By   Penny Brown, Director, AMT Marketing & Communications

The current state of manufacturing puts a lot of emphasis on both agility and customization. As just one example, the current model of the Ford F-150 pickup is now available with 600,000 variations, allowing a consumer to get their own “made-to-order” truck. As customers (and especially millennials) demand these unique options for their products, the manufacturing behind it must adapt.

Thankfully, technology is giving manufacturers the ability to make these custom parts and products. But it isn’t just a big manufacturer like Ford. Smaller companies and even individuals are using technologies like 3D printing, software, and community maker shops like TechShop and Fab Lab to bring their designs from idea to reality.

Has your company been successful in finding new approaches to cost-effective, low-volume manufacturing? MForesight, a “think-and-do” tank focused on next-generation technologies for U.S. manufacturing, has announced a competition to find manufacturing technologies that support a “democratization of manufacturing” – innovations that will increase the variety and value of items designed and manufactured cost-effectively in the United States.

Even better – you can win cash prizes! The competition offers three categories for entry, each of which offers a $10,000 prize for the winner.

MForesight’s description: “The competition is seeking technologies in hardware, software, collaborative systems and educational tools that could, with 3 to 5 years of additional development, lower barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses to increase the variety and value of items manufactured.”

The competition closes on June 1. 

Complete details are available at Good luck!

A challenge for students, too

Attendees at the recent [MC]2 Conference in Dallas had an opportunity to meet the winners from the first MTConnect Student Challenge competition, idea creation. But as you bring interns on board in the coming months, and as other students you know are looking for senior projects and other ways to demonstrate their classroom knowledge, point them to the ongoing application development competition as part of the student challenge. 

The challenge seeks ideas that are cost-effective and easy to implement, especially for small- to medium-sized manufacturers with limited resources. As you saw in this column last month, the winner of the idea creation competition used a Raspberry Pi to act as a machine monitoring device. Students are encouraged to use their creative thinking and technology know-how to help foster better digital operations for manufacturing.

Check out all the details at

Will you be entering either of these competitions? Email me at