Millennials More Upbeat on Manufacturing’s Future

A more optimistic outlook among millennials about the future of manufacturing could bode well for an industry that is contending with an ongoing skills shortage.

Nearly half of U.S. millennials (47 percent) think there will be enough qualified professionals to fill manufacturing job demands in the next 10 years, according to a survey by Proto Labs. That’s a marked increase from the only 35 percent of Generation Xers and baby boomers who think the jobs demand will be met.

millennials in manufacturing

The rosier outlook may be linked to millennials’ changing perceptions of manufacturing. According to the survey, 37 percent of millennials see manufacturing as a high-tech career choice—notably higher than both Generation Xers (27 percent) and baby boomers (23 percent). Also, 49 percent of millennials believe engineering is a needed skill in today’s manufacturing sector, compared with only 41 percent of baby boomers.

Digital Transformation of Manufacturing
Digital manufacturing has paved the way for a larger breadth of opportunities in addition to the plant floor roles solely and traditionally associated with the industry. Today, top manufacturers must fill a range of skilled positions—from mold techs, to applications engineers, to software developers. The digitalization of the industry has transformed yesterday’s manual nature of manufacturing to the high-tech environment it is today. It is increasingly important for the manufacturing industry to continue shifting its outdated public image, as, in the next decade, it is estimated that 2 million out of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to talent shortages (Manufacturing Institute).

millennials infographic

Click to enlarge

“I expected to begin my career at what you might consider a traditional technology company, like Facebook, Amazon or Uber,” said Andrew Crocker, a 25-year-old software developer at Proto Labs who joined the company straight out of college. “Manufacturing wasn’t necessarily on my radar. But digital manufacturing has changed everything. It’s created a high demand for skills like mine, and it’s provided me a great career opportunity.”

Millennials Optimistic About Manufacturing Salaries
The financial benefit of a career in manufacturing is another perception that’s changing among young people. According to the survey, 40 percent of millennial respondents think a career in today’s manufacturing industry is high-paying, compared with only 26 percent of Generation Xers. Indeed, the average U.S. manufacturing worker makes more than $70,000 a year, according to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

“Digital manufacturing is revitalizing our industry and is igniting new opportunities,” said Vicki Holt, president and CEO for Proto Labs. “The skills gap presents a critical roadblock for all of us. But it’s encouraging to see a renewed optimism from a new generation of workers, and to hear that they understand this isn’t their grandparents’ manufacturing industry. Much work remains ahead of us, but this is a good start.”

About the Survey
The public-opinion online poll was commissioned by Proto Labs and conducted by ORC International’s CARVAN® Geographic Omnibus in September 2016. It consisted of a sample of 1,023 adults comprising 512 men and 511 women, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points for the full sample.

6 Medtech Trends to Watch in 2017

THE SHORT LIST

From a predicted slow but steady revenue-growth outlook, and a rising Asian market for the medtech industry, to multi-functional devices and wearables, medical device manufacturers will be watching several trends this year.

Slow but Steady
The $390 billion-plus medical device market will experience growth in 2017, but slower growth than previously expected, reports Kalorama Information, which publishes health care-related market research. Its industry forecast predicts a 2.8 percent average growth over the next five years. “While the user base for medical devices is growing, cost-cutting mechanisms have impacted price increases.”

United States Still the Focus, with Asia Rising
Kalorama also reports that, though most revenues from medical devices will still be earned in the United States this year, China and the rest of Southeast Asia will see far greater growth than the overall market in 2017.

Companies Still Seek Innovation
A challenging market has only encouraged the industry to keep funding research, says Kalorama, which estimates that medical device companies spend an average of 7 percent of revenue on R&D, which is higher than most industries.

The Scout medical device can measure temperature, heart rate, ECG, and other variables. Photo courtesy: Scanadu.

More Multi-Functional Devices
More medtech manufacturers are making multi-functional devices that can be used for a range of applications, according to Qmed.com. Devices that are specialized are falling out of favor at hospitals because of the premium put on floor space. An example Qmed cited is the Scout device (pictured), from Silicon Valley-based Scanadu. The device can measure pulse oximetry, temperature, heart rate, ECG, and other variables.

Continue reading

How to Select the Right 3D Printing Technology

The term 3D printing encompasses several manufacturing technologies that build parts layer-by-layer. Each vary in the way they form plastic and metal parts and can differ in material selection, surface finish, durability, and manufacturing speed and cost.

Selecting the right 3D printing technology for your application requires an understanding of each process’ strengths and weaknesses and mapping those attributes to your product development needs. Let’s first discuss how 3D printing fits within the product development cycle and then take a look at common 3D printing technologies and the advantages of each.

Metal 3D-printed parts can enable design features not possible with traditional manufacturing processes.

3D Printing for Prototyping and Beyond
It’s safe to say 3D printing is most often used for prototyping. Its ability to quickly manufacture a single part enables product developers to validate and share ideas in a cost-effective manner. Determining the purpose of your prototype will inform which 3D printing technology will be the most beneficial. Additive manufacturing can be suitable for a range of prototypes that span from simple physical models to parts used for functional testing.

Despite 3D printing being nearly synonymous with rapid prototyping, there are scenarios when it’s a viable production process. Typically these applications involve low-volumes and complex geometries. Often, components for aerospace and medical applications are ideal candidates for production 3D printing as they frequently match the criteria previously described. Continue reading

3D Printing Education Gets Boost from Concept Laser, Arizona State U, Others

EYE ON INNOVATION

Leaders from the 3D printing industry have lamented in the past that universities’ engineering curriculums need to offer more courses and programs in industrial 3D printing technologies, also known as additive manufacturing, in order to better prepare the next generation of engineers.

Those educational programs received a giant boost in January when Arizona State University (ASU) announced the opening of a new Academic Additive Manufacturing Center at ASU’s Polytechnic School in Mesa.

Arizona State University recently opened its new Academic Additive Manufacturing Center, made possible by a partnership with Concept Laser, Honeywell Aerospace, and Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies. Representatives of this partnership paused for a photo during the center’s opening activities.

The 15,000 sq.-ft. center, which holds more than $2 million of plastic, polymer and 3D metal printing equipment, was made possible by a partnership ASU formed with Concept Laser, Honeywell Aerospace, and Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies.

John Murray, president and CEO of U.S. Concept Laser, who has been one of those industry leaders worried about the lack of 3D printing curriculum at universities, was a part of the partnership announcement. “Changing the future of metal additive manufacturing begins with educated teachers and curious students,” he said. “The educational leadership that the ASU Polytechnic School provides to the Southwest region and the industry will certainly be impactful. Concept Laser is proud to be a partner in this initiative.” Continue reading

Webinar Round-Up: On-demand Manufacturing and Complex Molding Processes

Next in our 2017 webinar series, we discussed rapid overmolding and insert molding. The presentation shares how these advanced molding processes work, how to design for each, and concludes with an open Q&A.

The webinar can be viewed on demand here.

Key takeaways:

  • Design considerations for overmolding and insert molding
  • Recommendations for material compatibility in two-material plastic parts
  • How to implement preformed components into plastic part designs

Additional Webinars
Miss last month’s webinar on reducing production costs with quick-turn manufacturing? That presentation can also be viewed on demand, here. And, Check out our round-up of 2016 webinars to view additional Proto Labs webinars, which cover designing for 3D printing, material selection, and more.