Additive manufacturing has enabled companies to more quickly and easily make all kinds of things, but it has yet to become the standard for making things. Now one event will gather industry leaders to find ways to advance additive manufacturing.

On August 22, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), an organization that supports some of the world’s most innovative companies, will host The Future of Additive Manufacturing, a panel covering the various challenges facing the expansion of additive manufacturing. Also known as 3D printing, the process brings a design to fruition through the layering of certain materials. Various industries have used it to create everything from prototypes to fully realized products, such as machine parts or prosthetic limbs for amputee patients.

Connie Palucka, who serves as the director of programming at PDMA Pittsburgh, says that while additive manufacturing technology has existed since the early- to mid-1980s, it only started taking off over the last several years.

“It really helps companies not only speed up the development process but add characteristics and functionality that was never possible before,” says Palucka. “We’re at an interesting transition point where awareness is building. Companies by and large are trying to see how the technology will help them save money and time.”

The panel features experts from a variety of fields. Representing academia is Dr. Jack Beuth, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, home to NextManufacturing, one of the world’s leading research centers for additive manufacturing. Also speaking are corporate leaders from General Electric, Arconic and Covestro, as well as Rob Gorham, executive director at America Makes, a national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

3D bioprinting demonstration at the NextManufacturing Center Consortium launch. Image courtesy of CMU.

The panel will discuss how companies can strengthen their in-house additive manufacturing capabilities and identify the biggest inroads to adopting the technology. Palucka says they will also touch on how to build a workforce skilled in using additive manufacturing tools.

“When you talk to manufacturers in all sectors, one of the biggest challenges that they have is finding qualified workers,” she says, adding that CMU and America Makes are developing programs to help train current workers and students for additive manufacturing careers.

While the panel covers the overall growth of additive manufacturing, it will also focus on its place in the Pittsburgh region, which boasts numerous companies, medical research facilities, schools and other institutions that are exploring the technology’s many applications. For example, last year, General Electric opened its $39 million Center for Additive Technology Advancement in Findlay Township.

“There’s a lot of activity in terms of research that’s going on and companies that are investing,” says Palucka.

The Future of Additive Manufacturing panel will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Downtown Truefit office, followed by a Q & A and networking. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Anyone can register. Admission fees apply.