In the last eight-and-a-half years of my time in the #additivemanufacturing industry, I’ve offered a lot of advice – for companies, for early-career professionals, for students, for executives, for anyone who will listen. In short, advice for anyone who’s asked (and many who haven’t, which is the real luxury of several years leading media outlets).
With, to say it politely, a lot of time on my hands for the last half-year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About my career trajectory, the shape and future of #3Dprinting as an industry, the trends and growth of advanced manufacturing technologies, business strategy, workforce development, marketing, communications, thought leadership – you name it, I’ve been thinking about it.
As I continue to work through Additive Integrity with incredible clients including PrintFoam and polySpectra, continue to occasionally share perspectives through media outlets, and continue to seek my next right landing place full-time, I would also like to continue connecting – and, of course, sharing my learnings, impressions, and analyses. My driving force is to do good work with good people.
Hoping to offer some semi-regular content right here on LinkedIn to spur additional conversation. Let’s start with some free advice.
At industry events, both online and in the flesh, I find many of the same topics of conversation arise.
For example, at AMUG just last week in Chicago, an interactive panel discussion brought participants together to examine issues restraining growth in polymer AM. In my breakout group, I found it notable that the top three issues came down to perception:
Each of these, we determined, indicates that 3D printing progress hinges on clarifying consistently.
So let’s clarify.
Gatekeeping Doesn't Help Anyone
Who is 3D printing for, what is this industry all about? If the first answer isn’t “everyone” and the second isn’t “making making better,” what are we even doing?
I like to look at a popular phrase in an AM way: all Benchies rise in a rising tide.
Cheers to all Benchies rising in a rising tide. (Granted this is a harbor in Barcelona filled with real boats, rather than 3D printed benchmarks, but the point stands.)
Additive manufacturing is a growing, thriving, powerful industry backed by incredible innovations. All-in, it also accounts for less than one percent of the global manufacturing industry.
Your competition isn’t the other OEM playing in the same sandbox, it’s the attitudes of late adopters who are so risk-averse they refuse to invest in additional industrial technologies.
One company, one patent isn’t going to be the trillion-dollar global solution. There’s no magic bullet, there’s no holy grail, there’s no one-size-fits-all – and after all, isn’t that the very point of AM? No single solution is going to be right for every end user. Even those that rise to the top will not be the only installation in a facility. Software, hardware, materials, post-processing: every workflow is already collaborative. Often, the best place for AM installations is alongside traditional machinery. There’s no reason that’s not often true for complementary AM technologies as well. I’ve rarely, for example, been inside an industrial facility housing million-dollar AM equipment that doesn’t also have several desktop 3D printers in-house as well.
So come together – this industry will only grow collectively.
Gatekeeping doesn’t help anyone. Gatekeeping keeps out potentially brilliant collaborators and can cause needless friction. Politics are political enough; let’s keep that out of a nascent industry where every achievement is a step forward for the future of AM adoption.
Encourage students. Mentor new professionals. Welcome consultants. Hear out trade organizations.
Announcements and Timing
If a major industry event is coming up where a lot of announcements are bound to be made, and you want in on that coverage, send your press release ahead of time to trade press. Better yet, announce before the event so attendees ensure they come to you. Launch at an event, sure, but signal that it’s happening.
There’s a lot of noise out there. If you have substantive news to share, get ahead of it. Then have the press conference or booth party to celebrate and elaborate.
Know Who Your Audience Is – All of Them
Who are you talking to? Who is your event for? Who is your target audience? For everything you’re doing.
Is your website geared toward investors, media reps, your existing customer base, informed professionals, new knowledge seekers? Do you know how to talk to them? Do you make it easy for each different audience to find the information that’s relevant to them?
Are you on social media? Which platforms? Who are you talking to here: customers, job seekers, investors, analysts, press, students? How do they engage? Who do they engage with? Why isn't it you?
Your Most Powerful Story Isn’t About You
Of course you believe in your product/company/team: you’re committed. Why and how is it relevant to others? (See audiences, above.) Tell your story – please, please have an About page on your website so we know who you are, where you are, what you do – but when it comes to applications, let those shine.
The most powerful story is a testimonial. Let your thrilled customers be your amplifiers. Their successes, built on your offerings, are your successes.
Be Smart at Events
Everyone: wear comfortable shoes.
Exhibitors: have coffee, water, snacks, and seating available and you’ve just made yourself a must-visit destination.
(More event advice in this still-relevant piece I wrote back in 2017.)
Also don't take yourself too seriously. Fun with Modix @ Formnext 2022.
(Want to go more in-depth and specific to you? Let's talk.)
What are the best pieces of advice you’ve encountered in AM?