Formnext 2018 Review and 26 Key Learnings for Marketing Folks


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I think that after a very busy Formnext we can all say that it will be a while before any one of us listens to Kenny G, Coltrane or indeed another saxophone player again. I may have had the jazz drained out of me permanently. Live music and repeating audio at stands is always horrible. At the end of the week, the stands surrounding you will hate your guts. Instead of giant steps, I’m taking little tiptoes. I lost my voice and my feet are killing me. My voice was lost somewhere in hall 3 aisle F80 at a Fraunhofer party that lasted until 2 AM. We were dancing next to the stand in the middle of the show. The day before we 3eed our minds until 2 as well at another party on the stand. Free gin tonics until two in the morning at least, others stayed until six. Formnext 2018 was an amazing show. In this post, I’ll detail some of the general trends whereas in another we’ll look more at the technical trends.

The Twikit stand had a complete coffee bar with baristas. Photo courtesy of Twikit.

  1. The watches are better on the metals side. The metal 3D printing people have better watches, cars and stands. Everything on the polymer side was outdone on the metals side. Stands reached to the heavens with dedicated bars, kitchens, and receptions. You could actually get lost on a few stands.
  2. Profi everywhere. In addition to stands with their own catering staff, there were signs of professionalization everywhere. Press releases were more professional, stands were better, marketing was better, graphic design was better, test parts were better. Everyone was trying harder, everyone was spending money and everyone was executing better on marketing.
  3. Everyone has snacks and there is an arms race in snacks, drinks, and catering. This is to be applauded. Everyone should have at least one barista.
  4. Profi everywhere 2. There were a few consumer offerings and consumer parts out there. The overwhelming majority of stands were aimed at businesses. Of these, the overwhelming majority were high end and industrial solutions.
  5. An embarrassment of riches. There were clearly a bunch of people that had gone all out (for them) and were blown away by two-story behemoths of competitors. My advice would be to get a good mid-sized open stand that lets you meet and showcase your stuff well. Going all out is not going to impress anyone at this point.
  6. The only really global show. I met people from all over the world at Formnext. Much more so than all shows, there are people from all of the countries worldwide. There are of course a lot of Germans and Europeans but many people come from Asia and the states as well. This is really the only truly global show. Other shows are only really local shows with people from that area and a smattering of visitors thrown in. There are also some local shows for Asia and the like but this is the one with people and companies from all over the world. If you have Chinese flyers or French ones they could be used here too.
  7. Visitors come from everywhere but exhibitors as well. There is really a much more international feel for the exhibitors as well.
  8. Widest selection. This show has the widest selection of stands and vendors and the most overlap. If you’re looking at sintering, then all of the players are here from established vendors to new start ups and people who have yet to launch machines. This is the place to compare and in one day see everything that our industry has to offer.
  9. VR is here. VR was everywhere, the engagement was low and it seemed silly to me.
  10. Booth babes. Thank god we don’t have an objectification problem with scantily clad women all over. What was happening is that external staffers were hired  to present little gimmicks or give out things. This just tells me that you’re doing a marketing thing that you deem too silly for your “real” people.
  11. Use the Force. Some people made actually no use of their own technology to display their capabilities. Some had amazing demo parts or objects. Sinterit’s PU cube mesh was a tactile joy and a wonderful part to hold. Make memories people!
  12. C-Level is here. Where many other shows consist of marketing teams and sales people you could see complete management teams at Formnext. If I wanted interviews then invariably the CEO, Business Unit director or similar would always be there.
  13. Frankfurt is still totally boring and there weren’t enough toilets. The food was not great and the waits were too long. You can always gripe about stuff but on the whole, everything was very well organized.
  14. This is becoming a party show as well. Out of all the shows I’ve had the most fun here. There are tonnes of on stand parties with 200 liters or more of beer being given away. There are parties with DJ’s and actual dancing, at a trade fair. Had more fun here than at any other show.
  15. Deals are done here. Especially in metals partnerships and deals are still done at Formnext. There are a lot of meetings conducted here rather than a stand show this is more a back room lets meet show. If you’re a new entrant this is the place to meet everyone in a week.
  16. Start early. I got more than 30 Formnext related press releases. Many of these came on the day it started. This is retarded. If you want to launch big then you’ll have to inform media ahead of time.
  17. Press conferences. I don’t see the value of press conferences at all, its a complete waste of everyone’s time. I’d rather have a product demo or interview. One day had six press conferences, this is in my opinion insane.
  18. Set up meetings early. I had people approach me a week before Formnext with meeting suggestions but was already fully booked by then.
  19. Don’t eat with your team. Look, I get it it’s like going camping with your team and its a lot of fun to do stuff together. Team building is important as well. But you should really be taking partners and customers out to dinner. This is one of the few touchpoints you have with them and getting to know them well this one time will help you so much later on. Considering the amount of money spent getting here a few more for dinner shouldn’t matter. 

    The EOS column consisting of 3D printed parts showing the difference in yield between machine types. Each part will take nine seconds to print on their new LaserProFusion technology.

  20. The most innovative thing I saw was that on the EOS stand they had a great “real graph” showcasing their machine yield out of a triangular glass column filled with printed parts. We need more interactive and useful things like this especially as it relates to real numbers and real production.
  21. We are getting better, at presenting ourselves but little actual valuable information was out there a lot was wishy-washy and vague.
  22. T-shirts are out and suits are in. A few years ago hip branded polos and the ensuing informal dress and communication were going to win. Now we’ve swung back to more formal ways of addressing people and more people are wearing suits.
  23. There was a lot of prelaunch stuff going on. A lot of people were showing things that were two years away from launch. I get the building excitement idea but let’s not be too vaporware.
  24. Everything was application driven and applications and real parts were everywhere. Furthermore, they really seemed to drive engagement and traffic. Stands with no real applications and descriptions of real applications felt fake to me. 
  25. There was a lot of cross-promotion going on as in a stand would showcase another’s machine or material but it was underutilized. Some big material vendors, for example, did mention small start up OEMs in their communication but I think that they could make a lot more impact for them. For a start up, a large polymer company could really get them to the next level. The larger company could get them the big meeting and exposure that they so dearly need.
  26. I got lost a lot. Because a lot of the stands were so big it was often hard to tell which isle was which. Overall signage was confusing as well.
  27. On the whole it was an amazing show. It is absolutely clear that Formnext is the definitive additive manufacturing show of the moment. The center of gravity of our world seems to be shifting towards Frankfurt.

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