One of the things I enjoy most about working in this industry is when family, friends, acquaintances ask the loaded question, "What do you do?". My answer has evolved throughout the years as I’ve tried to figure out the best term to use with a layman. Words like additive fabrication or even rapid prototyping don’t really make sense to the average person. I just carry a small part with me on my key chain at all times.
In a recent blog post by Scott Crump, he commented on how the term rapid prototyping seems to be fading away as it is replaced with other buzzwords. It won’t be until our industry adopts and consistently uses these terms that will we get the average ‘Joe’ to understand what additive manufacturing is.
The biggest buzzwords in the additive manufacturing industry are names to describe manufacturing, such as direct digital manufacturing, digital manufacturing, and rapid manufacturing, all terms that mean the production of finished goods using an additive technology, such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or its competitors.
The media frequently discusses this topic, coming at it from many perspectives. Here are just a few recent articles that take a look at either the industry at large or specific applications.
Industry Week reports on the trend of direct digital manufacturing and some of the players, (even though they still occasionally refer to the process as prototyping!)
From Desktop Engineering, this article profiles how Thermal Dynamics used direct digital manufacturing to make simple production tools, using the FDM process.
Written by industry analyst, Terry Wohlers, and published in Composites World, this is an industry snapshot along with some perspective on the direct digital manufacturing trend.
From the U.K.’s TCT magazine, this article shows how defense and law enforcement contractor, DST employs direct digital manufacturing for custom and low volume products.
While our industry is going through its growing pains, and the terminology used to describe what we do is a continuing evolution, we’re thrilled to be part of that growth. So I’m going to keep the plastic part on my key chain for now.