When you gather a group of manufacturing experts, professionals, technology and service providers at an event to discuss additive manufacturing it’s going to get interesting—and full of heartfelt stories that shaped careers.
The half day event took place on March 7th at the Michigan State University Management Education Center in Troy, Michigan near Fisher Unitech’s headquarters. This was the first in a series of ten Driving Manufacturing Innovation events taking place in multiple cities.
The inherent desire to innovate was common among the guest speakers, which included additive manufacturing experts from Ford Motor Company, Catalysis Additive Tooling and Stratasys.
Also common is that they were “car guys” who had grown up tinkering with machinery and working in the automotive industry. Finding new and innovative applications for additive manufacturing with 3D printing is a natural progression. If there is a better, cheaper, faster way to manufacture parts or tooling fixtures they will prove it.
Proving the business value of additive manufacturing to management
When it comes to business you also have to prove the value to management, which is something that guest speaker, Harold Sears, Additive Manufacturing Technical Expert at Ford Motor Company, has a lot of experience with. He has worked in additive manufacturing since 1993 and at Ford for over 26 years.
Sears’ experience includes leading major additive manufacturing capacity expansions and new technology introductions. Educating stakeholders on what the company will gain is par for the course when it comes to getting buy-in and support from management. “Finance loves the cut costs and engineering loves the faster production cycles,” said Sears.
The adoption of additive manufacturing technology takes education
Guest speaker, Darrell Stafford, couldn’t agree more. He worked at an automotive manufacturer for 31 years and is now President and CEO of Catalysis Additive Tooling. The company is using additive manufacturing to make tooling to manufacture functional parts, which includes: metal stamping, plastic injection and vacuum forming.
The application of manufactured 3D printed tooling is not as widely adopted as the application of 3D printed prototypes. Stafford says that adoption takes education. Starting with the basic understanding of subtractive versus additive manufacturing. Also, for the most part, there are decades of conventional manufacturing experience as a point of reference for people. They need to understand the business value of additive manufacturing.
Providing proof of concepts and case studies of real world applications with return on investment examples are highly effective ways to educate people. It’s hard to deny trying a new manufacturing approach when you can significantly reduce cycle time and cost.
Driving profits and revenue with additive manufacturing applications
Real world applications are what guest speaker Alan Kreemer, Senior Manager of Application Engineering at Stratasys, and his staff work with on a regular basis. And although he has over twenty years experience in the automotive industry, at Stratasys he supports customers in a variety of industries, including aerospace, medical, industrial and consumer. The way he puts it, his job is to help customers “turn 3D printers into ATM machines” with the profit margins and revenue they can gain.
Kreemer took the audience through a variety of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and PolyJet 3D printers and materials Stratasys offers. He also provided use case examples of 3D printing tooling and fixturing, functional prototyping, high-resolution mockups, full size casting mockups and more. 3D printed parts can also be electroplated or powder coated for strength and appearance, he explained. Some of the case studies Kreemer highlighted, can be found here.
Introducing the new Stratasys F123 3D Printer Series
Fisher Unitech 3DP Application Engineer, Dan Erickson, introduced the audience to the next generation of FDM 3D printers from Stratasys called the F123 Series. Named for its three new products the Stratasys F170, Stratasys F270 and the Stratasys F370. These printers combine powerful FDM technology with design-to-print GrabCAD software for the most versatile and intelligent 3D printing solution available, he explained.
Erickson and team had also brought Fisher Unitech’s F370 along with an array of 3D printed samples for the audience to get hands on experience. It was hard to tell that the printer was printing a part there in the lobby of the MSU education center because it was so quiet.
There is nothing better than getting out to a face to face event with peers and experts to learn about technology applications and real world examples. The conversations at lunch are icing on the cake.
About the Author
Christa Prokos is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech. She researches and writes about the latest business trends and technologies impacting manufacturers, including 3D printing, SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD design and product data management tools, product lifecycle management, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things. Christa has worked as a high tech marketing and communications professional since 2000. You can follow her on Twitter: @ChristaProkos.