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Manufacturing Matters

Check in for the highlights, headlines, and hijinks that matter to manufacturing. These lean news items keep you updated on the latest developments.
by AMT
Mar 26, 2024


Additive Is Disruptive, but …

By using additive manufacturing for part design and production, certain benefits have emerged which have proved valuable to the end user – including lighter weight, increased efficiency, less material, and increased robustness. If we take a step back and look at the full life-cycle, we notice our underestimation of the importance of software in these processes. Each phase faces disjointed applications that often require intermediate files to export, import, and interrupt.

The biggest strength of additive manufacturing is the ability to iterate quickly. This poses a problem for disconnected application and manufacturing processes; if we add internal and external variations that change a part’s design throughout the process, the scope of this problem scales quickly as disconnected applications hurry to “catch up.” This highlights additive’s major weakness: its lack of standards. Preexisting standards are being used as bandaids, but this is not scalable for the entire industry and supply chain. No, creating industry-wide standards is not the sexy solution, but it is likely the one answer to rule them all.


The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Some of the over 389,000 machinists in the United States are grappling with manufacturing's transformative leap into additive manufacturing (AM). This echoes a similar scenario of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when machinists shifted their thinking from linear to asynchronous processes to get the most out of new, flexible automation technologies. Today, manufacturers ready to maximize AM will need to upskill their workforce to learn design fundamentals for additive, where parts are built layer by layer, allowing for complex geometries, reduced material waste, and the potential for customization and rapid prototyping.

This evolutionary parallel underscores a perennial narrative within the sector: the vital need for continuing education and adjustment. The adoption of AM will continue and accentuates the need for training in digital skills and the incorporation of novel technologies – all positioned against the backdrop of a looming skills gap that threatens to leave 2.1 million manufacturing positions unfilled by 2030. This scenario amplifies the urgency for upskilling the workforce in emergent manufacturing techniques, highlighting the need to bridge this divide to preserve the nation's industrial competitiveness.


The Secret Is Out: You Belong at the Student Summit

Spread the word about the 2024 Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS to your local schools, STEM and robotics clubs, scout troops, and everyone you know: Registration is open and free to students and educators of all levels.

This isn’t just building talent pools. We're inspiring students, schools, families, and whole communities to learn, grow, and seize the opportunity our jobs present, all through one-of-a-kind hands-on experiences, career insights, and a chance to connect with awesome folks in our industry – and if you’re reading this, that’s you!

So, tell your friends, call your schools, and let's make this summit a big deal together. Your shoutout can make a real impact on both our industry and community. For more information, visit IMTS.com/smartforce.


DOD Release First-Ever Defense Industrial Base Strategy

In January, the Department of Defense (DOD) released the National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS). A first of its kind, the 59-page NDIS focuses on creating a road map for how the DOD prioritizes and modernizes the U.S. industrial base to meet the challenging and changing global landscape. The strategy lays out four key areas critical to building a modernized defense: resilient supply chains, workforce readiness, flexible acquisition, and economic deterrence.

The NDIS, which began in March 2023, is the product of months of meetings with stakeholders from across industry and government. A key component of the strategy is to continue this public-private collaboration. The DOD is expected to release the implementation plan before the end of March.

Advanced manufacturing, including additive technology, figures prominently in the NDIS. The DOD released its National Defense Strategy in 2002 and its Additive Manufacturing Strategy in 2021.


Speed Bumps to Global Adoption of Additive

Additive manufacturing has seen nice global growth, primarily in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and defense industries. Prototyping, tooling, and part production have all been positively affected in certain applications. Yet some obstacles remain to accelerated global adoption, not the least of which is regulatory and standards compliance. Here we refer to industry-specific regulations, quality standards, certifications, and international trade and export controls. International collaboration and harmonization of regulatory frameworks and standards are needed if the global adoption of 3D printing technology is to reach its potential. Industry stakeholders, regulatory agencies, standardization bodies, and policymakers must work together on a global level to develop clear guidelines, streamline certification processes, and promote best practices for the responsible use of additive manufacturing technology. Innovation and adoption will be throttled by the lack of these frameworks. Let’s not let that happen and keep our foot on the gas.

To read the rest of the Additive Issue of MT Magazine, click here.

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