There’s no doubt that interest in additive manufacturing has reached new heights recently, but Steven Woods, senior project manager at GE Power & Water, noted that additive manufacturing techniques can be seen on ancient structures such as the Roman Colosseum. Although the technique itself is not new, the latest manufacturing processes using 3-D printers could change the entire industry as we know it. These ideas were presented during “Additive Manufacturing, The Next 10 Years: Hype Vs Reality” at CAMX on Wednesday by a four-person panel including Woods; Michael Ohadi, mechanical engineering professor at the University of Maryland, College Park; Girish Wable, technical project manager at Jabil; and Adam Clark, general manager at Tangible Solutions.
Though additive manufacturing has changed many processes, including prototyping, many experts in the field realize that these techniques are not meant for all projects. “I have a really hard time convincing leadership to put 3-D printed parts on my turbines,” Woods said. He knows that manufacturers can 3-D print anything they want, but also talked about an additive manufacturing “sweet spot” where it is the most economically feasible option: when complexity is high and quantities are low.
Looking to the future, Woods said a focus on design is most important. “The most fun part of additive manufacturing is working with a 22 year old that doesn’t have any of those ‘blocks’ in their brain,” he said. “These conventional techniques have boxed us in. We’ve got to figure out how to unlearn those and understand the additive manufacturing processes and some of the limitations.”
Clark also enjoys working with young designers as part of Tangible Solution’s creative hiring process. He says the current workforce must develop and adapt to designing with additive manufacturing’s capabilities. “All the people we’re interviewing right now are young – 21, 22, 18, we don’t really care. Bring in your design and show us what you’ve got,” Clark said. “We’ve never asked for a resume because we don’t know what your resume needs to say. We don’t know what degree is a great degree for additive manufacturing right now.”
Clark believes additive manufacturing’s potential begs the question out of his designers: “Are you a free thinker or not?”