One of the industries that has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic is the trade fair, event and conference industry. Due to numerous recommendations and limitations imposed by the authorities, the organizers of such events face the necessity to meet the requirements that often simply distort the sense of carrying them out in the world, while deterring participants and exhibitors. All major fairs that were to take place in spring have been postponed to autumn. Now, at the beginning of September, we hear every now and then that they are moved or canceled again.

When it comes to the 3D printing industry, the biggest unknown was Formnext – the leading trade fair for additive technologies in the world. The organizers of the event – Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH fought for the fair to the last strength, deciding to introduce restrictions, which, although absurd from the point of view of a participant of this type of event, gave some chance to conduct them. Unfortunately, in the face of information about the growing risk of a return of COVID-19 cases in March and April this year, the organizers decided not to organize the fair in a traditional way, transferring it to the Internet. What does this mean exactly …?

Before we get into the details, it is worth remembering what Formnext 2020 was “supposed to” look like until recently? As we reported on in mid-June 2020, the plans were as follows:

  • fair participants will be able to visit them only during selected and assigned days
  • registration will be completely electronic and payments will be made only in digital form
  • each of the fair participants will have to sign a health declaration (it is possible that the temperature will be tested at the entrance?)
  • the avenues between the stands will be twice as wide – they will be 6 meters long instead of the usual 3 meters
  • on both sides of the stand will be surrounded by an additional 1 meter wide communication lane
    staff will use video cameras to monitor whether fair participants maintain the so-called social distance
  • the guidelines for the construction of stands have also changed to encourage participants to distance themselves from each other
  • Formnext offers its own stand designs, designed to meet all social distancing and health protection requirements.
  • everything is to be additionally cleaned, disinfected, and the air in the halls more intensively ventilated than usual.

Now it has turned out that all these restrictive conditions are still not sufficient to ensure the safety of visitors and exhibitors. Or maybe they were, only visitors and exhibitors were not convinced enough and resigned on arrival? Anyway, Petra Haarburger – the president of Mesago Messe Frankfurt decided that the fair would not be held as planned…

The current rise of the Covid-19 infection figures in Germany, Europe and around the world have led to increased uncertainty among exhibitors and visitors. Together with the renewed tightening of official and in-house travel restrictions, this will no longer allow the otherwise highly international Formnext to be carried out in the accustomed quality.

In turn, Sascha F. Wenzler – vice-president of the fair added:

We have been planning Formnext 2020 for months now. We have done this consistently and with the full support of our Exhibitor Advisory Board and with the highest level of protection and safety for the health of our exhibitors and visitors. In doing so, we examined the entire layout of the fair from scratch from the halls with all entrances, booths, to the aisles. We devised completely new stand construction packages, spacing and communication areas in accordance with the health and hygiene concept agreed with the authorities. Our disappointment at the end of the summer is all the greater now that we have to recognize that the course of the pandemic is destroying our efforts to make these personal encounters possible again

As a result, the fair was moved to the virtual space and was called Formnext Connect. It will start on November 10, 2020 and will offer a wide range of digital services:

  • presentations of exhibitors in online showrooms (products, information, videos, chat)
  • intelligent matching of trade fair participants with exhibitors, with the support of artificial intelligence
  • live broadcasts of lectures and webinars
  • online meetings with exhibitors.

Further details are expected to come soon. Soon – because in two months, we will see if it will be the beginning of something new and unique, or the end of the old, impossible to adapt in such different conditions…?


Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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