Think Makers

Driven to be manufacturers, this breed of go-getters will drive manufacturing.


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“Think Makers” is a term that came to me while preparing a blog post about Omax Corporation’s 20th anniversary celebration, which I attended recently in Kent, Washington. Think Makers are going to play an important role in shaping the future of manufacturing in this country. We ought to understand what makes them tick.

Omax is a supplier of abrasive waterjet (AWJ) machining systems. Versatile processes such as AWJ appeal to Think Makers. That attraction became clear during this day-long event, which included presentations by a remarkably diverse lineup of AWJ users.

The presenters included several individuals who started AWJ job shops as a second career or sideline to another profession (running a large dairy farm, for example); a Marine Corps officer who discussed how AWJ technology was deployed to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan (the machine was set up in a portable shipping container); a manufacturing engineer who wanted to produce as well as design his customers’ parts; a cancer researcher rushing to get his robotic lab devices at work in automated gene sequencing procedures; and a college professor eager to have his engineering students build “convincing prototypes” of the medical instruments they were designing.

A common theme in these presentations was the intense drive to turn ideas into parts, and those parts into usable, functioning things. The “thinking” and the “making” portions of the underlying creative process were equally compelling, it seemed. Hence, Think Makers.

Think Makers are motivated and excited by the prospect of getting what’s in their heads into their hands as touchable parts, assemblies and working prototypes. They want to move rapidly from mind to matter, from hot ideas to cold metal.

AWJ machining is a popular choice for people like this because it is capable and flexible. Just about any durable material can be cut with AWJ, which uses a fine, high-pressure stream of water containing garnet particles. This waterjet is the universal cutting tool. The process does not harden, warp or heat the material.  In many cases, 2D workpieces do not require elaborate fixtures. Parts can be massive or micro. A rotary axis makes intricate 3D and tubular work possible.

Over the years, Omax’s developments in AWJ technology have increased its versatility and heightened its value to innovative, entrepreneurial manufacturers. The latest product offerings on display at this event proved that point. Having Think Makers there to talk about their applications gave life to this technology.

What we need to do is get the energy and excitement of Think Makers infused into everyone involved in manufacturing on every level. We have to get the vision and value of the end product—whatever it might be—out in front so that every step in production, every operation, every chip removed or grain built up is linked to the good that manufactured goods are meant to render. This will get the creative juices flowing, and as long as that happens, there’s no chance that manufacturing in this country will ever dry up.