Additive Manufacturing Users in Focus

The AMUG 2023 Conference continues to build on end user participation to move the industry forward.

The AMUG 2023 Conference continues to build on end user participation to move the industry forward.

Image courtesy of AMUG.

The Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference will kick off in Chicago March 19-23 this year. The end user-focused event has for decades served as a key networking opportunity for current and future users of 3D printing technology.

Keynotes for this year include co-presenters Robert Ducey of LAIKA Studios and Nicholas Jacobson of the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus on Tuesday, March 21, and Max Haot of Launcher  on Thursday, March 23.

Ducey and Jacobson will present “Collaborations Between an Animator, an Architect, and a Surgeon: The Keys to Impactful Innovation in Medicine.” This collaboration – which grew out of an encounter at a previous AMUG event – has resulted in innovative designs for pediatric epilepsy, cardiology, and cleft palate. 

Ducey, technical supervisor for the Rapid Prototyping department at LAIKA, has more than 25 years of experience in visual effects and animation. His work with additive manufacturing began with LAIKA's first feature film, Coraline. Jacobson, a member of the translational research faculty at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, is trained as both an architect and computational designer. His work involves the development of novel solutions for complex surgeries, leveraging disparate computational methods from fields including architecture, animation, fashion, regenerative medicine, and structural engineering. 

AMUG 2023 keynote speakers (from left) Robert Ducey (LAIKA), Nicholas Jacobson (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus), and Max Haot (Launcher). Image courtesy of AMUG.

Haot, founder and CEO of Launcher, will share an overview of the additive manufacturing innovations in Launcher's E-2 liquid rocket engine and the Orbiter space tug programs. The E-2 is a closed-cycle, high-performance rocket engine that contains multiple AM-produced, copper-alloy components. The engine can boost a 150 kg payload into low Earth orbit (LEO) using the company's Launcher Light vehicle, which is scheduled for launch in 2024.

Digital Engineering spoke to AMUG President Mark Abshire to discuss how AMUG has brought end users together from across industries, and some of the highlights of the event this year.

The AMUG event is unique in its focus on end users and the volunteers that put the conference together. Can you talk about how the group and the conference have evolved?

Mark Abshire: When the first commercial machines hit the market in 1988, there was a group of just a handful of people that got together to share information on how additive manufacturing worked and how they were going to use them. It really just grew from there. As more machines came out, the manufacturers started to have their own user groups, and AMUG decided to bring all of those technologies together because so many end users have multiple technologies in their facilities. They can't take a week off to go to six different user groups. AMUG puts all of them together.

We are very fortunate that from the beginning we had very active volunteers. They volunteer because they have a passion for the industry, and they have ideas to contribute. They have an opportunity to share skills they may have outside of their work environment. 

Networking here is really the biggest benefit. My first user group meeting was in 1991, and I was amazed at how many people were willing to share their knowledge and discuss their problems. If you have a problem to solve, someone else may have already run into and come up with a solution. 

That's why we emphasize networking. At our lunches, each attendee gets a number and that assigns them to a table with strangers. They have a chance to interact and meet new people every day. Engineers can sometimes be introverts. We force them out of their shells to interact.

We have 20 committees made up of volunteers, and it is a privilege to work with them because they are very serious about spending time on advancing the industry. Even our on-site help, the people running registration, they are all volunteers.

It's also important to remember that on our board of directors and our committees, many of these people are actual machine operators. They are not from the corporate world. These are people that see things on the shop floor, they know what is needed, and they know in what ways we need to influence the OEMs to provide the right technology.

What are some of the highlights for the conference this year?

Abshire: Our conference director Jordan Weston has done a fantastic job of finding speakers. Diana Kalisz [VP of Materials for 3D Systems] was selected for the AMUG innovators Award this year. Diana was here in the early stages of the industry, and she would come up with wish lists for hardware, software and materials based on what people told her at the conference. She would take that back to the company so that the user requests would drive their innovations.

 Robert Ducey and Nicholas Jacobson met a few years ago at AMUG, and one is in the medical field and the other is an animator. They found a common issue they could work on together, and in their keynote they are going to present how they worked through those applications. And then Max Haot from Launcher is going to talk about how additive manufacturing can be used in satellites and rockets. It is a well-rounded group that will talk about the history of the industry, how the technology is being used in the present, and how it will be used in the future. 

We also have student scholarships available, and we sponsor one student to come and participate in the conference, as well as an educator or teacher.  3D printing ist still not as mature as some people think it is, but eventually people will have 3D printers in their homes just like they have regular printers now. That next generation of students are going to make the technology happen.

You can register for the AMUG Conference at

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Brian Albright

Brian Albright is the editorial director of Digital Engineering. Contact him at [email protected].

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