Advanced manufacturing can be loosely defined as the innovative adoption of the latest technology to improve manufacturing processes and products. It’s not a new idea by any means but it is a very important one in today’s global economy. Continually improving manufacturing efficiency is imperative if we are to maintain or increase market share vs. economies where labour is inexpensive. Skills shortages and rising labour costs are also factors that drive the need for advancements in the way we do things.
The old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” is true but advanced manufacturing can transcend beyond that and become part of an organization’s culture. To not only survive but become champions in manufacturing we will need to continually disrupt ourselves. One important group of technologies to take into consideration when striving for advancements are the various forms of additive manufacturing.
Products that are created using advanced manufacturing typically have refined designs and they are often quite technologically complex. They are seen as newer, better and more exciting. They are robust and innovative products that are reliable and solve difficult problems. The technologies used in advanced manufacturing include:
· Computer Aided Designing (CAD), Engineering (CAE), and Machining (CAM)
· High performance computing
· Information technologies ranging from enterprise resource planning, to open data and big data
· Precision instrumentation
· Closed loop monitoring and fault correction
· Sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies
· Processes that allow for customization
· Able to scale quickly from low volume to high volume production
· Able to be distributed geographically for manufacturing close to final destination
Additive manufacturing fits many of the criteria listed above and as newer, faster processes come to market it will effectively fit all of them.