3-D Printing and Its Impact on the Supply Chain

3-D Printing has captured the imagination of many, and at the December 2015 Breakfast Series event, the attendees explored the current state of 3-D Printing (also called Additive Manufacturing*) and how it will impact businesses and their supply chains.

The event had four panelists who together provided a wide range of perspectives: from major 3-D technology users (ALCOA and General Electric), to industrial 3-D printing machine manufacturers & distributors (Markus Machinery), to researchers in the field.  Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering also sponsored a tour of their 3-D printer labs for attendees after the main event.   

Sandra Turko moderated the event and introduced the speakers to the more than 80 attendees.  Pitt’s own Dr. Howard Kuhn kicked off the event.  Dr. Kuhn conducts research and teaches courses on Additive Manufacturing at the Swanson School of Engineering, and also serves as Technical Advisor for America Makes (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute), having served previously as Acting Deputy Director.  Howard deftly provided attendees a foundational understanding of the technology and how it is used to create novel devices and how it can replace existing devices. Read more information about Dr. Kuhn here.

Next, panelist Mark Henne described the industrial 3-D printing machines themselves.  Mark is President of Marcus Machinery, LLC and has extensive experience with machine tool manufacturers.  He described machines made by EOS and gave insights to this growing market.  Read more information about Mark Henne here.

Then John Barnes, vice president of Advanced Manufacturing & Strategy, Alcoa Titanium & Engineered Products, gave an overview of Alcoa’s perspective of this exciting technology, their capabilities, and how this fits within their overall business.  This past September, Alcoa announced new investments in 3-D printing at their local R&D Center, building on their past acquisition of RTI, as part of their strategy to continue to be a leader in this industry.  Read more information about John Barnes here.

Dr. Kirk Rogers, technology leader of General Electric’s Center for Additive Technology Advancement, was the fourth panelist.  The Center is a new, major investment by GE and includes a new facility in the Pittsburgh area.  Kirk described the advancements that GE has made in 3-D printing, including an example of how it is used today to manufacture critical parts in core products, and thus making a compelling case that 3-D printing is not confined to research and prototyping. Read more information about Kirk Rogers here.

After the event, Barnes and Rogers met with students in a more informal session to discuss career paths and opportunities in their industries, while other attendees were invited to tour the 3-D printing research facilities at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.  

The 2016 Breakfast Speaker Series kicks off on February 26th with the topic of Sustainability in the Supply Chain. Find out more here.

* When companies use 3-D Printing in their manufacturing and supply chains, it is commonly referred to as Additive Manufacturing, underlining the notion that parts can be created though an additive process that builds up the part, in contrast with the traditional machining process of material removal to create parts.