DIY CNC: 3-D Printing Service

Image by danxoneil via flickr.com

Image by danxoneil via flickr.com

If you’re even partially awake then you’ve obviously heard a lot about additive manufacturing of late, specifically 3-D printing.  For those of us in manufacturing the development and integration of additive manufacturing  and 3d printing is likely to impact us all in some shape or form.

While I don’t believe this will be a death knell or manufacturing apocalypse for our CNC machine brethren, I do believe it behooves us all to keep our eyes on additive manufacturing developments and if at all possible seek ways to educate ourselves.  Even better yet, if your company or shop has a way to integrate these technologies into your workflow than all the better.  I’m a believer in staying ahead of the competition and what may now be a niche market could very well lead to major business in the near future.

What for many was an accompaniment to a DIY CNC hobby is going mainstream.

DIY CNC: 3-D Printing at Your Local UPS Store

According to de zeen magazine, the UPS Store will become the first US retailer to offer 3-D printing services.

From dezeen.com:

Customers will be able to bring a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file in to the participating stores and have their designs 3D-printed on-site.

According to the article, Stratasys will be providing their uPrint SE Plus at locations slated for the pilot run of this new service.  It will be using ABSplus thermoplastic with nine colors to choose from.

Okay, you might be saying, “What does this have to do with me? I’m running a CNC machine shop. I deal with steel, aluminum, wood, etc…”

At first glance this is going to appeal to the DIY enthusiasts out there, but I believe it drives home how ubiquitous 3-D printing is going to become.  I believe this may well be an easy, low cost way of checking out the technology to see if it could fit into your workflow prior to making such a large financial obligation.  Some digging around the internet pegged this particular unit from between 18000 and 21000 plus dependent on seller.

Definitely not a  casual investment.

For Your CNC Manufacturing Consideration

A few things to consider, sourced from the Forbes.com article Manufacturing The Future: 10 Trends To Come In 3D Printing.

  • “The technology will also start to be adopted for the direct manufacture of specialist components in industries like defense and automotive.”
  • “Innovative companies will use 3D printing technologies to give themselves a competitive advantage by offering customization at the same price as their competitor’s standard products.”
  • Rapid prototyping
  • “As the capabilities of 3D printers develop and manufacturers gain experience in integrating them into production lines and supply chains, expect hybrid manufacturing processes that incorporate some 3D-printed components.”

I keep reading, time and again, that the future of manufacturing is going to be customization.  As the Forbes article highlights, 3-D printing is poised to bring about that capability on a massive, manufacturing scale.

Prototyping replacement parts doesn’t have to be solely for the CNC hobbyist/3-d Printer garage guru.  I see this as a cost effective way for testing  prototypes.  Read more about the benefits of integrating 3-D printing here.

As the Forbes article states, expect to see this implemented on factory floors.

Your Turn

3-D printing: A lot of hot air, or the future of our manufacturing process?  Too early in it’s development to care, or a great time to get started when it comes to educating ourselves and planning for integration?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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CNC Machine Manufacturing: The News Just Keeps Getting Better

plasma cutting with a cnc machine

plasma cutting with a cnc machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a number of occasions I’ve pointed to specific articles highlighting the potential growth of US and specifically, CNC machine,  manufacturing  in the near future.  You may recall this article about GE and the in-sourcing boom, this article about manufacturing in the Silicon Valley, and this Wall Street Journal article centered around advanced manufacturing.

Never fearful of good, heartening news, I came across another optimistic juicer that I’d like to share today as well.

Comeback: Why the US Sits at the Brink of a New Boom

Your CNC Machine Future

 

Between the growth in newer technologies like 3d printing, the energy boom, and signs pointing to companies bringing their manufacturing  back to America, it seems we’re sizing up for a manufacturing rebirth here in the US.  That is good news for those of us in the CNC machining industry.  Whether you own your own shop outfitted with a rag-tag mix of new or used CNC machines, or you’re managing a crew for a large manufacturer, the time to prepare is now.

Don’t get left behind and find yourself scrambling to update those used CNC machines: take an inventory of needed repairs, upgrades, and replacements, and get those replacement parts ordered.

Shop in disarray?  No better time than now to take a look at your shop layout and workflow.  Can things be better organized?  Are you wasting valuable time in your process due to poor layout?  Streamline your workflow now.

What type of work are you equipped to do?  Do you have the ability to branch out, take on new clients and expand your production?  What are these articles pointing to?  Is it plausible to branch out into 3d printing?  Do you have the skills and expertise on hand to make these types of transitions?

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking my own self as I keep my sight on the future of CNC manufacturing and what I can do to continue to expand and grow.

Your Turn

While it’s easy to get caught up with buzz words and hype, we certainly need to tread carefully.  The news that continues to come in definitely points to better days ahead.  I’m not one to advocate foolishness, but I also don’t like to be blind-sided either.  Whether the manufacturing news is all hype, or good tidings of things to come, planning and preparation, maintenance and upkeep, will only serve you and your company for the better.  So what do you think:  is now the time to invest in new CNC machines and equipment, to prep our shops for a potential influx of business, or is it best to hold steady for the time being and see how things pan out?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

CNC Machine Manufacturing & the Future: Part Duex

The other day I shot out a post highlighting a few thoughts about the future of CNC machine manufacturing and the growing 3d printing movement.  I’d like to add to that a bit here today as I came across a couple of articles that build and expand on those thoughts (thanks to the forum users over at Practical Machinist for sharing these links).

