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Formnext 2021: First Day Impressions of Post-Lockdown 3D Printing

Formnext is back and we’ve headed once more to Frankfurt, the lovely city where you can see people smoking crack on the street at 19:00 while the financiers zoom by on their electric scooters. It’s like Blade Runner without the production values—with all of the neon stripped out. Some of the world’s hardiest sex workers brave the cold by the roadside, as you, homeless, dodge your way to your restaurant amidst architecturally unambitious office towers filled with ambitious people.

I’ve been coming here for a long time and, if you couldn’t tell, I feel as though there is something soul-destroying about this place. I’m fascinated by Frankfurteristi. I stare at them for far too long, amazed at why they would live here. Yes, you’re wearing a cashmere sweater or a Super 150’s suit, but wool won’t warm your soul. Munich, Berlin, have you been? Frankfurt is the color of parking garages and feels like a scalpel’s tip. After a long day, my aching feet melt into that hotel carpet, my pillow, just feet away, beckons.

I must press on, however, to tell you about one of the happiest days of my life. Yes, it was the first day of Formnext 2021. It was wonderful to be here and see everyone. Simply, totally wonderful. I met so many people that I hadn’t seen for a year or two that it was a completely lovely day. I met lots of interesting new people, as well. It was great to be at a show again, as well. To walk around, see everything and get inspired. Another year, no real progress. We continue to chip away at our problems, and, once again, nothing really changes—just the logos. Feel’s great to be back.

I really loved feeling the support of my industry, the varied opinions, the gossip, the excitement. It really felt wonderful to discuss things, trends, news, and developments again. It was exciting to hear of people with divergent opinions and other points of view. It was good to see everyone come out in force and gather. It felt like a warm blanket. I learned throughout the day and already have some seedlings of completely new ideas and concepts to brood over for weeks. It was lovely.

Things I Noticed 

Now, if I told you a year ago that the Freemelt stand would be bigger than that of GE Additive, would you have believed me? Everyone on the BASF stand is wearing polos, as well. At least one of them has a tattoo. So, clearly there is a bit of a readjustment going on. BASF wants to get comfortable and is here to stay, but in a friendlier way than before. GE, meanwhile, is taking a deep breath before hopefully charging forward again. DMG Mori has seven different 3D printers and I can’t fathom which one I would recommend to whom.

Generally, everyone is much more professional once again. Marketing is more slick, stands are more informative and everything is very creative. There are, of course, significantly fewer attendees. But, a lot more professionals and industry people. We seem to have gotten rid of a lot of the casual AM people. There is still a lot of candy, much of it is Haribo, but clearly the Celebrations mix candy by Mars is winning. People on the whole were more engaging and open to talk. But, there were a lot of stands still where people were not doing anything to engage new contacts or customers. No one was even trying to engage attendees for conversation. I can’t fathom why people would invest so much money in a stand to just check their emails all day.


There were lots of parts and lots of parts that you could see up close and handle. Always love this and always learn from this. Stay tuned for more of my coverage of Formnext 2021 in subsequent posts.

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