by Federico Sciammarella, Northern Illinois University
Around 2034, we will be watching live footage of our first pioneers heading out to board their launch vehicle waving to the crowds before they endure the long journey to Mars. Room on the flight will be limited and they will have advanced manufacturing systems that will enable them to be self-sufficient once they arrive. In 2034 we will no longer simply build products for people on this planet but will have the capability to utilize the raw materials in our solar system to create products for those pioneers on Mars and beyond. Once they touchdown they will start with a local fabrication facility on Mars! When the next wave of people come, there will already be housing and other important infrastructure in place. Tomorrow’s interplanetary travelers are just one example of a new community in 2034 who will demand customized, locally deployable, and as-yet-undiscovered materials and manufacturing processes to meet challenges we can’t even conceive of today.
By this time, the world economy will be much more mature due to the growth in advanced manufacturing of goods. These systems will be robust and capable of producing high quality components with minimal use of materials. Manufacturing has always been the way to true economic development; the difference in 2034 is that it will be much leaner and more sustainable, fostering harmony with an increasingly tapped environment.
In 2034, advanced manufacturing, especially additive manufacturing, will be a well-established tool in the American toolbox. This will be possible through the strong federal investments made in great organizations like America Makes (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) and the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. America will continue to lead the way in the local development of manufacturing capabilities and novel materials and manufacturing techniques. These innovation institutes and other federally funded programs will enable healthy public-private partnerships instrumental in solving the many challenges to get to the red planet.
This does not have to be just a prediction of what I envision the future to be. It is an achievable goal so long as we work collectively. For example, thanks to NIST funding from the Measurement Science in Additive Manufacturing program at Northern Illinois University, we have teamed up with Northwestern University, Quad City Manufacturing Labs, ASM international, Fabricators Manufacturing Association and Illinois Manufacturing Extension to help solve the critical issues of creating repeatable and reliable properties when utilizing metallic 3D Printing. From physics-based multi-scale modeling to predict material properties to the quantification of energy delivered to parts and correlating them to mechanical properties we have been able to create some very unique technologies that will benefit industry. We have an advisory board of leading industry people from Tier 1 suppliers to small manufacturers, ensuring that what we deliver will be of value and move from our lab to their shop floor.
It is my belief that all the branches of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics should continue to push the boundaries and work hand-in-hand to develop that future. As leaders and citizens we must continue to support and increase annual funding for fundamental science, technology, engineering, and math research and education because, without that support, other nations will take the lead. As academics we must challenge our students to dream big and continue to work in close collaboration with each other and industry. I am really excited to see how things turn out in the next 20 years. I am pretty sure I will be able to say I told you so!
Federico Sciammarella is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Northern Illinois University’s College of Engineering & Engineering Technology where his research is focused on laser enabled manufacturing. Currently his research group is awaiting final approval of a U.S. patent for Laser Assisted Machining of Ceramics as a result of research done under the Illinois Center for Defense Manufacturing Program. He has additionally received support for his work from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation.