2018 in review by director Nick Pearce
I set Alexander Daniels Global up almost four years ago now. I don’t think I can quite call myself a veteran of the industry yet, but I have watched how the industry is evolving and starting to mature. I think the word ‘mature’ is quite apt to describe how I interpreted Additive Manufacturing in 2018.
There have been a few false dawns before, led primarily by the theory that there would be a 3D Printer in every home. I still believe that will be the case.
I do envision a World where we will be able to print on-demand a spare part for our washing machine that has broken down.
Actually, our smart home, managed by Artificial Intelligence, will automatically tell our 3D Printer to print the part, it knows is about to breakdown and a Service Robot will already have been called to replace it. We won’t have to do anything and the performance of our washing machine will be seamless.
I digress a little with my view of the future, so back to why I feel 2018 saw Additive Manufacturing mature. There seemed to be a reality arising that post processing was an essential and inevitable part of the total process. While this is nothing new, it appeared like, with the proliferation of binder jetting technologies, with new introductions from companies like HP, post processing became more acceptable to achieve the desired application and required part qualities. Organisations started to talk more about production systems and not just printers. The complete manufacturing solution was described by EOS at Formnext where CEO Dr Keppler said, “It’s not just about the hardware…. <>…. knowledge of materials, software, quality and processes.”
Additive Manufacturing has been widely used in R&D within sectors like Aerospace and Medical. For an ever-increasing number of applications, it is now being used in production, but still at reasonably low volumes. However, another reason why Additive Manufacturing ‘matured’ in 2018 is big Automotive OEM’s like Daimler and VW started to talk more seriously about Additive Manufacturing for production. When Automotive gets involved, then high scale, volume production, at the lowest cost is essential. With this intent, the opportunity for Additive Manufacturing is huge both in plastics and metals.
There remain some challenges for the industry though, notably talent. I would say that given I run a recruitment company specialising in hiring talent for the industry. However, the problem remains and it is not one that can be solved by recruitment alone.
I had a conversation with a major Automotive OEM who highlighted their need to retrain at least 1000 engineers if they are to achieve their strategic objectives with additive. There has been a growth of learning and development for the industry but it remains fragmented, difficult to assess and frankly is often delivered in uninspiring formats. For the industry to really achieve it’s potential over the next decade, organisations need to invest heavily into upskilling and training and think differently about how to engage a new audience outside Additive Manufacturing.
2019 is set to be an exciting year. As we release our third annual salary survey, I remain hugely passionate about the evolution of this disruptive technology and the people working hard to change the way we design and manufacture.
I hope you enjoy reading through it and can take something useful away. As always, we welcome your feedback, so please contact me directly with any questions, comments or ideas we might want to think about for next year.
Founder & Director