Do You Conference?

APMM member and current Secretary Bruce Willey was present at the very first APMM Conference in Redwood City, CA and is a veteran of many of our gatherings since then. He offers insight into why he's attended so many and what he finds of value.


Do You Conference?

Submitted by Bruce Willey


Two score and four years ago, our forerunners brought forth upon the Bay Area a new organization, conceived in attaining professional recognition of model making as an integral part of the design process, and dedicated to the proposition that all people who create models are equally awesome.


It was a bold and daring move to see if people from the architecture, transportation, consumer electronics, sporting goods, appliance, legal, toy, film and other industries, as well as education, and even the government could get together and make something new happen, but they did and here we are, almost a quarter century later. The three objectives of the APMM were to promote the use of three-dimensional models in industry, science and government; to promote effective communication between designers and model makers; and to support the advancement of model making tools and technologies.  It was also intended for the APMM, through the MILE, newsletters and conferences, to facilitate networking and information exchange among the members, and to use our collective demand for similar goods and services across all of our industries to get things better-suited to our needs and to get them for less money.



2016 Conference in Greenville, SC

The first conference in Redwood City, CA introduced a lot of model makers to SLA and SLS technology, 3D computer modelling and CAD/CAM, among other technologies. It also introduced a lot of us to completely different types of model making that some of us had never experienced before, like mimicking landscapes, sculpting clay or foam or building forced-perspective models for film. Most importantly, it introduced us to each other and some of our workplaces.  We expected to see new solutions for the new demands we were facing, but many of us were surprised to see that other members had old solutions to old problems we’d been facing for a long time. I’m pretty sure almost half of what people learned at the conference was picked up in aside discussion between presentations and during tours.



2010 Conference in Boston

Subsequent conferences, the newsletter and the MILE really changed model making for a lot of us. It may be hard for people to remember or even realize how amazingly useful the MILE was on a weekly basis for many. In the days before almost every single topic in the world got its own website, YouTube page or Subreddit, the MILE was a great place to get a team of experts to answer your questions. It was a place we could find like-minds and vent about poor 3D printer servicing or make fun of design trends like the Elliptical Everything fad of the 90’s. The APMM newsletters were good for in-depth coverage of a topic, presented by and for model makers. It was also a way to learn about products through model maker-targeted ads and to get a glimpse of who was hiring or looking for work through the Classifieds. Conferences were almost the only chance for many to see demonstrations of equipment and new products, but also where the independent shop owner or a student could learn things in great detail, like how to model a backlit screen or simulate a chrome finish, from the people who worked for companies like Apple or Whirlpool that were expending huge amounts of money and effort to achieve those goals.



Getting creative at the D School ~ 2014 Conference

2014 Conference, San Jose CA ~ (photos by Will Strange)

I’ve been to about half the conferences since that first one so I’ve attended scores of workshops, seen or heard about hundreds of products we could use, visited dozens of model shops all around the country, and heard numerous keynote addresses. Much of this has been very vital and all of it was at least interesting and informative. What really makes any of these conference activities worthwhile though, is experiencing them with other model makers.  Finding out what your peers think about claims for the products or the feasibility of a solution, or finding out from the actual shop worker why they chose a certain piece of equipment or a method of organizing their materials and tools really justifies gathering together periodically to help each make our work, and sometimes our lives, better.



2004 Conference, Naperville, IL

Whether it’s answering questions, submitting articles or giving presentations, people in our field seem to realize that if we share information freely, even among potential competitors, the benefits outweigh any potential downside. The APMM is a vast resource of specialized knowledge and experience. You can certainly get a lot from it by posting things on the MILE, reading the e-newsletter, and liking our Facebook page, but you really aren’t taking full advantage of the organization if you don’t go to at least the occasional conference and have a talk (and maybe a beer) with another model maker. So, see you in Grand Rapids!



Pizza! Beer! Model Makers! (photo by Will Strange)



To read more about past gatherings, go to: APMM Conference History   


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