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Collaboration is Key for the Next Big Additive Manufacturing Leap

Jennifer Fielding
By Jennifer Fielding, PhD Section Chief, Composite Performance and Applications, Air Force Research Laboratory, SME Member Since 2014

My first experience with additive manufacturing was 10 years ago when I managed a project to develop a 3D-printed, remotely piloted aircraft. Within this program, a 3D-printed parts producer, that mainly printed prototypes at the time, collaborated with a university and an aerospace systems manufacturer. Additive manufacturing enabled a complete redesign of the structure with conformal lattices within the skins of the fuselage and customized internal fixtures.

The team significantly reduced the weight of the system and the time to manufacture by building upon each other’s strengths and experiences in design, materials, aerodynamics and software development. A few years later, in 2012, I had the opportunity to launch America Makes, the public-private partnership on additive manufacturing, in partnership with other government, industry and academic leaders. The mission of America Makes is to promote widespread adoption of additive manufacturing, and trusted collaborations continue to be essential to achieving that goal.

The growth of the industry in the last 10 years has surpassed many expectations. The 2012 Wohlers Report predicted global revenues for the industry in 2020 would be $5.2 billion. In 2018, the same annual report cited that the industry was already at $7 billion, greatly exceeding expectations. Current estimates show further strong growth, with Statistica most recently citing that additive manufacturing will be a $50 billion industry by 2025.

Today, additive manufacturing has become the process of choice for many direct part applications. About 43 percent of product and service revenue are currently from final part production (Wohlers Report 2018). Looking back 10 years ago, this number was less than 5 percent.

Having attended SME’s RAPID + TCT event over the last 10 years, I have seen this shift. It is fun to walk the exhibit hall and see the latest 3D-printed bracelet, fidget spinner or custom bobblehead, but what really excites me is seeing new products being implemented in highly regulated industries such as medical, aerospace, power generation, and automotive. Industrial-grade additive manufacturing has moved beyond hype as adoption continues to grow.

Many of the most recent players entering the industry, such as Desktop Metal, Carbon and HP, are focusing on low-cost, high-rate manufacturing aimed at these key markets. Others are moving additive manufacturing “out of the box” for the creation of large, complex structures through partnering with experienced machine tool manufacturers and robotics/automation companies such as Cincinnati Inc., Ingersoll Machine Tools, and Thermwood.

Product implementation will continue when additive manufacturing variability is minimized, materials and process specifications are available, quality controls are in place, and design engineers have the material property data and software tools needed to design parts. Also key to the maturity of additive manufacturing are industry standards that rely on experts collaborating to write them.

A featured panel discussion at RAPID + TCT will showcase lessons learned and best practices with unique case studies from companies that have successfully industrialized additive manufacturing. Another offering at RAPID + TCT is a career forum where you can learn how to bring the very best talent onto your team.

RAPID + TCT is the place to see 3D printing taking the leap from prototyping to final part production, with over 375 technology providers exhibiting the newest materials, processes, design software, inspection, and postprocessing technologies. Each year, the Additive Manufacturing Community advisors award the RAPID + TCT Exhibitor Innovation Award to recognize the most groundbreaking new product or service with industry-changing potential.

In 2018, the community recognized MELD Manufacturing Corp., which developed a solid-state, open-atmosphere process to additively manufacturing complex metallic structures. I am excited to see what new innovations will be selected for this honor at RAPID + TCT this year.

We are always interested in new industry experts joining our team, so contact me or any of the other Additive Manufacturing Community advisors if you are interested in shaping the future of additive manufacturing in collaboration with SME. Our community is strong, and we can continue to progress when diverse teams work together. Join us at the Cobo Center in Detroit May 20-23 to explore the future of additive manufacturing and find a new collaborator to make your next big leap!

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Registration is Open for NAMRC 47

SME’s 47th North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC 47) is the premier international forum on manufacturing research and is co-located with ASME’s Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC). NAMRC 47 will be held June 10-14 at Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering in Erie, Pa. Join more than 800 researchers and manufacturers from around the world to share the latest manufacturing innovations and developments in manufacturing, cyber-physical systems and materials processing. To register, visit

2019 International Honor Award Winners

SME and its International Awards & Recognition Committee have selected five prominent manufacturing professionals as the recipients of the 2019 SME International Honor Awards. These five awards recognize significant contributions to the field of manufacturing engineering in the areas of manufacturing technologies, processes, technical writing, research, and management.

2019 International Honor Award winners:

  • Eli Whitney Productivity Award — Robert X. Gao, PhD, FSME, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. Gao, who has been an SME member since 2005, was recognized for improving the observability in manufacturing processes, leading to a better understanding of mechanisms that affect product quality and process control.
  • Donald C. Burnham Manufacturing Management Award — Dean L. Bartles, PhD, FSME, National Tooling & Machining Association, Cleveland. Bartles, an SME member since 2002, was honored for his 40 years of leadership in the integration of instructure and processes of manufacturing through innovative use of human, technical and financial resources.
  • SME Frederick W. Taylor Research Medal — Tony L. Schmitz, PhD, FSME, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, N.C. Schmitz, who joined SME in 2004, was acknowledged for his groundbreaking work in receptance coupling substructure analysis (RCSA).
  • SME Albert M. Sargent Progress Award — John S. Agapiou, PhD, FSME, General Motors, Warren, Mich. Agapiou, who joined SME in 1981, was honored for his longstanding work on machining and assembly processes and recent work supporting the manufacture of automotive traction motors.
  • SME Gold Medal — Steven R. Schmid, PhD, FSME, PE, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind., and National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va. Schmid was recognized for his valuable service and leadership in manufacturing through his professional activities, publications, and vision. He became an SME member in 1994.

2019 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers

Fourteen manufacturing engineers from industry and academia, who are 35 and under, have recently joined the distinguished ranks of SME’s Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers. The award’s namesake this year is 2010 SME President Barbara M. Fossum, PhD, FSME.

Awardees were recognized for their exceptional contributions, accomplishments, and research in additive manufacturing; biomedical engineering; digital enterprise solutions; manufacturing performance solutions; transformational manufacturing technology; hybrid nano-composites and surface-engineered coatings and materials; digital manufacturing; battery joining for electric vehicles; soft electronics; and nanolubricant and nanolubricant additives.

2019 Barbara M. Fossum Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers:

  • Amy Alexander, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  • Weilong Cong, PhD, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
  • Omar Fergani, PhD, Siemens Digital Factory, Berlin.
  • Weihong “Grace” Guo, PhD, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, N.J.
  • Parash Kalita, PhD, NanoMech Inc., Rogers, Ark.
  • Kaibo Liu, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.
  • Stephanie L. Locks-Hartle, Northrop Grumman Corp., Baltimore.
  • Matthew E. Lynch, PhD, United Technologies Research Center, East Hartford, Conn.
  • Alexander Meyer, Caterpillar, Milwaukee.
  • Teresa Rinker, PhD, General Motors, Warren, Mich.
  • Chenhui Shao, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.
  • Wenzhou Wu, PhD, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Cunjiang Yu, PhD, University of Houston
  • Wenyang Zhang, PhD, Engineering Development, Fayetteville, Ark.
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