MMS Blog

What Comes Next: The Beginning of a Reshoring Policy for U.S. Manufacturing

We are hoping manufacturing saves lives. That is the situation as I write these words. We are in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. A question still unanswered: Will there be enough ventilators to meet the needs of the most serious COVID-19 sufferers? We do not know. Machining suppliers are doing their part, with many shops now devoting much or all their attention and capacity to ventilator component production, and many more will likely enter the effort soon. In the race between production and infection, we are all rooting for production and our champion might yet win.

But still, there is a sense in which we have already accepted a sort of defeat. I am writing these words from my home. Most businesses have closed or vacated their facilities. We have shut ourselves in, sworn off the joys of a free, open and advanced society, all because of a legitimate fear. We are hiding from a virus in order to slow the spread because we know we are short on supplies to treat the sufferers, and we fear our manufacturing capabilities might not actually be able to keep up.

In a Machine Shop, the Labor of Lean is Data-Driven

Fresh from learning to use machine monitoring data in a new way, Todd Chretien is eager to add materials requirements planning and enterprise resource planning to his software toolbox.

At least, this was the case when his employer, Superior Completion Services (SCS), opened the machining area of its sprawling Houston campus to Modern Machine Shop earlier this year. At that time, the director of manufacturing and his team were implementing software that encompasses both functionalities (Microsoft’s Dynamic suite). As for machine monitoring, this system had only recently become a tool for not just tracking equipment performance, but also scheduling work. Both of these efforts have a common goal: “We want to make all our decisions based on data,” Mr. Chretien says.

Additive Manufacturing in the Age of COVID-19

Like many around the world, my life, work and travel plans were upended as the coronavirus made its way to the United States. By the time we returned home, all of Penn State’s classes were told to move online, and I had a weekend to figure out how I was going to teach the undergraduates in my additive manufacturing (AM) and reverse engineering course how to operate 3D printers and gain hands-on experience with 3D scanning. As you might guess, it is quite hard to run a hands-on AM lab course when students are prohibited from setting foot on campus and cannot enter the labs.

Like many other faculty and teachers facing similar situations, I started searching online for new ideas and materials for my course. I was delighted to reconnect with friends, contacts and collaborators at 3D Systems, Autodesk, Xometry, nTopology, RePliForm, 3Degress Consulting, Link3D, The Barnes Group Advisors and many AM companies and service providers that were rapidly mobilizing to share content online, make software freely available to students, and do their best to remain open and offer their services as the United States started to close down. I am forever indebted to them for their assistance and suggestions, and I am delighted to hear what they and the countless others in the AM community have done, and are doing, to help fight COVID-19.

OEMs and Job Shops See Metal Additive Manufacturing Differently

Did Cobra Aero skip a step?

The Hillsdale, Michigan, maker of small engines for unmanned aerial systems (drones) routinely uses multiple setups on three-axis machining centers to make intricate parts, such as the one in the adjacent photo. To make these parts more efficiently, the company would be a candidate for five-axis machining. Cobra has considered this, but hasn't made the move. Yet the company did make a move to a more expensive option for making intricate metal parts: a system for selective laser melting. That is, a metal additive manufacturing machine, in this case from Renishaw.

At Purdue University, Emergency Production of PPE and Ventilator Fittings

Through a Herculean display of institutional coordination, the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC) — using its new digital manufacturing testbed at Purdue University — has pooled its resources with several other university departments and hospitals to manufacture critical parts needed by healthcare workers to battle the coronavirus, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilator fittings to increase overall ventilator capacity´╗┐ at regional and state hospitals. The Purdue collective is now involved in designing and manufacturing multiple ventilator fittings, developing a prototype fitting for hazmat suits, and producing up to 1,000 sets of face shields and glasses per day. The group is also in prototype development for a reusable N95-compliant mask with interchangeable filter cartridges.

Beginning around March 20th, after the university had largely shut down its campus, faculty, staff and students at Purdue University began coordinating with Purdue’s College of Health and Human Services, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, the College of Engineering, the College of Pharmacy and its School of Nursing, as well as six research labs that all have design and production capability.