Industry Shifts and 3D Printing is Called Out

One of the big news stories of the week has been what has been going on at Ford Motor Company, a shift in leadership with the change of CEO that many are asking lots of questions about. Called out in the press release announcing Jim Hackett as the new CEO of Ford Motor Companies, is of course 3D printing. The press release says,
“Modernizing Ford’s business, using new tools and techniques to unleash innovation, speed decision making and improve efficiency. This includes increasingly leveraging big data, artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, 3D printing and more”

As a college technologist part of my job is training up and figuring out what is next in terms of developing our students and faculty for the campus and beyond. The interesting part of this press release is instead of calling out “advanced manufacturing or additive manufacturing” 3D printing is particularly called out as an innovative tool. 3D printing is seemingly a buzzword du jour for press releases like this, and I’m curious about the differentiation of when we see certain other terms meaning the same thing vs. 3D printing i.e. addivive manufacturing or advanced fabrication. These terms are heavily used in trade publications and for those working within the 3D printing field. I know when I say “C-N-C” I’m often confusing many of my colleagues and go into an explanation of the term itself (Cue me “it’s all around us -3D Printing, Laser Cutters and wire benders!”). As the language develops around the field, I’m wondering if we’ll develop further public facing terms for what we do in additive manufacturing beyond the popular 3D printing.

Ford is hoping to move ahead, in order to catch up with companies like Tesla, the stock market value of which is growing rapidly. My question is there are a number of industries where 3D printing’s use is growing rapidly particularly in the shoe and athletic market to my knowledge. With this new announcement there may be more investment and opportunity growing for use of 3D printing on an industrial scale – and by starting our students out early at least in terms of understanding the tools, there may be more opportunities. I do wonder how much investment Ford and other car manufacturers will put towards 3D printing, which is still not the norm in most production for cars (there are faster technologies that have been around for a while). I find the call out both curious and exciting, and it’s another reason to continue to build these skill sets on campus’ across the country – although yes I’m skeptical of 3D printing being called out in such a direct manner, time will tell what Ford has up it’s sleeve or in it’s announcements. What other language is possible to help explain and further encourage innovation in technology?