Additive manufacturing is different from almost every other technology topic we cover in this magazine.
When we cover a topic such as workholding, cutting tools or machining centers, for example, we are speaking to people who use that type of technology every day. A new or better idea in clamping or cutting is potentially a direct replacement for hardware being used today.
But the adoption of additive manufacturing is still so new, and the interest in it is so vast (as wide as the interest in any manufacturing topic I’ve seen) that our coverage of it mostly addresses people who are not using it yet. We write about additive manufacturing not primarily for the sake of people applying it now, but for the benefit of those who might well be applying it in the future.
It’s in that same spirit that we are launching a new event: the Additive Manufacturing Conference to be held October 20-21 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The gathering will include a program of speakers and a hall full of technology exhibitors who will all be ready to address not just the relatively few people employing additive manufacturing today, but also the people like you (I am guessing) who know manufacturing, but who still have many questions about the challenges and the possibilities that additive manufacturing presents. Bring those questions to this conference.
Why Knoxville? Our partner in hosting the conference is nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has a Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) that aims to help U.S. manufacturers succeed with additive technology. The October event will include a tour of this facility. Indeed, one manufacturer that has worked with the MDF—car maker Local Motors—has decided to open a microfactory close to it. If there are no delays in its opening, then the October event will include a tour of this facility as well.
Significantly, the focus of this conference will be additive manufacturing, not simply 3D printing. The two terms are often used interchangeably—are they synonyms? They are not. “3D printing” refers to an operation: building an object up from layers of material. “Additive manufacturing” brings in the disciplines and deliverables of manufacturing. It seeks to apply the mechanism of 3D printing to achieve the repeatability, part properties and verifiability of production manufacturing. The distinction is worth making because, at this conference, all of the speakers are strictly focused on additive manufacturing. Indeed, just about all of them (from GE Aviation, Honeywell, Linear Mold—see the complete lineup of speakers) are people concerned primarily with additive manufacturing for metal parts.
Those speakers are all also concerned with seeing additive manufacturing advance. If this method of making parts can find more of the kinds of applications in which it can deliver transformative design freedom or production efficiency, then manufacturing as a whole will be stronger. If you have an application that might be a candidate for this kind of transformation, please consider coming to Knoxville, and I hope to see you there.
Learn more about the conference and register to attend at additiveconference.com.