Transformative Technologies Converge on Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing will be among the transformative technologies on display at an innovative manufacturing event.
by Travis Egan, VP of Business Development at AMT
If you bring up the future of additive manufacturing (AM) in a room of ten AM users, you are going to hear twenty opinions. As the technology has developed, however, it is clear that AM is going to encroach on areas that have long been dominated by other processes, and the manufacturing world will have to adapt to this new reality.
Adapting to the new reality, however, has benefits. According to Tim Shinbara, Vice President of Technology for the Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT), AM technology not only transforms the process, but also the manufacturer. “Using additive fundamentally changes how you design a part,” he says. “AM design is not about what shapes are possible to manufacture, but about what is the best possible shape the part could be.” Parts that were once machined as solid, straight-edged pieces bracketed together can be printed as a single piece with complex geometries that can reduce weight without losing strength.
“Once part designers figure out the applications and design around the additive process, we will see more and more manufacturers adopt AM technology.”
Developments in AM over the past decade have been working towards full production. While this was once considered elusive, maybe even impossible, the industry is nearly ready, according to Shinbara. “Metal production is here,” he says. To him, the only hurdles left are in design. “Once part designers figure out the applications and design around the additive process, we will see more and more manufacturers adopt AM technology.” As technologies like generative design see further integration into the industry, leading to parts that can only be made additively, scale production via AM is inevitable.
One of the big questions left unanswered is how AM technology will integrate into the larger manufacturing world. Numerous startups involved with AM are developing technology that is promising for AM’s adoption, but are not native to or connected with the manufacturing industry at large. To address this issue, AMT planned the upcoming MT360, an event designed to build bridges between manufacturers, technology developers and investors. “Transformative technologies are breaking barriers to entry for many companies unfamiliar with the world of manufacturing,” says AMT President Doug Woods. “MT360 is designed to bring traditional manufacturers and OEMs into contact with companies developing software and other innovations that will be crucial to getting the most out of these technologies.” Additionally, the event will introduce venture-capital firms to both groups, encouraging investment and technological innovation across manufacturing.
These three groups – traditional manufacturers, non-traditional technology companies and venture-capital firms – are critical to forming a new ecosystem within the manufacturing world in which innovation can flourish, according to AMT. “The goal is for tech leaders to leave this event with knowledge they can leverage,” says Woods. “They should have a better understanding of their potential partners and a better understanding of how they can utilize these transformative technologies.”
In order to ensure the conference enables businesses to build profitable relationships with each other, the event is limited to the technology leaders within these companies. “We want this event to enable attendees to develop understandings with areas of industry they might not interact with on a regular basis,” says Woods. “That is why we want the event to focus on the people who can make these relationships flourish.” Registration is open today.
One of the primary features of MT360 will be the Tech Garages. These displays will showcase different combinations of transformative technologies used to overcome specific manufacturing challenges. The goal is to show how different technologies can be used together to create solutions in a real manufacturing environment. In addition to additive manufacturing, these technologies will include:
Augmented Reality - Any technology that uses digital displays to assist with manual tasks.
Cognitive Automation - A spectrum of AI- or data-related tools that enable automation systems to sense and react to information
Digital Thread - Electronic connections that allow manufacturing information to follow a product through its entire production process.
According to Woods, these technologies were chosen as the focus of the event because they are fundamentally altering the industry not only in how manufacturers approach their day-to-day tasks, but also in what companies serve the industry. They rely on advanced software to realize their potential, bringing new influencers into the manufacturing world.
Dr. Alexander Huber, Investment Manager of AM Ventures, says his company agreed to participate in MT360 because it sees that technologies like AM are poised to fully integrate into the industrial space. “Compared to the industry five years ago, young entrepreneurs know 3D printing and its opportunities much better,” he says. “They know exactly how to overcome many of the limitations.” His company’s mission is to foster the development of transformative technologies, and additive manufacturing in particular. “We invest across the entire additive supply chain, including equipment, materials, software and companies developing new applications.” According to him, profitability must come second to developing the additive ecosystem. “We can enable industrial applications because we are investing broadly in the success of the technology.” Huber says his company immediately saw the value of participating in MT360, as the event enables technology leaders to look beyond the confines of their own environments and think about how their technology provides value to the industry.
The MT360 event will take place June 18-20 in Santa Clara, California. Registration is open at mt360conference.com. All proceeds will go towards supporting the MTConnect open technical standard for manufacturing.