Northwestern University is co- hosting a program Aug 12-13 on Future Research Needs for Advanced Manufacturing “from an Industrial Perspective.”

workshop NW

It looks like three of the speakers are from Industry: Dr. Leo Christodoulou from Boeing; Dr. Eric J. Amis from United Technologies;  and Dr. Fukuo Hashimoto from Timken Company.

Dr. Hashimoto’s topic will be “Advanced Processes for Manufacturing Precision Components.”

Dr. Amis’ topic is titled “Advanced Manufacturing: The 21st  Century Materials Design Space”

The Boeing presenter’s topic is to be announced.

I’m hoping to get a copy of these.

The objective of the program is ” … to provide a forum for leaders in industry and academia to formulate the long term research goals in the area of manufacturing, particularly innovative manufacturing processes and equipment, and to enhance respective process capabilities while taking into account impacts on industrial ecology, for example, raw materials consumption and environmental impact.”

We were almost fooled into thinking that the topic “Making Chips, The Digital Future of Manufacturing”  presentation by Dr. Tom Kurfess  at Georgia Institute of Technology was about metal removal machining- but we think we were mistaken.

Our compliments to Northwestern University, NAMRI-SME, NSF and ASME for trying to get ahead of the curve on the research agenda.

But we wonder if the Future Research Needs for Advanced Manufacturing might instead  be more social and less technological in nature:

  • How to graduate more Math and Science  Literate Students from Public Schools – so that they can qualify to work in advanced manufacturing.
  • How to get families and educators to see the earning power in High Tech High Skill Advanced Manufacturing careers.
  • How much to earmark for vocational and skill training as opposed to the billions of dollars being shoveled into 4 year college degree tuition assistance resulting in graduates with worthless degrees, mountains of debt, and no practical manufacturing skills.
  • How  to get a coherent federal policy that matches protection of public, employee, consumer, environmental, and commercial interests across all spheres of public policy regulation and trade.

These might require a different set of Doctors…

But if I could nominate a topic for the program, it might be to address “optimizing interrupted cut machining processes for titanium and high nickel alloys.”

We could use some help making these...
We could use some help making these…

But chalk that up to my industrial practitioner perspective showing. (Titanium has poor thermal conductivity, tends to produce lamellar chips, wants to deform rather than shear, which adds to the demands on the tooling.)

Every megatrend that we see leads our industry to more and more production of titanium based workpieces – aerospace and medical to name just two  growing areas, as well as growing demand for chemical processing, energy  and aerospace applications of the high nickel grades.

If you could suggest a topic for “future research for advanced manufacturing” to the collective wisdom of the participants in this program, what would you request?

Would it be technological, methodological, or social?

Contact information for the program

Titanium rotor

The manufacturing industry is facing an employment crisis. The rate of technical advances has outpaced our ability to educate and train workers on new machines and applications, creating a “skills gap.”Mark Tomlinson, CEO, Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Skilled machinists positions continue to be open in our industry.
Skilled machinists positions continue to be open in our industry.

I thought it was interesting that even during the depths of the last recession, the classified ads in the major newspapers still showed opportunities for setup and machinists in our precision machining sector of advanced manufacturing. It’s still true today. We have visited local community colleges  around the country that provide machining training and we hear the same story, after the first semester, “most of our students already have found a job or have one promised upon graduation.”

Here’s more from Mark-

“This is a great time to work in manufacturing. We’re applying once pie-in-the-sky technologies to real-world needs: creating strong yet flexible limb replacements for our wounded warriors, robots that crawl into the fuselage of an aircraft, mountain bikes for extreme enthusiasts, engineered for safety pushing the boundaries of men and machine. It’s stuff that captures the imagination.

“Yet students are not pursuing these jobs despite the cool factor. Some of it is institutional and some of it is perception. A major challenge is there is no academic infrastructure to administer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum on a national scale. That’s compounded by a lack interest in STEM by educators, parents and students who may be more inclined toward attending a four-year college.”

We need to help change the perception of manufacturing and skilled trades.  In educators, parents, and students.

We need to help change the notion that going heavily into debt for a bachelors degree without a plan for return on investment (ROI)is the weay fofr our sons and daughters to get their start in life.

We need to show parents, students, counselors, teachers, our communities, the “existential joys of manufacturing”- the cool stuff we make, the high tech machines we use to make it, and the broad math, science, problemsolving intellectual skill set that we bring to our work.

That our skilled machinists are worthy of the highest respect.

Mark Tomlinson told the Huffington Post “We know where the jobs are.”


If you would like to investigate a career in advanced manufacturing / precision machining- we’ve prepared a a database to help you access training resources wherever you are. PMPA Career Info Database.

For more info you can also  search on “Manufacturing,” “Skills,” or “Career” in this blog’s search box in the upper right corner.

Or go to PMPA website Careers section.