Imagine if you had had the chance to be in room in the mid-70’s attending presentations from the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? I believe that maybe 20 years from now, I will think back and recall when I sat at the US Patent and Trademark Office auditorium and listened to additive manufacturing machine makers 3D Systems, Stratasys, MakerBot, Ex One, and EOS, and innovative companies such as Shapeways share the creative ways they were making new products that had never been imagined before.
“The only limitation is the imagination,” was a constant refrain that echoed through each of the energetic visionary talks. From consumer products like jewelry or household gizmos, to industrial products with aerospace, automotive, medical or medical device applications, they were all talking about this early-stage way of making quick customizable, previously-unimagined products economically. Folks were demonstrating their machines and showing off their products. You could hear the echo of the “wows” being expressed by the attendees. It certainly made me think about how things would be changing for our kids and grandkids.
We are in the early days of this amazing technology. And as with any new technology there are still many questions to be considered and innovative approaches to be developed to address potential issues and challenges.
Many organizations are hosting events that should help manufacturers ask the right questions, while promoting the capabilities and potential of this emerging technology. The Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland, RMI is hosting an event on February 7th where Maryland Legislators will have their photos turned into a 3D printed “head” shot to demonstrate how this technology may play a role in the future of manufacturing. And, PTO will continue to have “Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meetings” in the future, so we can continue the dialogue, discuss challenges and opportunities, and witness the evolution. Maybe even plunge in head first!