The second keynote at this year’s TCT Show Conference came form David Burns, a longstanding figure in the additive manufacturing community and someone who has spent his entire career in the wider manufacturing industry. Previously serving as CEO for the Gleason Corporation and then as President at ExOne, he’s currently the Principal and Founder at Global Business Advisory Services LLC and Senior Advisor to the Association for Manufacturing Technology.
As you can imagine from someone with such an enviable CV, he’s a busy guy but he’s also a tremendously engaging speaker and we were thrilled to have him present at this year’s TCT Show Conference.
Proving just how quickly this industry is evolving, moments into his keynote spot David marked a cross through his original presentation title, “3D Printing is necessary but not sufficient to realise the true potential of the Internet of Things (IoT)” having been completely enamoured by the things he saw at a recent trade event which inspired him to instead look at “The Reality of Dynamic Digital Manufacturing Technologies in 2016”.
The change in topic was a result of what David described as feeling “confused” at the International Manufacturing Trade Show (IMTS) event in Chicago. IMTS is one of the biggest manufacturing trade shows in the world and this year additive manufacturing played its biggest role to date with its own pavilion.
Confirming a trend that TCT’s Group Editor, Daniel O’Connor spotted on the show floor with displays from the likes of 3D Systems and Stratasys, David spoke about the adoption of robotics and its convergence with 3D printing, which asks, with so many related processes; software, printing, robotics, where do you start? They all take us to the same place, so is any single component more important than the other?
“I always saw manufacturing as an integrated living breathing thing that all worked together.”
In short, the manufacturing chain has typically been formed of independent silos that were interconnected to make a product. In what David describes as the “advent of dynamic digital manufacturing”, what we’re seeing now are links between those processes being made to optimise the entire process chain.
The Optimisation Journey
The manufacturing cycle isn’t just about the physicality of making products, it’s a three step process that starts the moment an engineer conceptualises an idea and ends at the point where a product is no longer in use or recycled – conceptualisation, materialisation and utilisation. As David explained in his presentation, it’s also about how we optimise the manufacturing process and the way we do that has changed over time. Back to the early 1970s, the conversation about optimisation looked at low productivity and high-resource consumption in typical manufacturing processes, whereas now we might look to localised, on demand manufacturing which uses as little time and material as possible.
“What is the optimal state in manufacturing? Well, the moment that a consumer wants something, you are able to materialise exactly what they wanted, exactly at the moment they wanted it, exactly where they wanted it. That would be optimal.”
David explained how he has witnessed three stages of evolution towards optimisation. Starting with “analogue” manufacturing and then moving on to “static digital” which occurred as digital was being adopted but at a time when companies didn’t really understand how to use it to its full potential. Following that is our current state of “dynamic digital” which is about exploiting the connections in the manufacturing chain to deliver optimal output.
To convey just how much the industry is changing, David presented the audience with an interesting, but perhaps unsurprising, statistic from the DAVOS World Economic Forum Future Jobs Report.
“We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution … 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.” – The Future Jobs Report, DAVOS World Economic Forum.
Technology Evolution and Opportunity
One of the most interesting points in David’s talk was about the shift in the opportunity curve for new technology. As we saw when 3D printing first made its way into the public consciousness, when a new technology lands the common claim is that it can do just about anything – “the possibilities are endless!” is a trope not a single one of us is in a rush to hear again. The reality is that over time, that scope for possibility decreases as we discover what works and what doesn’t. For the dynamic digital world, David predicts that trend to completely swing the other way as the various combinations of technologies broaden what we are able to achieve.
Not completely negating his original presentation topic, David circled his talk back to IoT and spoke about how in the next decade most devices will broadcast feedback that manufacturers will be able to leverage to flip the traditional manufacturing cycle on its head – utilisation, real time feedback and then conceptualisation. Starting by looking at what you need a product to do and using real-time feedback possible with IoT to drive conceptualisation, then we will be closer to reaching complete optimisation.
As you’ll hear in this presentation, David is extremely optimistic about the future of manufacturing as we begin to see more manufacturers leverage the power of dynamic digital manufacturing. David commented: “I’m excited because I don’t think we’re at the end of anything. I’m 62 years old and I’m charged up because we’re at the beginning of something amazing.”