The world of additive manufacturing (AM), commonly referred to as 3D printing, is quickly changing. The technology allows companies to manufacture products faster, with greater variation, and often with entirely new forms and functions.
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Most anyone who’s worked in a machine shop for any length of time has at some point attended a trade show or machine tool distributor’s open house. There they see canned demonstrations of CNC machines busily carving up chunks of brass, mild steel, or aluminum into business card holders and tic-tac-toe games.
The bane of modern engineering is complexity. One promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning is helping engineers to use complex tools and harness vast data sets effectively.
The state of manufacturing is always a combination of tried and true methods; improvements (sometimes dramatic) in traditional processes; and brand new technology few people even conceived of a few years ago.
Rod Zimmerman of cutting tool manufacturer Iscar Metals lives in a pleasant green zone in a Fort Worth suburb. Yet within a half mile of his home, an oil company has sunk a vertical hole 7,500′ (2,286 m) deep, from which it has splayed nine lateral lines, each going about half a mile.
There is no shortage of competition in a global market. As a manufacturer trying to get ahead of the pack, automation can help with problems like a limited skilled labor force, quality control issues and suboptimal throughput. But the high initial cost and extended implementation time can be deterrents.
Manufacturers are facing shrinking product lifecycles with frequently changing customer demands. As a result, they need agile production and flexible factory layouts that can easily be modified whenever needed.
Cyber criminals are increasingly setting their sights on today’s digitized manufacturing industry as an entry point into government and commercial supply chains.
As with any digital transformation process, the devil is in the details, and there are many potential pitfalls that can derail projects.
Technology came to the aid of Detroit Tigers management when they hoped to recapture some of the magic of the 1968 Detroit Tigers’ World Series-winning season. The 50-year anniversary celebration, held September 7-9, 2018, included on-field festivities in which the 16 surviving members of the 1968 team were presented with replicas of the World Series’ trophy.