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Manufacturing Forecast to Grow for Rest of ’17

Manufacturing economic growth should continue through the rest of 2017, according to a forecast issued by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM; Tempe, AZ).

The semiannual forecast and report is based on a survey of purchasing and supply executives across 18 industries.

ISM said the respondents expect an average revenue increase for the year of 4.4%, compared with 2016. The group said 64% of respondents expect an average revenue increase of 8.5%. Another 12% of respondents expect a 9.6% decline while 24% expect no change in revenue.

ISM said representatives of 17 industries expect a revenue boost for the year.

The report included the following details:

Operating rate: Manufacturing executives participating in the survey said their companies are operating at an average 82.5% of normal capacity, up from a forecast of 81.9% in December. Eleven industries are operating above the average, including petroleum and coal products, miscellaneous manufacturing and chemical products, ISM said.

Production capacity: Executives expect capacity to rise 3.3% this year, less than a forecast of 4.2% issued in December. Fifteen industries expect to boost capacity, including fabricated metal products, miscellaneous manufacturing, petroleum and coal products, miscellaneous manufacturing and machinery.

Capital spending: Executives said they expect to boost capital expenditures by an average of 5.2% in 2017, up from 0.2% in December. Representatives of 11 industries expect such increases, including fabricated metal products and petroleum and coal products.

Employment: Respondents said they expected manufacturing employment to rise 1.3% this year. The predictions ranged widely. ISM said 35% of respondents expect employment to increase an average of 6.3%, 12% expect an average job reduction of 7.3%. Another 53% expect jobs to be unchanged.

–Senior Editor Bill Koenig

SME, AMT to Hold Smart Manufacturing Show in 2018

SME (Dearborn, MI) and the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT; McLean, VA) will jointly hold a show about smart manufacturing in 2018 in Boston.

The Smart Manufacturing Experience is schedule to take place April 30 through May 2, 2018 at the Boston Convention Center.

“SME and AMT created the Smart Manufacturing Experience to support manufacturers as they make the transition into the fourth industrial revolution,” AMT President Douglas K. Woods, said in a statement. “We saw the need for an event that prepares the workforce for what’s next in advanced technologies, connected technology, and automation.”

The Smart Manufacturing Experience will include technology demonstrations, active learning labs, collaborative technical workshops, and tours of best-in-class factories. It will “highlight transformative technologies such as additive manufacturing/3D printing, automation, advanced materials, precision machining, precision measurement/3D scanning, the Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT] and digital manufacturing,” according to the statement.

“Advanced technologies are revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape,” SME Chief Executive Officer Jeff Krause said in the statement. “Our goal is to offer an interactive learning space for attendees to try new applications and talk to people who are actually using this technology right now to the benefit of their customer and their bottom line.”

To learn more about the Smart Manufacturing Experience, view full conference and exhibit details or register, visit

United Grinding Consolidates North American Operations

United Grinding North America was scheduled to close its Fredericksburg, VA, office on July 1 and move those operations to its headquarters in Miamisburg, OH.

“This tactical move is part of an overall strategy designed with the customer at the forefront,” Theodore Neckel, director of corporate marketing for United Grinding North America, said in a statement.

Customers, he said, have “expressed a need for a faster response time and complete turnkey, life-cycle solutions. With all our operations under one roof, we will streamline our services.”

Until now the Ohio facility housed surface, cylindrical and profile grinding business units while the Virginia facility served the tool and cutter grinding machines and measurement systems sectors. Field service representatives are based at both locations.

United Grinding is also building a new headquarters in Miamisburg, which the company expects to be completed Sept. 1. Many of United Grinding North America’s Fredericksburg-based staff will relocate to Ohio, work from home offices or be deployed geographically closer to customers, the company said in the statement.

The new 110,000-ft2 (10,219-m2) headquarters is being constructed on 15 acres near Interstate 75 and the expanding Austin Landing area of Miamisburg.

NASA Will Need Help from Manufacturers to Explore Mars, Official Says

NASA will need the help of its manufacturing contractors as the agency steps up exploration of Mars, an agency official said.

“A strong manufacturing base in needed,” Jordan Evans, deputy director for engineering and science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA), said in mid-May at SME’s Eastec show in West Springfield, MA. “Those relationships are important. We can push them, they can push us.”

The feedback between NASA and its manufacturing contractors intensifies the closer to a launch, Evans said.

He described the evolution of NASA’s Mars exploration efforts.