For the CNC Machine Operators:

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Le...

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Leonhard Building at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the main thrust of my post the other day centered on 3D printing as playing a greater, if not massive part, in the future of manufacturing, there is still plenty of good news for those of us still wedded to our “ancient” technologies.

Silicon Valley Mercury News:  This article highlights the results from the report “The Hidden STEM Economy”. It states that degrees are not required for  27-36% of all jobs in science, engineering, technology, and math within the greater San Jose, San Francisco and bay area.  While I think living in some of these locations may financially eat away at the incentives, this is still an interesting read and hopefully signals a growing trend here in the states.

From the article: “The report urges policymakers to boost funding for training in such careers as tool making, technical writing and technician work — the critical pick-and-shovel brigades in tech’s gold rush.”.

Glad to see that tool making was first on that list!

 

Digital Manufacturing and 3D Printing

English: Example of replication of a real obje...

English: Example of replication of a real object by means of 3D scanning and 3D printing. The gargoyle model on the left was digitally acquired by using a 3D scanner and the produced 3D data was processed using MeshLab. The resulting digital 3D model, shown in the screen of the laptop, was used by a rapid prototyping machine to create a real resin replica of original object. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time to take that DIY CNC hobby to the next level and begin applying your chops to 3D printing folks.  Mixed feelings about this article.  While I’m in awe of the technological advancement, and see a place for CNC machine operators and the like in this mix, it does fill me with some trepidation.

No technological, and especially manufacturing, advancement comes without costs.  No easy road here.

Now if I were a young CNC hobbiest or 3D printing guru, I’d be pointing my sights toward building on those skills.   The landscape is always changing, and sometimes it’s a swift transition; the manufacturing world looks ready for a huge shift.  Don’t be caught unawares.

The Wall Street Journal: A Revolution in the Making 

 

Your Turn:

So, what are your thoughts?  Is CNC machining poised for a rebirth of sorts and an elevated place in our future, or is 3d printing graduating from diy hobby and sporadic manufacturing implementation to full-fledged wide-scale production and machining replacement?  Or is the future something more balanced like these articles seem to suggest, a place where 3D printing and CNC machining both have their places in a stable manufacturing economy?  Let me know in the comments!

 

CNC Machining and the Future of Manufacturing

As I’ve said before, I tend to check into the CNC machine related forums and communities on just about a daily basis.  The forums are a great place to share with the CNC community, find that g code solution you were looking for, pick up helpful tips, and to find DIY CNC inspiration.  They’re also great places to discuss CNC related topics: political/economy, the manufacturing climate, and even the future of CNC machining and manufacturing.  My personal favorite forum: Practical Machinist.  If you haven’t checked it out, take a gander.  You won’t be disappointed.

The machinist and his apprentice

The machinist and his apprentice (Photo credit: Bosc d’Anjou)

One topic I often come across, in various shades and forms, is the state of CNC machining and the future for machinists.  You can get a good example of this type of discussion here:  What percentage of machinists/ moldmakers at your company under the age of 40?  As you can see, quite quickly, the conversation morphs into a discussion of the trades longevity, wage stagnation, the education climate, the quality of the latest generation, etc.  While I’m not one to dismiss the difficulties of manufacturing in the U.S., and specifically the challenges facing  CNC machining, I tend to take the more optimistic outlook.

Manufacturing has constantly evolved, for better and for worse.  It seems to me that it’s only natural that machines will evolve with technology and this, unfortunately, means that some of us will lose out to robotics and other more streamlined processes.  There will always be a need for the skilled machinist, but one also needs to keep their eye on the future lest they find themselves summarily dismissed…if you get my drift.

Manufacturing and Machining Future?

PWC Norfolk Machinist

That future, in my estimation, will be a greater reliance on 3d printing.  I’m no expert, and I could be completely wrong, but I think the CNC machinist of the future may be more of a 3d machinist/programmer.  While that may cause apprehension in those of us wedded to our love of CNC machining (and the basic reliance on our employment working on CNC machines),  I believe the skills and talent it takes to be a top notch CNC machinist are easily applicable to the 3d printing field.

For example:  many of us already program, design, make quality control measurements and checks, work with a variety of materials, troubleshoot and repair our machines, etc.  While I’m only beginning to learn about 3d printing, it seems all of these same skills would apply.  In the future, will we continue milling molds, or will we simply program and print the mold outright?  My guess: we’ll be printing those bad boys.

I found a couple of interesting articles regarding 3d printing over at MakeZine you might enjoy.  While the majority of MakeZines articles are centered on  DIY CNC hobby, and the DIY’er in general, I think these articles are hints at what manufacturing is going to look like, or almost like, in the future.

3D printing a functional boat

Bringing them together...3d printing a cast for CNC mill replacement parts.

Your Turn:

What about you?  Do you think in the future 3d printing will become the equivalent of what CNC machining is today?  Share your thoughts and comments below!