It’s AMUG 2017. This year’s conference is the biggest AMUG so far. In addition to conferences, there are more opportunities to visit with the developers of the latest additive manufacturing technology.
As he often does, Todd Grimm (T.A. Grimm & Associates) gave the keynote address about developments in the industry. Noted Grimm, there is so much development going on, you can’t cover it all. So here are a few developments to keep an eye on.
One of the bigger issues facing additive manufacturing is habitual practices and thinking. With additive, it’s taking products designed for subtractive or injection molding and seeing if you can use additive instead. Rather than try to take what works for subtractive, look for a design challenge that is not something you would normally do. As Todd mentioned, “Look for what’s different, what’s a problem and see if you can apply AM to that.”
Grimm thinks we are entering a new phase of the Gartner hype cycle. “We are now in the slope of enlightenment portion of the curve, and are in the age of innovation.”
A number of developments are coming. Because of certain non-disclosure agreements, Grimm couldn’t go into more detail. But new tools, new research, new technologies are coming.
While you’re waiting for those developments, don’t overlook what is currently available. Vendors are honing existing tools, which means they are making things faster, getting more throughput, and better control over the build.
The question of whether this industry is ripe for consolidation often comes up. Notes Grimm, consolidation will come, but it will be more the result of not following a good business model than a problem with the technology. Consolidation will come around industries, applications, and materials.
The trends to watch are: the number of systems working with metals continues to expand. Materials, in general, will undergo a boom. More materials, more varieties—this area will be a major focus of additive over the next few years. Another trend is bigger and faster deposition. A system from Oak Ridge National Labs and Ingersoll deposits 1000 lb of material per hour! And finally, look for better, easier to use software targeted at the needs of additive manufacturing.
The outlook is bright for additive manufacturing. And you will see more acceptance of this technology.