The agency’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012. The 2000-lb (907-kg) rover achieved its scientific goals within the first seven months, Evans said. “This is bonus time,” he said of Curiosity’s operations since that time.

Curiosity “accomplished the mission’s main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life,” according to NASA’s website. “One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site.”

NASA now is preparing Mars 2020, another rover scheduled to be launched in July 2020. It’s based on the Curiosity architecture. Evans said it may be slightly larger. “We’re trying to stay under 2100, 2200 lb,” he said. NASA is considering including a 1-kg helicopter that could scout ahead of the rover.

NASA’s goal is for humans to explore Mars. Evans said that still is decades away. “My personal guess is it will be the 2050s before we get boots on the ground on Mars,” he said.

–Senior Editor Bill Koenig

3D Printing is Growing, has Growing Pains, Wohlers Says

Additive manufacturing is both growing and coping with growing pains.

Companies “have to find ways to streamline” polishing and other finishing processes of 3D printed parts, industry consultant Terry Wohlers said during a speech at RAPID + TCT in Pittsburgh. Such processes need more automation to improve the business case for additive manufacturing, he said.

What’s more, Wohlers said the role of hybrid machines need to be sorted out. Such machines combine 3D printing and traditional cutting processes. Hybrid machines make sense for repairing parts, he said. But “a lot of problems need to be solved,” including software, before they can produce new parts in bulk, he said.

Finally, the additive landscape is being altered as large companies become involved.

“Major corporations are getting into this in a way we have not seen in the past,” Wohlers said. “A lot of companies are trying to get their head wrapped around” additive manufacturing.

One of the biggest is General Electric Co. (Boston).

GE last year announced the acquisitions of Concept Laser (Lichtenfels, Germany) and Arcam AB (Mölndal, Sweden).

GE controls Concept after agreeing in October to buy an initial 75% stake in the German company, with plans to acquire the rest over an undisclosed number of years. The Boston company turned to Concept Laser after a previously announced deal with SLM Solutions fell through.

“This company is all in when it comes to additive manufacturing,” Wohlers said.

The company became involved with additive manufacturing when it developed a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for aircraft engines. Since then it has developed its Advanced Turboprop engine, which reduces the number of parts from 855 to 12. GE has also targeted selling 10,000 3D printing machines in 10 years.

The additive industry is emphasizing industrial applications, including more use of printing metal. Despite a result surge in such printing, metal still only accounts for 14% of material sales, with polymers at 85%, Wohlers said.

The consultant estimates the additive industry totaled $6.1 billion in 2016, or 0.05% of global manufacturing. His firm, Wohlers Associates, forecasts it will reach $26.2 billion in 2022. Eventually, it may reach $650 billion, or 5% of global manufacturing, he said.

Methods Forms Partnership with Markforged

Methods 3D Inc. (Sudbury, MA), a provider of production grade 3D printing solutions, said it has established a partnership with Markforged (Cambridge, MA), an innovator in composites 3D printing.

Methods 3D will provide sales, service and support for the Markforged line of 3D printers including the Onyx series, Mark Two and Mark X, according to a statement. The partnership will expand access to both companies’ advanced additive manufacturing solutions to manufacturers across North America.

Markforged delivers same-day strong, working parts made of carbon fiber composites. Markforged invented a proprietary continuous carbon fiber filament printing method and its products are used in the industrial, automation, automotive, aerospace and medical industries in over 50 countries worldwide.

The Markforged partnership will also enable Methods Machine Tools’ Automation Group to design, integrate and provide unlimited solutions for its CNC machining automation systems with the ability to print unique end of arm tooling components for robots, jigs, fixtures and more.

Stratasys Introduces Continuous 3D Printing Machine Prototype

Stratasys Ltd. introduced a prototype of a 3D printing system that maintains low-volume output continuously as the company moves to expand its presence in industrial production.

The company showed its Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator at the RAPID + TCT Show in Pittsburgh. The system consists of cells, each consisting of three printers.

Stratasys (Minneapolis and Rehovot, Israel) said the cloud-connected system is highly automated, with the printers in each cell coordinated in their production of parts.

The company placed system prototypes at companies and academic institutions. User reaction and input will figure into adjustments before the system is sold widely.

“It’s not just a concept. It’s not just printers assembled on a shelf,” Rich Garrity, the company’s Americas president, said at a press conference.

Stratasys executives declined to say how many customers are testing the machines. It identified three: the Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA); In’Tech Industries Inc. (Ramsey, MN), a supplier of additive manufacturing engineering services; and Fathom, a California-based manufacturer.

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