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!