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The Future of Business Sustainability: AFS Additive Conference

Rich Jefferson

Some manufacturers are “rear view” companies looking at the past, while others constantly scan the horizon for their next success. AFS scans the horizon for the best ways to support its members and the industry, which brings us to the AFS 2018 Additive Manufacturing for Metalcasting Conference, September 10-13, in Louisville, Kentucky. Register at www.afsinc.org/conferences.

You may wonder at the need for “Metalcasting” in the name of the conference. Well, 3D printing/additive manufacturing is now producing a range of goods only thought possible a few years ago in Star Trek or The Jetsons. A web search will turn up home-based businesses printing prosthetic limbs, transplant organs, food, and even small light electric vehicles (and those vehicles still need castings, I’m sure).

The point is, additive manufacturing is part of the inescapable, unstoppable, hard trend of technological growth across the economy. The only question for metalcasters is, how will they decide to respond to the trend? All possible choices will be examined at the AFS 2018 Additive Manufacturing for Metalcasting Conference in Louisville.  

Brandon Lamoncha is an additive maven, and he thinks companies with long-term hopes for success have only one choice: jump on the additive train. Lamoncha is conference chair, as well as chair of the AFS Additive Manufacturing Executive Committee, and the sales manager for AFS Corporate Member Humtown Products, which has extensive engagement with 3D manufacturing.

When Lamoncha talks, you feel the urgency of not just adopting additive technology in metalcasting operations but using it to the fullest. He said the technology will help with efficiencies and even silica compliance.

Additive will make your production “faster, cheaper, and more reliable,” Lamoncha told AFS. “I know at least one facility using 3D has said that silica compliance is not an issue with additive equipment—so it can be a means to reduce exposure and achieving compliance with silica regulations.”

At the AFS additive conference, attendees can go basic and learn how to start using additive manufacturing. However, if you’re already on your way to 3D success, the conference will also show the way through the coming years of technological disruption that will determine the winners. Many of the biggest OEM casting buyers “select foundries only if they use additive manufacturing,” Lamoncha said. “3D is the future, is customizable, it keeps your supply chain going, and it’s more adaptable.”

To illustrate the profound need for flexibility, Lamoncha pointed out that auto model platforms are changing every two to three years, and the speed that comes with additive is essential for long-term business sustainability. The word “faster” kept coming up in the conversation. Speed is always critical in manufacturing.
Tooling investment “will be upended by 3D manufacturing,” and metalcasters who get on board with 3D will better handle manufacturing parts for legacy systems, like parts for military hardware.

Conference presenter Jerry Thiel, director of the important metalcasting program at the University of Northern Iowa, also emphasized the mindset that connects additive manufacturing to selling castings to OEMs.

“We put this conference together to appeal to the original equipment manufacturers, the people who are ultimately using castings, all the way down to the manufacturers of these parts,” Thiel said. The “universal appeal” of additive derives from the absolute demand to build the OEM supply chain based on the need for parts, specifically castings.  

However, for Thiel, as a long-time proponent of education for metalcasters of the future, there is another highly compelling reason for companies to quickly embrace additive manufacturing. “Students today want to work in an environment rich in technology. And we have that. We have that with computer-aided drafting, computer-aided manufacturing, and especially, additive manufacturing. So, this is a part of the industry that has been one of the largest technological advancements that we’ve seen in 20 years.”

Enthusiastic embrace of additive manufacturing could bring the benefits mentioned above, but could also become a powerful recruiting tool for those who image their facilities as technologically forward-looking.

As one of the AFS conference planners put it, “If you want the information you need to select the right machines, how they work, how they make you more productive, how additive manufacturing can keep you in business in the coming years, and help you succeed, you need to attend the 2018 Additive Manufacturing Conference.”

Please check out the conference line up online, and ask yourself: Does this conference give me tools for business sustainability? Yes. Could it give me an advantage in recruiting? Yes. So why haven’t I registered? Register at www.afsinc.org/conferences.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the August 2018 issue of Modern Casting