IMTS has provided insights over the years on the state of additive manufacturing (AM) in the traditional manufacturing arena. The biennial pilgrimage to Chicago is a barometer of acceptance of AM in established production-centric operations. Now that IMTS 2022 is over, it’s time to take two barometric readings to understand where AM is and what lies ahead in the near term.
The first measure is quantitative, which shows excellent progress. In numbers, the AM role at IMTS has expanded over the decades. While the numbers are a good metric, they miss the most important qualitative metric: what’s in the hearts and minds of the manufacturing professionals who walked the show.
IMTS in figures
At first, AM turned out to be a novelty that was easy to consider as a legitimate manufacturing tool. Essentially, it served as an entertaining sideshow. Attendees crowded around the AM booths to watch – often overflowing the booth and spreading out into the aisles – but the vast majority left with the same spirit.
In the early 2010s, things started to change. AM vendors exhibited in the show’s Emerging Tech Center. It gave him a label, a label that encouraged participants to look for future potential. Interest was spurred by President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address which cited 3D printing, coupled with a tidal wave of news proclaiming that the technology was about to disrupt the world. manufacturing industry.
The next phase was the creation of an AM pavilion at IMTS, which attracted around 50 exhibitors in 2018. This year, the pavilion housed 112 AM companies. IMTS 2022 also featured a one-day conference on AM for industrial parts production.
hearts and minds
Over the years, AM has evolved from a curiosity relegated to prototyping to a generally accepted process for manufacturing tooling and support. To gauge production app acceptance, we need to get into the hearts and minds of those who are essential to making it a reality.
Does AM have the support of manufacturing professionals who will help accelerate adoption? Or is there an undercurrent of doubt and resistance that creates a barrier? Did the IMTS make you change your mind? The excitement, enthusiasm, curiosity and confidence of those doing the manufacturing work will propel AM forward. Thus, the crucial question is what the participants think and believe after the IMTS. But how to access real perceptions? Turnout figures do not provide the answer. And you won’t find the answer in post-show recap articles, blog posts, or videos. These provide insight into the AM industry and highlight intriguing applications, but they don’t measure the attitudes of the masses.
I cannot provide an answer because my sample size is too small and my peer group is made up of AM lawyers. However, I suspect there are significant pockets of resistance.
The only option left is honest conversations with manufacturing peers. But because people are known to have hidden agendas or say things contrary to their beliefs, it’s imperative to dig deep and read between the lines.
It’s even more important to check your company’s AM barometer – both top-down and bottom-up support are needed to be successful. Resistance from any department at any level can hinder AM’s progress. The status quo is a force to be reckoned with, but information from IMTS could counter the hurdle.