On the Factory of the Future

Via a post on the Mass Custom website comes word of a pretty good article over on Design News, “Rapid Manufacturing’s Role in the Factory of the Future” (Link). Clips from the article:

With six machines, Morris has the world’s highest concentration of DMLS capacity. And he has been using those machines not just to make prototypes but also to turn out production parts.

Morris believes additive fabrication systems will soon occupy an increasingly prominent space on our shop floors. “We’re on the verge of a revolution in how things are made,” he says.

Boeing, for example, has made extensive use of rapid prototyping machines to produce parts, tooling and manufacturing aids for the F18 and other military aircraft. “We’ve just touched the tip of the digital manufacturing iceberg,” says Jeff DeGrange, an engineering manager with Boeing’s Phantom Works.

Rapid manufacturing is a hot topic right now,” [Terry Wohlers] says.

I think you’ll start to see hybrid factories that combine layered manufacturing with conventional manufacturing methods like injection molding,” says Hollis.

How long will it take for engineers to recognize the design benefits associated with additive processes? Todd Grimm, a consultant to the rapid prototyping industry, thinks it could take 10 or even 20 more years given the current lack of familiarity with additive machines and the technical barriers associated with the machines themselves. “It’s going to take a long time for direct digital manufacturing to be considered commonplace. We really are talking about the factory of the future here,” he says.

This is a nicely-balanced article, fully laying out the problems but also explaining the advantages… especially in creating composite tooling and manufacturing aids.

If there’s one area it doesn’t fully explore, however, it’s the one on which I’ve focused (for the very reasons covered by this article): low-volume, niche products. Of course I wouldn’t expect them to cover it; there isn’t nearly as much money in it as there is in turbine engine components. That convergence is still a while off.

2 thoughts on “On the Factory of the Future

  1. Hey ya

    Low volume, niche products = long tail, yes?

    Long tail = 60% (+) of commerce, yes?

    This is interesting to us – and our customers ;)

  2. Pingback: Rhythmeering » Blog Archive » Assessing The State of Rapid Manufacturing

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