July 2, 2009
The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences led the development of a roadmap for the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in 1998. The effort was supported by many industrial, government, and academic organizations in the U.S. and it led to a report titled The Road to Manufacturing. It served as a useful guide, although I believe it was the work leading up to the document that was of most value. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, and I will paraphrase: Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Little organization on the national level has occurred over the past 10 years in the U.S. This has been a little puzzling to some, especially when considering the vast economic and strategic benefits of AM technology. To some degree, the AM industry—particularly in the U.S.—has struggled with focus and direction. This, however, is beginning to change. One cause is the recent launch of the ASTM International Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing, an effort concentrating on the development of industry standards. (See this blog commentary.) Another is an event titled Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing (RAM) Workshop, held in March 2009 in Washington, DC.
Sixty-five experts from academia, industry, and government attended the RAM Workshop. Its purpose: to develop a roadmap for research in additive manufacturing for the next 10-12 years. The effort was led by David Bourell of the University of Texas at Austin, Ming Leu of Missouri University of Science and Technology, and David Rosen of Georgia Institute of Technology. These three individuals, and those at the workshop, worked together to create a new roadmap. Sponsors were the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.
The workshop, and the work that followed, resulted in 26 research recommendations. Among them: 1) produce a new foundation for CAD systems to overcome modeling limitations associated with building AM parts, 2) create closed-loop and adaptive control systems with feed-forward and feedback capabilities for AM machines, 3) develop and identify sustainable (green) materials that are recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable, 4) develop training programs with certifications for industry practitioners, 5) develop and adopt internationally recognized standards, such as those initiated by ASTM Committee F42, and 6) establish a national test bed center with AM machines and expert users to leverage equipment and human resources in future research.