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Success in South Africa

November 15, 2004

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 09:48

Less than two weeks ago, South Africa served as host to an international conference on rapid product development, with an emphasis on rapid prototyping and related applications. More than 100 guests from 13 countries attended the three-day RAPDASA 2004 Conference & Exhibition. RAPDASA is the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa, a non-profit group that was launched four years ago at the first conference. Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) in Bloemfontein, South Africa was the organizer and host of the fifth annual event.

The conference was something very special for each and every person in attendance. Without exception, every attendee (spouses included) was treated like a king or queen. One of the equipment manufacturers in attendance told me that the organizers took care of him and others the way that he wishes his customers were treated. What a compliment! Credit goes to Prof. Deon de Beer, Ms. Elma Viljoen, and Ms. Jenny van Rensburg who worked tirelessly for months in preparation for the event.

Also satisfying was the strong support given by several equipment and material manufacturers from around the world. Among the 16 exhibitors were Beijing Yinhua (China), EOS (Germany), Extrude Hone ProMetal (USA), GOM (Germany), Huntsman (USA), Solidscape (USA), Stratasys (USA), and Z Corp. (USA). Senior managers and executives from these companies participated in the first ever international OEM (original equipment manufacturer) panel session in South Africa. The two-hour session addressed questions such as “In five and 10 years, what percentage of the machines that are sold will be used for the direct manufacture of series production parts?” and “How can we overcome the problem of moving color CAD data to RP systems without the overhead that users now encounter?” These and other questions prompted a lively discussion.

South Africa is in a remote region of the world, but this did not matter. People were happy to travel to the country because of the opportunities that it currently presents. Product development and manufacturing are on the rise with the automotive industry leading the way. RP system sales in South Africa nearly doubled in the past 12 months, from 15 to 29 systems. The exhibition did not draw thousands of people, as is the case at large events, but to the exhibitors, that was okay and certainly not expected. The interest and appetite for new systems was high among those who attended. Most of the exhibitors who I spoke with were certain that the investment they made in coming to the event would translate into new business.

The organization of the conference, exhibition, meals, social events, and other activities could not have been better. Everything was conducted with the highest degree of quality standards and professionalism. And, you’d always receive a smile from the friendly and helpful South Africans. My sincere congratulations to the entire CUT team for conducting a world-class event that attendees will hold in high regard for many years to come.