

“More choices, open systems. That is something I am very particular about,” explained Volker Hammes, Managing Director, BASF. “Not trying to put a fence around something, slow it down. We need the best minds working together… There is too much protectionism, too much talking about who gets how much share while the market is still fully developing.”

Uwe Fresenborg, CEO, DB Vehicle Maintenance, Deutsche Bahn, said, “We decided more or less a year ago with all these companies that the best way is to make it sustainable when we are putting the force of all these companies together. I believe it is wrong that we as Deutsche Bahn would make these developments on our own. That was the reason why we were pushing this network and we were very pleased that so many companies have bought this idea as a common idea to work in a network together to secure that this technology [will grow].”

Around 80% of these customer/partner companies are using 3D printing technologies, said Laufer

In virtually every presentation, partnerships were discussed and their importance to future success underscored. Philippe Laufer, CEO, CATIA, Dassault Systèmes, noted work with a “big network of partners” and his company’s work with customers/partners across 12 industries. Gil Perez, SVP, IoT and Digital Supply Chain, SAP, discussed the importance of partnerships as SAP and UPS work closely together on their growing Early Access Program, and touched on the announcement to be made today at Hannover Messe of the official launch of SAP Distributed Manufacturing

Indeed, the sense was summed up quite neatly in a slide from Materialise partner Atos‘ Marta García-Cosío, Head of Mechanical Engineering, proclaiming:

“We must look for partnerships: CO-CREATION is a must!”

Perhaps nowhere during the entire MWS17 event was the theme of partnership more prevalent than during the special evening event Materialise hosted at Concert Noble for all attendees. Throughout the first day of the summit, a major announcement had been teased, with Materialise representatives dropping vague hints about something very big to come. In the course of the evening, a fairly in-depth bit of theatrics ensured as several of the company’s executives — and the Materialise Lovely Hearts Club Band — put together quite a production in presenting the all-new, very exciting Materialiser 0.1. What was the system? A 3D printer? Artificial intelligence? No, and no. It was said to work with one element alone: time. As the terribly dramatic and musical unveiling ultimately presented, the Materialiser 0.1, the biggest announcement the company could make, the awe-inspiring, all-encompassing great big deal, was… us.

Great unveiling: the Materialiser 0.1

All of us. The partners and participants in the industry were highlighted in the announcement, as CEO Fried Vancraen opened a great big, empty box that could not contain the excitement. Behind him and the team flashed the logos from attendees at the World Summit (you can see an especially familiar logo in the bottom left of the unveiling image here).

The biggest announcements being made today are indisputably about partnerships and collaborations, as the biggest strides forward are being made through efforts made in tandem with carefully curated collaborators. As the biggest names in the game work together and smaller, newer innovators team up to bring resources to those positioned to best utilize them, partnerships and partnered developments are making waves across the industry. With new collaborations being announced at a steady clip lately, it’s no surprise that this is becoming a regular focus at industry events.

As additive manufacturing continues to grow as an industry, it will be interesting to continue to watch what arises in terms of partnerships. Kindergarteners are often taught that ‘sharing is caring’ and that lesson seems to be beginning to stick in business as well, as developments are made through teamwork.

Sometimes with a bit of theatrics thrown in. Partnership future so bright Materialise execs have to wear shades.

Share your thoughts about the place of collaboration and co-creation in 3D printing in the MWS forum at 3DPB.com.

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