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One Size Never Fits All

Category: Manufacturing Technology By: Stephen LaMarca, Manufacturing Technology Analyst, AMT - The Association for Manufacturing Technology Jan 3, 2022


The Coolest Tech in Every Size

We’re suckers for extremes. Machines so big they can’t fit in McCormick Place. Complex parts that are so tiny they fit in the palm of your hand. Both are equally impressive. We all know that one size NEVER fits ALL quite right (looking at you, medical gowns), but cool technology comes in every size.

From the colossal to the minuscule, there are amazing things going in manufacturing technology. Here are just a few.

Big Ideas

Small Revolutions

  1. Buying big down under. The twisted tale of Australian’s submarine deal switch-a-roo and France’s resulting très French fury has been thoroughly documented. Even more interesting is Australia’s massive investment in advanced manufacturing. For the past two years, the country has been pumping money into domestic manufacturing, specifically ramping up defense manufacturing capabilities. The focus on enhancing manufacturing capacity is good news for machine and equipment providers. Australia presents a big opportunity to sell big tools in a new market.
  2. Colossally cool. One of the biggest players in the massive equipment business is Pietro Carnaghi Machine Tools. They’ve been building big equipment including vertical lathes, gantry milling machines, and flexible manufacturing system cells for more than nine decades.

    They always stick out in my (Steve’s) mind because of a memorable experience at my very first IMTS in 2014. As I entered their exhibit (which was larger than my apartment), I quickly noticed there were no machines. In fact, it was empty. In the center of the large display area was a single jet engine turbine blade. That was it. I asked a company representative where the machines were, and he explained that all their machines are custom made. He went on to inform me that the machines they build are larger than the hall of McCormick Place and too heavy for the building’s foundation. That’s big. I never forgot that explanation or that single gorgeous turbine blade.

    I am willing to bet there will be LOTS of massive machines (and parts) at IMTS 2022!

  3. Robot flex. Fanuc is an industry leader in automation. Their name – and their yellow bots – are synonymous with robotic technology. And they are constantly innovating. They currently have the largest robot arm available, which shows its strength and dexterity by adeptly moving around a Chevy Corvette (which is yellow, of course). Watching that never gets old!

    We can’t wait to see what they have at IMTS 2022.

  4. Massachusetts is the New Switzerland. For decades, Switzerland has been famous in the machine tool industry for providing the most precise and accurate mills and lathes. They were also early leaders in the micro machining market. Kindly move over, Switzerland. Massachusetts is the new unofficial capital of advanced precision micro manufacturing.

    Tiny complex geometries come to life at Boston Micro Fabrication. As hardware gets smaller, the company is serving industries ranging from medical to electronics to micro mechanical devices. Meanwhile, Formlabs is expanding access to digital fabrication, so anyone can make anything. From its headquarters in Somerville, Massachusetts, the company is providing 3D printers, materials, software, and solutions for professionals and decision makers.

  5. Like Clockwork – As precise as they are tiny, watches are wearable machines. While I don’t try to hide my obsession with watches, I think the newest improvements in horology (vocab alert) are worthy of worship even from the casual observer. Take for instance the process that Rolex now uses to make small watch parts.

    Known as LIGA, the German additive manufacturing process involves lithography, electroplating, and modeling and is used to fabricate precision micro parts. LIGA enables luxury watchmakers to mass produce parts that once had to be hand finished. With that said, don’t come for us Rolex — the watches are still assembled by hand in an underground fortress in the heart of the Swiss Alps (or something like that).

Keep up with our big obsessions and tiny fixations by tuning into our Tech Trends podcast.

About the Author

“Stephen LaMarca is AMT’s manufacturing technology analyst. He has a background in physics and a passion for all things mechanical, namely automobiles, clocks and wristwatches. He’s pretty sure he has the best job at AMT. He oversees and runs experiments on AMT’s manufacturing testbed, which includes a 5-axis horizontal CNC mill. Stephen is an enthusiastic IMTS TV and IMTS Network correspondent who injects humor into technical subjects. He also hosts the AMT Tech Trends podcast with Ben Moses, Technical Director. Stephen also tracks the research and development throughout the industry that goes into the stuff you see at IMTS!”

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