Manufacturing is a rapidly evolving beast, driven by a new era of digital manufacturing. 3D scanning and design, along with additive manufacturing (AM) and other high tech production processes, have the potential to significantly change the landscape of manufacturing. Final products can be built more quickly, at lower cost, and with less waste than at any other time in history.
Lockheed Martin wants to seize the digital manufacturing zeitgeist and squeeze it for all it’s worth. The company envisions a “digital tapestry” of production in which every step of the process of creating new goods is a single strand. Its tool of choice is called Model Based Engineering (MBE), an integrated toolset that updates and maintains digital data from start to finish. Continue reading
In recent years, 3D printing has been hailed by many media outlets as a harbinger of a manufacturing revolution that will usher in a custom-built world.
While acknowledging that the news reports are a few decades late, the keynote speakers who opened RAPID 2013 on June 11 in Pittsburgh didn’t exactly disagree with those claims.
“It is truly vital to engage in advanced manufacturing opportunities,” said Brett Lambert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, U.S. Department of Defense. “The world has changed and is changing as we gather here today.”
Michael F. Molnar, chief manufacturing officer, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), agreed with Lambert, but said the country needs to focus on advanced manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) is one way to improve that focus. Molnar said NAMII and three new institutes for manufacturing innovation that will be founded this year, are trying to bridge the gap between research and commercialization.
Edward Morris, director of NAMII, said the institute envisions widespread adoption of additive manufacturing as increasing U.S. competitiveness, revealing new and better products and manufacturing techniques, and spinning off new companies with highly skilled workers. That’s a tall order, but even after more than 20 years, there’s a feeling at the show that additive manufacturing has just scratched the surface of its potential.
Initial attendance figures showed 2,700 people, including exhibitors from nearly 100 companies, traveled to the conference this year. That’s up from less than 1,500 attendees last year and about 1,300 in 2011.
The show floor backed up those early numbers, with crowded aisles and busy exhibitors. Conor and Deirdre MacCormack from Mcor Technologies said their business continues to expand, especially after launching a deal with Staples Printing Systems Division to launch a new 3D printing service called “Staples Easy 3D,” online via the office store.
The booths at Stratasys, 3D Systems, Envisiontec, EOS and others were likewise packed with attendees getting a close-up look at different additive manufacturing and scanning technologies. Surprisingly, there was no sign of MakerBot, which made a point of targeting the engineering industry with its MakerBot Replicator 2.
In any case, the increased media attention seems to have brought the benefits of rapid prototyping and custom manufacturing to light to many new people, but it’s still just getting started.
Read our coverage of day two of the RAPID 2013 Conference & Exhibition here.
The sheer number of stories floating around these days with the words “3D printing” and “gun” in the title is pretty astonishing. You’d think all additive manufacturing (AM) systems did was spit out firearms. Yes, Rapid Ready has done some stories on that topic, but I’m happier by far to cover stories in which AM helps save lives.
Even when it comes to national defense, AM has more to offer than figuring out better ways to blow stuff up. UK firm Design Reality has recently put 3D printing to use to design a better General Service Respirator – more commonly known as a gas mask – for the British military. Continue reading
In the course of my diligent efforts to keep you good people up to date on the state of additive manufacturing (AM), I come across many interesting news items. I’ll gather them up every so often and present them in a Rapid Ready Roundup (like this one). You can find the last Roundup here.
Let’s start this Roundup with an update from the US government about its manufacturing initiative. Apparently NAMII has been considered a success, as the White House has announced the launch of competitions for three new manufacturing innovation institute sites. This represents $200 million in additional funding for the project and President Obama has continued to call for congress to approve the investment of $1 billion to complete 15 sites nationally. Continue reading