APMM Biennial Conference

APMM Conferences are held biennially in early spring of even-numbered years. While we have members from around the world, the majority of our membership - which includes member corporations, small shops and individuals - is spread across the US. You’ll see in Our History that we have gone from the West Coast in San Jose, CA in 2014, to the Southeast in Greenville, SC in 2016, to the Midwest in Grand Rapids, MI, in 2018.  APMM is planning to meet in the Northwest in Seattle, WA in 2020.

We plan our gatherings in different regions of the country in a rotating fashion. This way we are able to “visit your area” making it easier for our members to participate in conferences. This allows us to visit local model shops for our high-value technical tours, and to access presenters and subject matter experts for our workshops, from that given region.

As you review our most recent conference in Grand Rapids, you’ll see that our events are a blend of learning, sharing, hands-on activities, and time for networking and social interaction. For many model makers who work alone or in smaller organizations, conferences are a rare opportunity to meet and get to know other professionals and colleagues. Strategic alliances, friendships and professional networks are formed and strengthened that make the world of model making more supportive and mutually beneficial.

See what we did in Grand Rapids and plan to come join us in Seattle!

Grand Rapids, Michigan
March 16 – March 19, 2018 

Our 2018 Conference in Grand Rapids featured local area toursworkshop sessions and presentationsnetworking and social events, an expo with vendors and suppliers and a great keynote speaker! We also hosted our biennial Student Model Making Competition. The winners took home prizes, but the rest of us got to see some amazing models made by up-and-coming model makers. 

We hope you were there to experience the excitement and inspiration found at a Conference of model makers, but if you weren't... here's some of what took place.

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The APMM After Hours…

As we've done at recent Conferences, we've taken an after-hours tour to makerspaces in the local area. This time, we were able to visit the Geek Group in Grand Rapids, where we were treated to the Grand Tour of their 43,000 square foot facility.  Included in our tour was a visit to the High Voltage Lab to see Geek Group’s Tesla coil in action. Between the tools, video labs, equipment, workshops, materials, robotics, spare parts and shared know-how, it was a maker's dream! There was even a gift shop to buy some of the items members create there.

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A Big THANK YOU to Our Event Sponsors:


Technical and Model Shop Tours

Our Friday and Monday tours are a full-day opportunity to see the inside of model shops and technical sites of interest that you'd otherwise never get to see... and there's good food, too! 

Tour A - Steelcase and Meyer May House

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Tour B - Herman Miller and Gerald R. Ford Museum

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Tour C - Amway Corporation and Kendall College of Art & Design

** Do you have photos from this tour? Please send to [email protected]!



Tour D - Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, World Class Prototypes and Tiara Yachts

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2018 Keynote Speaker in Grand Rapids
Markus McKenna, Global Design Director at Steelcase

See video of his full presentation here:


An Interview with a Designer – The APMM Speaks with Markus McKenna

As a design professional, Markus McKenna feels that prototypes are critically important to his creative process. He says he spends a great deal of time on a computer, which he considers wonderful, but virtual models are not wonderful for judging scale.

“Without a physical model, it is very difficult to experience the mechanisms that many of our products include,” McKenna says.

Growing up on a farm in the middle of Illinois, McKenna was accustomed to having the ubiquitous John Deere tractor around. In fact, the tractor was his first thoughtful encounter with Industrial Design. He says he’s always been drawn to objects – particularly people-sized objects.

As the Global Design Director at Steelcase, McKenna says he tends not to be a process-y person when it comes to designing objects. “When I think about ideas, I work with a large team of designers and model makers. We think a lot about where the ideas come from, and what conditions surround them, he explains.” In the office furniture and office space design business, conditions like repetitive physical motion and reclining posture are vital to the success of a product.

“Sometimes our ideas come out fully formed,” he says. “But they must fester and cause sores” in order to be fruitful. First they sketch, but then “model making is the quickest way to actualize an idea.” He believes strongly that the best results come from a group of talented people each doing what they do best.

“It affects me profoundly,” explains McKenna, “ that there ought to be a reason why we bother to make something. The product ought to be really good or meaningful.” He says sometimes the product incorporates new materials and processes, but often new materials and processes inspire new products.

“We try to incorporate new materials or processes,” he says. “We ask the process what it needs.” As an example, he asks, “What would 3D printing want to do?”

McKenna believes that “Design is user-centered, but that’s only one way to innovate.” One product line in the Turnstone corral is the Bassline table frame, allowing customers to add their own table top. McKenna says, “The subversive thing about Bassline is that it requires our customers to co-design with us.” That surfboard in the garage, the barn door you salvaged? It becomes the unique coffee table in your office space. Now, that’s meaningful.




The networking and social events are important aspects of our Conferences - a great way to get to know fellow model makers from across the country and around the world... and perhaps win a cool prize!

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Jill Kenik checks out the door prizes brought by Nike

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Bruce Willey displays prizes for emcee Craig Leese


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Winner of Herman Miller chair is John Erickson of Bose    Winner of Steelcase chair is Alex Pelzek of Midwest Prototyping


Workshop Presentations

Arduino - Introduction to Microcontrollers
assets/Conf2018/Arduino 101 - Lakeshore Makers.pdf

Arduino - Exploring Microcontrollers
assets/Conf2018/Arduino 102 - Lakeshore Makers.pdf

 Have a workshop presentation to share? Let us know



The 25 Talents of the Model Maker activity (commemorating 25 years that the APMM has been around) got us looking around for the easily-recognizable "talents" placed in different locations around the conference center.  It coincided with a workshop discussing the 25 Talents, presented by Hal Chaffee and Bruce Willey














Vendor Expo

Some of the most important suppliers to the model making world brought their products, equipment and supplies. Conversations ranged from problem solving to exploring innovation.