Industry Perspectives & Models

In the face of current economic challenges, today’s manufacturing industries are employing Advanced or Next Generation Manufacturing tools, techniques, and technologies to survive. Fab Labs, developed by MIT, provide an ideal means for students to learn these next generation manufacturing skills. Successful next-generation manufacturers will need to respond quickly to customer needs by rapidly producing customized, inexpensive, and high-quality products. This will require fabrication capabilities that can be quickly reconfigured to adapt to changing production and that can be operated by highly-motivated and skilled knowledge workers.

Next generation manufacturing technicians need to possess radically different skills than those needed in traditional production manufacturing. These technicians must flexibly translate imaginative and innovative design ideas into commercial products in just a few iterations. They need the skills to flexibly adjust their designs to just-in-time supply chains and resource availability with a minimum of waste. And they must be able to work in teams both within the company and in extended collaborations outside the company, even globally. Lastly, they must thoroughly understand and apply advanced technologies while adopting emerging technologies to maintain their expertise.

Development Plans

The growing network of DFLC NSF ATE Center Partners will support the Next Generation Manufacturing component of the pilot learning community. These NSF ATE Centers develop and provide leading-edge resources and curriculum that cover the entire Advanced or Next Generation Manufacturing spectrum and technician skills profile. These NSF ATE Centers, located throughout the USA will enhance the national scope of the project, permitting the integration of digital fabrication and advanced manufacturing disciplines and technologies into all DFLC pilot offerings. Their endorsement of the importance of digital fabrication and commitment to the project is demonstrated by the fact that virtually all these NSF ATE Centers have or will be implementing Fab Labs.

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