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Challenges the US Faces in Adopting Additive Manufacturing

Posted on Jun 07, 2018 by Cullen Hikene

Challenges the US Faces in Adopting Additive Manufacturing (and how we can help)

Just as additive manufacturing, AKA 3D printing, is poised to have a dramatic impact on US manufacturing, there’s an issue. Not enough people currently have the skills to utilize the technology. That’s the conclusion of a report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and based on our day-to-day work in the trenches of additive, I think there’s some merit to the conclusion.

I recommend reading the article in Design News, which lists three reasons behind the skills gap. In this video blog, as well as in this post, I want to relay my thoughts on a couple of points they make and expound on how 3Diligent can help.

First, companies may not realize that they need or want to move to additive manufacturing. For better or worse, the industry experienced a surge of publicity and hype a few years ago. This brought unprecedented attention to the technology and how it could take CAD design files and transition from bits to atoms in a way that many found astounding. The downside is that much of this attention was garnered upon desktop printers and their theoretical use by consumers, something that is still a ways away due to the lack of infrastructure to support it—from intuitive CAD design to easy-to-use machines to libraries of parts that are readily printed. All of this hype has allowed some individuals and companies to believe 3D printing is better aligned to fabricating tchotchkes than innovative, next-generation parts, tools, and replacement spares, which is where industrial 3D printers truly shine.

The first point may be tied to the second one: there has been so much offshoring in the last few decades companies are detached from their manufacturing. Due to this detachment from the day-to-day manufacturing operations, the inclination to learn of all the potential applications for additive and how it might be applied to a particular supply chain can be lacking. Even if this inclination is there, building out capability internally can be a significant endeavor, requiring internal politicking for budget and a cultural commitment to coming up the curve on additive manufacturing.

That said, it is our belief that additive manufacturing—and digital manufacturing more broadly—is absolutely disruptive and here to stay. Companies need to overcome the hurdles spelled out by BCG and 3Diligent in this post.

3Diligent offers one such avenue to overcome these challenges. We have been in this industry for years, building out a fabrication network with nodes of expertise across an incredible swath of 3D printing processes and materials.  So whether you are seeking consulting support in identifying opportunities for additive, considering how to tackle the challenges additive presents for your supply chain, or in getting parts fabricated using our digital manufacturing capabilities (particularly 3D printing), that’s what we’re able to do.

In sum, if these challenges resonate with you, take a look at our services on our website or send an email.

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