The Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE), one of the plastics industry’s largest trade organizations, has acquired ImplementAM, a Portland, Oregon-based company that organizes and facilitates one-day additive manufacturing (AM) workshops. ImplementAM was founded in 2022 by David Tucker, the owner of digital manufacturing consultancy New Wave Mfg, and Kristen Mulherin, the president of Women in 3D Printing, who first started working together at HP’s 3D printing division.
This is the second 3D printing industry acquisition in 2023 for SPE, which is based in Danbury, Connecticut. In February 2023, SPE purchased the Paris-based online news organization 3Dnatives, arguably the only 3D printing industry publication that specifically caters to an international audience.
Uniquely, ImplementAM provides workshops and conferences on a small scale in spaces that optimize the potential for hands-on experience and teamwork-based networking. Among other advantages, this makes ImplementAM an ideal choice for legacy businesses that may be just getting started in incorporating AM into their operations.
In a press release about SPE’s acquisition of ImplementAM, SPE’s CEO, Patrick Farrey, said, “ImplementAM, SPE, and 3Dnatives align seamlessly in their mission to inform, educate, and advance the [AM] industry. Our stakeholders recognize the growth in [AM] and 3D printing’s importance in processing and production operations. ImplementAM offers vital educational opportunities to explore this industry and its impact.” Tucker said, “Our goal with ImplementAM is to bring in-person workshops to the regions where people work and live. Our day-long workshops are often hosted at local breweries to facilitate networking and an overall sense of fun. They include facility tours and hands-on exercises, as well as expert presenters who share their experiences, challenges, and successes. We strive to offer a dynamic learning experience.”
Everyone is always talking about the importance of corporate synergy, and this acquisition by SPE, combined with its acquisition of 3Dnatives, represents synergy executed perfectly. 3Dnatives can capitalize on its strength as a presenter of webinars by gaining a foothold into meatspace events, ImplementAM will now expand internationally, and SPE has entered the 3D printing trade show business in a highly original, agile way.
Even including the fact that Mulherin and Tucker started this business based on their existing experience working together at HP, this acquisition highlights an intangible advantage of the AM sector that I recently pointed out in my recap of Formnext Forum Austin. It would be impossible to overstate the significance of the camaraderie characterizing 3D printing industry personnel, not just at national levels but to a truly global extent.
If 3D printing is the most technically mature of the Industry 4.0 technologies — and I think it’s hard to argue otherwise — then 3D printing is already playing a role in centralizing all those technologies into a new industrial landscape. I’ve written countless times in the last couple of years about how important a factor that will be in shaping the AM sector’s evolution going forward.
Along those lines, as the other niches within Industry 4.0 grow into full-fledged industries, they will be taking their cues from the AM sector. It is not hyperbolic to suggest that the lessons that other emergent industries learn from 3D printing will be pivotal the future of the global economy. As John Barnes has said, “We have to keep AM human.” That the relationships between people who work in 3D printing are as integral to its effectiveness as the machinery is one of the most optimistic lessons that all other emergent technologies could learn from the industry.