Have you ever bought a product for one job and later found that it was in high demand for a hundred tasks you never predicted? This seems to be a recurring theme with FDM Technology.
I hear from a lot of customers who were early advocates of additive manufacturing, winning the cost-justification battle by predicting FDM's usefulness for one specific task — maybe prototyping. Many realize later that their intended purpose might take the back burner to the new uses the business discovers once the FDM machine is onsite. Engineering starts looking at fit tests; marketing sees functional prototypes that can be used in focus groups. The manufacturing floor, running 5S, realizes they can make tool holders for their machines on the production floor. The manufacturing group sees a need for custom fixturing. Soon low-volume manufacturing is the next logical step.
Do you see what has happened? The poor guy who brought FDM in house is now fighting for capacity on his machine. Maybe the novelty of being a visionary is starting to wear off. Have you experience this in your plant?
When people talk about the "factory of the future," they're seeing what happens next: a stable of rapid manufacturing systems networked to serve every need and scale up for urgent projects.
Photo Credit: snow0810