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Excitement is always the buzzword at SME's RAPID conference and trade show, and this year was exceptionally exciting. With the buzz about 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing (AM), filling the manufacturing media headlines over the past year with new applications and innovative developments, RAPID 2014 last week was the pinnacle of that media attention.

Clare Goldsberry

June 16, 2014

2 Min Read
3D printing a big participant in the revival of manufacturing

Frank Medina, chairman of the Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing (RTAM) committee for SME, noted in his opening remarks for RAPID that the 2014 conference had broken previous records for attendance. In addition to North American attendees, there were attendees from 27 countries, Medina reported. People came from around the world to see some of the latest and greatest in 3D printing.  

In his opening remarks, Lonnie Love, senior research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) in the automation, robotics & manufacturing group, noted that 3D printing is the "gateway drug" for manufacturing. "However, science is only good if you can apply it," he added. "We can't work in silos."

Love let attendees in on what he called the "dirty little about government helping manufacturing: they don't do much." While the Department of Energy is the U.S.'s largest lab, Love noted that the "DOE is interested in manufacturing to reduce the energy intensity of a process" in order to reduce the amount of energy used in manufacturing.

There are two thoughts about additive manufacturing that Love presented: it can compete with injection molding but must be designed for the AM process from the outset, and it uses less material, which equates to less energy usage.

Love added that the ORNL has an off-site Manufacturing Demonstration facility for its AM carbon fiber composites research, including a Carbon Fiber Technical facility. The ORNL partners with OEMs on new materials and equipment. He noted some of the latest innovations such as Fabrisonic's ultrasonic 3D metal printing technology, a solid-state joining process that protects the metallurgical properties and allows 3D printing of dissimilar metals, a process that Love called "wicked cool."

Part consolidation is a "game changer for manufacturing," Love concluded. "Additive manufacturing is a complete game changer in terms of products."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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