DEVELOP3D Live 2012

By Kevin Quigley

After many years of following the exploits of Deelip across the globe visiting exotic conferences and locations, today it was my turn. I visited Coventry.

To be precise, it was the first DEVELOP3D Live event held at Warwick University (in Coventry). As the owner of a small product design business I rarely have the time to visit trade shows and conferences, but the combination of location (a hour away from home), duration (one day)  and stellar line up of speakers meant this was one I had to attend.

As a first event, no one really knew what to expect. Looking at the line up, it was an eclectic mix of design practitioners and industry figures – much like the DEVELOP3D magazine in fact. The event was split into a conference with two speaker streams, with an ongoing exhibition programme  featuring some of the leading lights from the product development sector.


The Conference

As I am sure the DEVELOP3D team will be posting all the talks online I won’t go into too much detail except to mention a few highlights.

Picture courtesy @prldesign

The event kicked off with a talk by Jason Lopes of Legacy Effects where he described his company’s workflows and use of digital and physical technologies. Not many speakers open up by strolling across a stage and dropping an Iron Man helmet prop down! Epic in every sense of the word.

The next speaker, Kevin Schneider of Autodesk, spoke about “Modelling the Future”. This was one of those talks where you think it is a corporate PR show until they drop a bombshell. That bombshell was showing Fusion, running on a Mac, with TSplines tools built in. As a long time TSplines watcher and tsElements user (with SolidWorks) this was impressive. I had not expected to see a Tsplines integration this year, but according to the speaker, Fusion with Tsplines tools will be available for Mac OSX on the Autodesk labs site in the next month or so.

Alice Taylor, CEO of MakieLab was next up, giving a very interesting insight into the toy industry and how her company is trying to shake things up in the doll market using 3D printing to customize dolls and other toys.

The next session featured Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD describing the background and vision for the company. If I am honest I’m not truly convinced about GrabCAD as a business model, and the talk didn’t really change that. To my simplistic view it seems to be setting itself up as a global engineering recruitemnet service. Hardi’s closing statement was “our vision is to see all products available on GrabCAD” (or something like that). I’m not sure why you would want that?

Following this we had Mark Sanders, a UK based designer behind many iconic products. Now I know Mark from my days at the Royal College of Art where he was one of my tutors, so it was great to see what he had been up to in the intervening 20 years! Mark is truly a designer’s designer. In an inspiring talk he described the development processes behind many of his products, explaining his vision of a unified engineering and design environment.

After a talk by Chris Sherwin, Head of Sustainability at Seymour Powell, where he discussed options for workflows incorporating sustainability, we moved onto Gustavo Fontana, of Bose.

I think it was generally agreed by those I spoke to that Gustavo has the dream job in product design! He heads up an advanced design teal at Bose, with a remit to come up with future products as concepts. Very entertaining and looking around the audience, a lot of nodding heads as he described workflows and actual needs of the designer – as opposed to what CAD vendors think we need.

Now before I get onto the final session there were a couple of sessions by PTC and Siemens PLM that only highlighted (to me) how different  so called enterprise CAD companies think. The first session in the morning from PTC outlined “The future of Product Design tools” – guess what? Social Media, The Cloud, AnyBOM and something else I can’t recall. Not very inspiring PTC. None of it was new. DriveWorks has had AnyBOM functionality for years, links to social media/forums etc built into the CAD app? New for PTC maybe, nobody else. The Cloud, where PTC are “investigating options”. Interesting.

The Siemens talk was a series of corporate videos which I have to be honest I phased out during to check my emails.

Now those reading this might think I’m anti PTC or Siemens but that is definitely not the case. Neither company mentioned anything to do with geometry or shape modeling, despite both having possibly the best tools on the market. Instead they emphasise the non CAD side. Why? I really wanted to see Freestyle, or the great tools in NX.

We also had a session from EOS, makers of Selective Laser Sintering machines, outlining some current technologies and looking at work they are doing with Digital Forming on customization of standard designs. I must admit I watched this and was drawing parallels to what 3D Systems are doing with Cubify – the difference being that the 3D Systems API is open, Digital Forming’s is not.

The final session saw Blake Courter of Spaceclaim giving his personal take on what makes Spaceclaim unique, running through a few interesting case studies. Blake is a guy who is passionate about his product, and it showed.

The final session of the day was the one that many were waiting for. Brad Peebler, CEO of Luxology, gave an inspiring talk about how he sees the world of entertainment and CAD/engineering merging. Now we are Modo users and SolidWorks users so for myself and my colleague this talk was aimed squarely at us. Brad is one of those speakers you listen to and think – this guy really understands it.

In describing collaboration on one of his homegrown projects Brad gave the crown the quote of the day  “I guess email is our PLM“…..which certainly raised a few smiles in the crowd.

After the final talk there was a panel discussion session featuring many of the speakers where they discussed some of the leading issues in the CAD industry right now – such as Direct Modelling, The Cloud and interface issues. This was quite interesting in that it showed the main vendors side by side explaining away their own slant on the topic.


The Exhibition

Running through the day there was a small exhibition running featuring many of the speaker’s companies, or VARs and other specialists. To be honest this side of things was of less interest to me, aside from the opportunity to meet some people in the flesh I have “known” for many years via forums or emails. From the exhibitor’s side everyone I spoke to said it was a great event, because all the attendees were either decision makers or key influencers.



Overall, DEVELOP3D  Live is a unique format. The single day conference  is ideal for people like me, and indeed, everyone I spoke to agreed with this. The mix of practitioners and vendors also makes for an entertaining event, and certainly having some high ranking well known industry figures helped with this I have not been to any other big industry event like SolidWorks World but speaking personally I would rather attend an event like DEVELOP3D Live, with its balanced (often opposing) views from different vendors and users. I think Blake Courter summed up nicely the event – the industry needs something like this.

The bottom line, is the bottom line. From an attendee’s point of view it was a great day, and one I would definitely attend again. From an exhibitor’s point of view, the attendees are all focused buyers – the exhibition space was buzzing all day (to the extent that I didn’t get to speak to a few people I was hoping to see).

The choice of venue was also excellent. Warwick Arts Centre is on the university of Warwick campus. An hour away from me (and central to many) it certainly beats any London location with easy access, free parking and good facilities. What is not to like?

So what about disappointments? Aside from not having the time to meet up with the DEVELOP3D team in person (Martyn was compere, no idea where Al had skulked off to but I did see his red checked lumberjack shirt and cloth cap a couple of times!) the biggest disappointment was simply not having time to go into some things in more detail. I liked the 20 minute presentation format but for some software demos you do need more (for example I would have loved to have seen SpaceClaim in action live and the Fusion T Splines stuff). Another big one was the lack of presence of the UK leader – SolidWorks. Sure we had  a big VAR but nothing on the conference programme and no official presence. I was also hoping to see some of the latest budget 3D printing solutions (the Cube).

So next year I’ll look forward to seeing Deelip, taking along Cube 2 giving a talk on making millions from 3D printing.

The final words – great event, and if you are in the UK, if you go to one event related to design and engineering, make it this one.


About Kevin Quigley

Kevin is owner of Quigley Design and goes by @quigdes on Twitter. Established in 1990, Quigley Design is a product design and development company offering a personal, professional service to manufacturers, brands and innovators across the world.