Finding encouragement in additive

May 23, 2022
As someone with deep roots in manufacturing, the upcoming June issue’s special focus of additive manufacturing speaks to me.

As someone with deep roots in manufacturing, the upcoming June issue’s special focus of additive manufacturing speaks to me. Additive really is an amazing manifestation of innovative principles at work. When I was in the manufacturing space, I would have loved to have an additive system on the floor.

Interestingly, the core principle of additive is in direct competition to my background of designing and creating custom cutting tools. We had a niche grinding tools that enabled manufacturers to make the most of their traditional, subtractive machining capabilities. For most of my customers, our cutting tools were designed specifically for their hardest parts and often served as the only economical way to produce complex parts with minimal processes.

Today, some of my old customers are now making the new generation of those difficult parts with additive manufacturing. In these instances, additive has been a game-changer, totally transforming how these progressive manufacturers approach part production.

As a journalist, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know most of the pioneers and patent holders—a competitive and sometimes quirky bunch of scientists eager to leverage innovations they knew possessed the potential to change markets. While covering additives many iterations, I watched it transition from merely being a “model making toy” for many manufacturers into something that is now a pivotal machine on today’s shop floor.

And lasers were the catalyst and enabler for this transformative technology. I know not all additive is laser-based, but laser sintering initially sparked the additive movement. And it was the array of pandemic-based needs coupled with a broken supply chain that provided the technology an opportunity to thrive in a global spotlight.

Of course, even with the pandemic boost, it’s important to note additive is still a young technology. While there are always exceptions, even for tech-forward manufacturers, additive is by no means supplanting subtractive machinery. Instead, it is one more tool in the toolbox.

Why do I find additive encouraging? Much like photonics, additive is far from reaching its potential. There is a good chance a future version of additive will one day enable the type of mass customization digital transformation enthusiasts love to talk about.

Perhaps more importantly, lasers will continue to be the driving force, enabling the innovation of products, approaches, and industries.

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Market Leader/Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military

Peter Fretty began his role as the Market Leader, Laser & Military in June 2023; the group encompasses the Laser Focus World, Military & Aerospace Electronics, and Vision Systems Design brands. He also serves as Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military (effective spring 2023) and served as Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World since October 2021. Prior to that, he was Technology Editor for IndustryWeek for two years.

As a highly experienced journalist, he has regularly covered advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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