Editorial


 

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"Manufacturing Universities" Critical to the Metal-AM Cause

By: Brad Kuvin

Friday, February 10, 2017
 

In the last issue of 3D Metal Printing, we introduced readers to the groundbreaking additive-manufacturing (AM) training underway at the Underwriters Laboratories’ Additive Manufacturing Competency Center (AMCC). There, AM-machine operators are being trained on the ins and outs of 3D metal-printer setup, operation, troubleshooting and maintenance.

Training of qualified operators is a huge hurdle standing in the way of AM’s widespread move into mainstream manufacturing; it was exciting to see the AMCC working to remove that hurdle. However, other considerable hurdles remain, including the ability to:

  • Develop the build process concurrently with design;
  •  Implement feedback-based control systems; and
  •  Expand the process-parameter variable sets used to manufacture acceptable parts.

Well, have no fear—those hurdles and others are under careful review at the recently launched NextManufacturing Center, on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. And, we’re proud to bring you that story in this issue of 3D Metal Printing.

As we continue to survey the R&D landscape for innovative work underway in the 3D metal-printing arena, it’s clear that collaboration between universities and industry will lead the charge. And, most of these R&D projects promise to deliver results within a few years.

This uptick in collaborative efforts stems, at least in part, from the introduction of the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015, a bipartisan piece of legislation that sought to designate 25 schools as “manufacturing universities.” Those designated as such would receive $5 million annually for 4 yr. to develop engineering programs on manufacturing; create university-industry partnerships; and increase training opportunities.

This legislation eventually wound up as a component of the Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program, included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Universities will be selected for the grant program on a case-by-case basis.

Most recently, another university-industry partnership has just borne fruit to fortify forward-thinking manufacturers. At the end of January, a collaborative effort by the University of Buffalo and The Center for Industrial Effectiveness resulted in the launching of an online course, Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology. The curriculum, designed with industry partners including Siemens and Buffalo Manufacturing Works, comprises 40 hr. of instruction, assessments, peer interactions and a final project. And, most importantly, it strives to be immediately of use in industry. For example, one module explains how to upgrade legacy machines to be compatible with Industry 4.0 technology.

University-industry collaborative R&D is on a roll. Let’s keep it going—the future of U.S. manufacturing depends on it.

 


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