Advanced Manufacturing: the good, the bad and the ugly
written by Alan Lipman, CEO, Romar Engineering
There are lots of definitions of what constitutes “advanced manufacturing,” here are just a few taken from Wikipedia:
“Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technology to improve products or processes with the relevant technology being described as advanced, innovative, or cutting edge. Advanced manufacturing industries increasingly integrate new innovative technologies in both products and processes. The rate of technology adoption and the ability to use that technology to remain competitive and add value to define the advanced manufacturing sector.”
“Advanced manufacturing centers upon improving the performance of … industry through the innovative application of technologies, processes and methods to product design and production.”
“A concise definition of advanced manufacturing offered by some is manufacturing that entails the rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes”
Romar is a contract manufacturer. We are involved in plastic, silicone and rubber molding; tool design and manufacture; metal additive manufacturing using DED and powder bed technologies; CNC milling and lathe work; engineering services including DFM, CFD and CAE across medical device, mining , defense, rail and aerospace.
Our investment in advanced manufacturing is ongoing and substantial and is in 3 parts:
- Equipment – we have invested heavily and continue to do so, in new equipment and technology in order to stay ahead of the curve in manufacturing capability. Buying any piece of new equipment takes time. You need to evaluate the purchase in capability and financial terms that will suit your business growth and direction. Invariably, having made the decision to purchase, your new equipment won’t be on the floor and will have to be ordered in from overseas with typically long lead times. When you do finally take delivery, the installation and training process takes 4-6 weeks, and you probably won’t get to any level of consistent quality manufacture for some months after that. Having realistic expectations about how fast you will be able to integrate your new technology into your manufacturing is important.
2. People – for Romar, the most important element of our business are our people. When you buy your new piece of technology it is just a “box” unless you have talented people to operate the equipment and get the most out of it. Romar has a policy of employing the best and brightest people we can find in order to extract maximum value from them and our equipment and systems.
3. Software – this is the cement that anchors our people to the new technology. The software that drives your design, your machining, your test, your measurement – all aspects of the work, leading to production, is critical to the success of your advanced manufacturing strategy. For product design and additive manufacturing, Romar has invested in Fusion 360 PLM/CAD/CAM and NetFabb; We use Siemens NX for 5-axis Hybrid Manufacturing; nTopology for design for additive manufacturing, enabling performance-driven design solution with first print; ABAQUS and X FLOW as part of our Computer Aided Engineering for metal AM slicing and CFD solving; Moldex3d for tool design and flow analysis.
Having made the decision to buy a fancy new piece of equipment, employed or up-skilled the right people to operate it and provided the best tools to enhance operation – doesn’t automatically mean a smooth integration. You will break things, you will still crash things, you will work inside and outside of the operating parameters of the equipment and things will go wrong because you don’t know what you don’t know – this is all part of the learning process. At Romar we have had to learn patience and perseverance.
Ultimately though, things do come right, efficiencies are gained, business moves forward.
An investment in advanced manufacturing is an investment in the growth, efficiency and relevance of your business. It will provide your business with longevity and competitiveness in an increasingly difficult manufacturing environment. My recommendation is just do it.
Romar will be joining the Modern Manufacturing Expo 2022 on the 20th and 21st of September at Sydney Showground. Meet us at Modern Manufacturing Expo 2022