Few New Jersey companies have full-time additive manufacturing operations, also known as 3-D printing, because the technology is evolving. Industry experts believe as the economics improve and local firms become more familiar with the process, that scenario is likely to change.Few New Jersey companies have full-time additive manufacturing operations, also known as 3-D printing, because the technology is evolving. Industry experts believe as the economics improve and local firms become more familiar with the process, that scenario is likely to change.
Additive manufacturing is the process by which manufacturers combine materials to make products such as medical instruments, kitchen appliances, building components and even firearms.
“If you are machining in steel, there are additive manufacturing machines that can fabricate in steel and other exotic alloys,” said Joseph Carotenuto, director of business development at the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. “However, most of them are in the million-dollar category. Additive manufacturing in steel and other alloys is traditionally done in traditional computer numerical control manufacturing. As companies embrace the technology and pricing and the equipment starts to become more competitive, we are going to see an increasing number out there.”
“The greatest challenges associated with additive manufacturing revolve around a limited number of qualified people who are experts in computer-automated control of machine tools and designing manufacturing,” Carotenuto said. “As a result, many manufacturers are competing for the same relatively small pool of qualified employees.”
About 365,000 New Jersey residents are employed in the manufacturing industry in the state. A large challenge the industry faces is breaking through the misconception that these jobs don’t require a high degree of education, whether in the form of a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree, technical training or apprenticeship, Carotenuto said.
Christian Joest, vice president of sales and business development at Imperial Machine & Tool Co. in Columbia, said Imperial started as a traditional manufacturing company in 1943 and remains that way. With the advent of processes like 3-D printing, the industry is becoming more of a “lab-coat environment,” he said during a talk at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“As a small manufacturer like us, we try to find people who do not necessarily have a high-end degree, but do have a trade school degree or a one-year apprenticeship program,” he continued. “Those people are just as valuable as having someone with a high-end engineering degree.”
The people who have earned trade school degrees are the ones making the products, Joest said, adding they make a good living through manufacturing.