Future Prediction for Manufacturing and Technology

Last Word

Goodbye manufacturing. Goodbye CNC programming. Goodbye CAM. Goodbye multitasking machines. Thank you for the opportunity to have had a career in computer-aided manufacturing, for the most part with my own company and products. It doesn’t get much better than that.

This time the rumor is true. It’s time for me to retire. I will be finishing out 2015, but this will be my last year. I have lived and worked through the most incredible developments in technology in the history of the world. I don’t think I have enough energy to go through the next round of revolutions in manufacturing. It’s time to let younger people take the reins.

The good news is that I am leaving a great team to continue developing GibbsCAM. Some of the staff have been around the entire life of Gibbs and Associates, and some are relatively new—at only a decade or so. They care as much about GibbsCAM as I do. I’m happy to have been asked to comment on the future one last time.

One of the most exciting changes is that with the decrease in electricity costs in the U.S. and the increase in labor costs in China, the U.S. is estimated to only have a 5 percent higher cost of manufacturing compared with China. That’s the lowest disadvantage in my lifetime. And the U.S. is expected to reach parity, with our advanced manufacturing technology poised to beat China at its own game of being the cheapest place to build stuff.

Reshoring should continue to increase, and maybe we can bring back industrial arts in education. We need a lot of people with something other than basic college degrees to fill the manufacturing positions that will continue to be created.

On the technology side, additive manufacturing sure is a wild ride, with expectations running both high and low. Investor lust aside, the technology continues to develop. Metal printing is becoming more accessible, more capable, more cost competitive.

I think there is the potential for huge synergies between additive and subtractive manufacturing, not that additive will replace subtractive. CAD/CAM software needs to able to support advanced design with knowledge of manufacturing processes, for both types of manufacturing. I think we will see true integration of the two processes.

Moving forward, there will be challenges of supporting machines not yet designed, including multitask hybrids for additive and subtractive processes. And throughout all of this, I hope that CAD/CAM software will get easier to use, to allow engineers and manufacturers to fully take advantage of this new technology. I hope GibbsCAM will be in the forefront of all these activities.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been working on CAM software for 35 years, and the last 31 of them with Gibbs and Associates. It all started back when I was a mechanical engineer and was then hired to develop NC programming software. That eventually led to contract NC programming and the realization that there needed to be better tools for programmers.

Then, in 1984 I discovered the Macintosh. Something clicked, and I started down the road of developing the CAM software that eventually evolved into GibbsCAM. Along the way we were acquired by Cimatron Ltd., and this year Cimatron was acquired by 3D Systems. It’s been quite a ride.

Change is the one constant in life, and change can be good. The GibbsCAM team is devoted to a great product and happy customers. Now it is part of the larger 3D Systems family, a company named one of the 50 smartest companies by MIT. 3DS is a company dedicated to innovation and integrating manufacturing solutions. It’s a good place for GibbsCAM to be.

Certainly, I will miss the daily co-worker interactions and working on new things for GibbsCAM, but I think I will miss all of my customers even more. I have always enjoyed the great group of customers we have, doing exactly what we hoped—using GibbsCAM to make their own businesses more efficient and profitable, all while manufacturing an incredible variety of parts.

Though it’s hard to leave all that behind, I’m looking forward to spending some time learning to be a grape farmer, continuing my sailing hobby and spending more time with Debbie, my wife of 38 years, and my brand-new grandson, Eli.

So long. It’s been fun.