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A Coffee Break with: Stephen Holmes, DEVELOP3D Editor in Chief

“Product designers are ingenuitive and ideas-driven and can’t turn themselves off at night. They probably had ideas bubbling for years and the pandemic allowed those to hatch and just blow up.”

Back in March, we caught up with Stephen, Editor in Chief at DEVELOP3D to hear about his big ambitions to take the magazine to a broader audience and use its voice to amplify the coolest 3D design ideas emerging from all corners of the globe.

Ahead of the DEVELOP3D Live conference next week, we thought we’d revisit our conversation with Stephen.

DEVELOP3D Live is the UK’s leading product development technology conference. The event will be hosting 60 of the leading product development technology firms to give you the unique opportunity to get hands-on with the latest innovations all in one place.

Stephen, where did your passion for 3D engineering come from?

After my Master’s in journalism, I worked for Sellafield – the big nuclear decommissioning company in the UK. Even 14-15 years ago they were working with robotics and trying to solve really complex legacy problems using digital technologies.

It was fascinating working with the industry journalists, getting an idea of their outside view, but also understanding what the engineers on-site were doing every day.

How has DEVELOP3D changed since you joined 12 years ago?

We still produce a good old-fashioned paper magazine – the type you can roll up, throw in a bag for the plane and pull it out when you have a bit of time – it’s great.

But we all have a supercomputer in our pocket now so many of our readers prefer a digital version.

We use the website more as a news ticker, so professional designers and engineers on their lunch break can get a bit more information on the things they’re interested in.

What are your plans now you’re Editor in Chief?

I’m fascinated by the people behind the products, so I’m always on the search for interesting stories about people doing creative things – finding intriguing angles and really cool uses of technology to get around problems. Here in the UK particularly, we’re not good at talking about what we’re good at a lot of the time, so I’m keen to do more of that.

We’re also looking to grow our readership. We have a great base in the UK and a huge readership in the US, but we want to grow in emerging markets like India, where our reader numbers really grew during the pandemic.

A global perspective is really important to us; we’re particularly keen to get more of an idea of how people in different parts of the world are designing – places like Japan and Korea where the design scene is really exciting.

What’s your perspective on the last two years for the industry?

It’s been extraordinary. At an industry level, we’ve seen an acceleration of reshoring of manufacturing – bringing jobs and production back to the US or the UK.

On a more micro level, in terms of design progress, it’s been fascinating. We’ve seen the greatest number of new companies registered in the last year or so because people are having these amazing ideas. Designers at home with a 3D printer and internet have been collaborating with friends, talking about their concepts, launching with Kickstarters and crowdfunding, and starting up. It’s allowed people to pursue their inventions – and it’s really been a highlight of the pandemic. It means more manufacturing, more software needed, more development and more collaboration.

How do you feel about events being put back?

We can’t wait for DEVELOP3D Live to be back. Just that opportunity for thousands of people to congregate, who all work in the same software and technologies – it’s just brilliant.

Obviously, the challenge of running a live event is huge – the overheads, the risks – we’ve already had to put DEVELOP3D Live back a few times, but we’ve held off for so long now that we’re really excited to go ahead with it.

Tell us what to expect at DEVELOP3D Live

The most important thing for us is giving our readers the opportunity to meet one another, mingle and share ideas. Where else would you get jewellery designers, consumer device manufacturers, automotive, aerospace, and aircraft carrier designers chatting, sharing ideas and picking up useful information in the same room?

But we also have a great speaker lineup from across the globe, a lot of interest from big software vendors and we’re planning fantastic spaces for businesses to present their new ideas and launch their new products. It’s going to be terrific.

What have been your biggest ‘wow’ moments in terms of 3D design over the past few years?

One of the most interesting parts of our job is watching that curve of enlightenment – when new tech arrives and goes to the top of the hype cycle and then starts crawling back out. We saw it with 3D printing and now we’re seeing it with VR and AR headsets.

When they first came out the mainstream press went crazy for them, but they gave people headaches and really weren’t very good. We’re now at the point where the technology has been specialised in the same way as 3D printing and the new headsets are ridiculous. They cost the earth, but they’re amazing. That shift in a short space of time from terrible trash to incredible technology is probably my biggest ‘wow’.

But I’m also fascinated in how tools like SOLIDWORKS are affecting design. The best part of my job is seeing the reactions and passion from hardcore users about their work tools.

Maintaining a neutral stance towards the technologies you feature has always been very important to DEVELOP3D, why is that?

Our neutrality is critical to the work we do. People use different software and different tools and we need to be realistic about that – and also give smaller technologies the exposure that we know they deserve.

Engineers like to collaborate and share their experiences, and actually that’s why we love the SOLIDWORKS community.

People genuinely want to help each other, they want to learn, and it’s fun ‘non-work’ work. It’s why we can’t wait to be back at DEVELOP3D Live – because we all need to get together and have that human contact.

We couldn’t agree more – and that’s why DriveWorks will be exhibiting at DEVELOP3D Live.

Join us at DEVELOP3D Live 2022

It’s a tough time for businesses in the UK with many challenges to face. Being more efficient and more productive, without increasing costs is a high priority for most companies.

DEVELOP3D Live will provide you with ideas and inspiration for how to do more with less.

With over 60 exhibitors, covering software, hardware and services, DEVELOP3D Live is the perfect opportunity to get hands-on with the latest tech.

We’re looking forward to joining SOLIDWORKS CEO, Manish Kumar, as he shares real-world examples of designing for experience and how this approach has the power to improve lives, positively influence behaviour, and ignite our creativity like never before.

If you’re going to be there, come over and say hello. We’d love to tell you more about DriveWorks!

Find our team at stand A46 in the Exhibition Hall to learn more about digital transformation, design automation, sales configurators and CPQ for manufacturing.

To keep up with news on the event – and everything else in the world of product development technologies, subscribe to DEVELOP3D at

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