As happens every year at Formnext, the world’s largest 3D printing trade show, a number of different significant product launches, mergers, and other announcements took place at Formnext 2023. Perhaps the most unique announcement, and certainly the one that intrigued me the most, was the Additive Manufacturing Industrial Navigator (AM I Navigator) Initiative.
AM I Navigator is a collaboration between Siemens, DyeMansion, BASF Forward AM, EOS, and HP, aiming to create a model for AM technical standardization at the level of the whole enterprise. Based on a scale of 1 to 5, with ‘1’ defined as ‘Basic’ and ‘5’ defined as ‘Autonomous’, AM I Navigator has two main goals: to create a universal framework for assessing the technical maturity of a given organization’s AM capabilities, as well as to help accelerate the assessed organizations’ AM maturity.
I spoke with Francois Minec, the Global Head of Polymers for HP’s Personalization and 3D Printing Business, to find out more about the project:
According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in December 2023 remained below 50 for the 14th straight month. A PMI of below 50 indicates a contraction in manufacturing, and this is the longest such streak since 2000-2002. The PMI is based on surveys of manufacturers, and according to Reuters, “manufacturers were mostly downbeat” in December.
On the other hand, Reuters also noted, “The persistent decline in the PMI likely overstates the weakness in manufacturing… Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods are up strongly on a year-on-year basis and factory production has held up…” Additionally, when one looks back at the US economy during the last similar downturn in the PMI, it was followed by an equally impressive rebound in the subsequent years. It is also important to consider that historically, contractions in manufacturing often indicate changes to an economy’s core manufacturing techniques and product-mix output.
I brought up the ambiguous data and mixed sentiments to Minec, specifically in the context of asking if he thinks that trends that have been bad for the manufacturing sector at-large could in fact be positive for AM:
At the same time as awareness of AM’s benefits seems to be increasing, there is, of course, quite a gap between surface-level awareness, and the ability to deploy a cutting-edge technological ecosystem across a business’s entire operations. The demand for expertise that can deliver exactly that is what AM I Navigator was created to fulfill. The fact that the initiative involves companies possessing such a thorough end-to-end familiarity with AM suggests that AM I Navigator could do much to standardize the incorporation of AM into legacy manufacturing enterprises:
Alongside the need to accelerate AM standardization, the central objectives of AM I Navigator get at what may be an even more urgent task for the industry in 2024 and beyond: workforce development. Indeed, the know-how that the companies involved may have the greatest competency in is the know-how entailed in building an AM workforce:
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