Key industry contacts were gained from visiting networking events such as the UK TCT show in Birmingham, an introductory 3D printing workshop hosted by Stratasys or a guided tour of the MTC facility in Coventry. Introducing myself as an Msc student in additive manufacturing and explaining the course in detail, were well received by these contacts, who unanimously seemed to agree that it was time AM was covered in more depth at higher education level. This is evident as in the past 24 months, no fewer than seven UK universities are now offering an Msc course in this field.
The majority of industry professionals I approached were more than willing to help out where possible, with invitations to interview them, answer technical questions or site visits to see first hand their use of the technology offered. Unfortunately the module time-scale became a limiting factor and allowing for busy schedules meant I could not take up some of these offers. For future first-hand research, I will aim to arrange these appointments earlier on in the module, which should allow for cancellations and diary clashes. To do this, I aim to employ improved project management tools, such as gantt and progress charts.
On reflection, I believe these events and seminars are invaluable to those hoping to gain useful insights into a new industry or to learn more on a broader level, but expectations should match the technical know-how of the audience and the content being delivered. For example, many visitors to the TCT show were hobbyists/enthusiasts and as such the content of the majority of discussions and seminars were tailored for very entry-level discussion topics. In contrast, the Stratasys workshop was pitched at industrial users of AM equipment, looking to upgrade to their newest models, so a level of knowledge is presumed and as such the seminars were far more advanced.
For more detailed specifics, I received much better results by privately contacting the speakers afterwards, most of whom were happy to discuss their topics in further detail. I believe their willingness to help my studies, stems from a wider understanding that for the industry as a whole to continue to grow and mature, it will require those involved to become better educated in the subject.