Mark Barfoot Explains the Benefits AMUG Has To Offer for the Future of Manufacturing
Interview with Mark Barfoot, President of Additive Manufacturing User Group (AMUG)
Mark Barfoot is the President of the incredible Additive Manufacturing User Group (AMUG). He gives us an insight on what AMUG is and how it helps current and future manufacturer’s world-wide.
AMUG is an independent, industry-wide users group that gives its members a forum for learning, information exchange and establishing professional connections. Their purpose is to educate and inform users of various applications in additive manufacturing. Their next conference takes place April 19-23, in Jacksonville Florida. It’s a definitely a must go-to event for anyone working or interested in advanced manufacturing.
Can you give our readers a brief overview of AMUG as a whole?
AMUG is a worldwide conference that meets once a year. It is our key event and this year it's going to be in Jacksonville, Florida in April. We're a group that brings together people for education and training. Our main focus is to help users, give them the necessary equipment and teach them how to properly use that equipment. We offer tips and tricks, as well as application stories. We make an effort to grow your attendees' knowledge of additive and to actually help them be able to use it in more places. We're strictly focused on the commercial side. So when it comes to high -end industrial grade machines, all of our users have to at least own or operate a machine to be able to attend our conference.
How many members or attendees would you say you guys have?
It's growing every year. We’re expecting this year to have over seven hundred attendees.
What are your current, five and ten year goals?
This group started as a user group for SLA (Stereolithography) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) technology and then a few years ago we opened it up to all additive technologies. So I would say our five year goal is to continue expanding our attendee base to cover all technologies and to continue getting more of our OEM’s and sponsors there. The ten year goal would probably be to expand the group, not just have a session in North America but possibly expand and have something in Europe or Asia. Nevertheless, we are a volunteer run organization, so that’s always a lot harder to make happen.
What kind of OEM’s and sponsors do you work with?
This year our diamond sponsors-- our highest level sponsorship-- are Stratasys, Concept Laser, SLM Solutions, Somos and GE. We have one very special titanium sponsor, NCP Leasing. Our platinum sponsors are Renishaw, Prodways, EOS, Exone, ACT Group, HP and Rapid Prototyping Services.
Do they provide workshops?
Each of those higher level sponsors will bring some of their equipment in for people to see. We also have our AMUGexpo on Sunday and Monday night, which is more like a traditional trade show type of thing where you walk around, talk and find more information to understand the technologies. Throughout the week, we have some general sessions, but we also have many breakout sessions. Some of those sessions are run by AMUG, by users. It could be a session on how to use the machine, on servicing the machine or an application story. In the suites, the OEM sponsors have similar sessions that are coordinated by them but again are very technical in nature and not direct sales pitches. We also have a variety of hands-on workshops covering topics such as post processing, sand casting, silicone molding, hydrographic printing, and software tools where people actually get to participate and see how these things work out for themselves.
Between your yearly conferences, do you interact with your members?
We have some social media. We have our Facebook site and we also have a LinkedIn group which is probably the main area people interact. That’s where people will ask technical questions and our users will be able to reply. We have a monthly newsletter that is also pushed out through our Facebook account.
What kind of competitions do you offer?
At the conference we have a technical competition that occurs on Monday night, and there are two categories. One is for advanced finishing and the other one is for advanced concepts. People can enter one or the other and physically show the parts and answer questions. Everybody can walk around and chat with the people that did them to better understand them. We also have them judged by some of our select Dino’s, which is our Distinguished Innovator Operator awards recipients. These people have been in the industry for many years and have also given back to the industry either through AMUG or through other events.
What are the exciting pieces you’ve seen of working in a community like this? What are some take-away you have?
The biggest thing I like about AMUG is the networking. Being able to communicate and talk to people. Relatively speaking, this industry is still new. Its thirty years old but it's still growing, and we all are still learning. Coming to the AMUG group, we’re able to meet other people who share how they did it, talk to each other, and discuss issues we’ve encountered throughout the year. I don’t necessarily have to call the reseller or the OEM to find out how to solve that problem. I have another user that I know has the exact same vintage of machine as mine, and I can ask him the questions or we can work together in trying to figure out what the solution is.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard or can offer our readers being in the industry?
I think the biggest one is to educate yourself as much as you can. Make sure you understand what you’re getting into. Try to talk to somebody other than the sales rep when you’re buying machines so that you really go in with your eyes wide open. These machines sometimes can be a bit more finicky than a traditional CNC machine or something similar. So knowing the issues you’re going to deal with, how you’re going to go about it and making sure that the machine you’re getting is the machine that fits your application the best.