Having a list of bona fide experts to rely on would be great, but AM is moving too fast for that.

Manufacturing Blog: Where to Find Veteran Expertise in AM

Jun 16, 2022

by Todd Grimm

At a recent meeting of an advisory team of Metrix, an ASME company, the conversation turned to what is needed in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry to advance the use and adoption of the technology. During the discussion, the desire for a curated list of industry experts emerged.
 
Why would such a list be necessary? AM is a dynamic field, and its quickly evolving nature attracts self-proclaimed experts, or “posers,” willing to tell you facts that are false and share views that aren’t based in reality. Such false prophets exist in all aspects of life.
 
But when it comes to an emerging field like AM, the probability increases because the future, or at least how fast the future will arrive, is an unknown. AM is still unfolding in every context: technologies, materials, processes, research, and applications. The lack of a long track record enables self-proclaimed experts to assert unfounded theories, unsubstantiated facts, and questionable predictions.

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Do you want to be sent down the wrong path when you are poised to tackle a multimillion-dollar, multi-year initiative to innovate and change with the AM tools?
 
Of course not. That is why the idea of a curated list of experts arose. The concept is that a vetted registry of individuals is created, vetted for experience and soundness of thoughts and opinions. When reliable AM information is hard to come by, short of spending years in the trenches, sound advice from outside counsel is a way to avoid missteps and shorten the time between concept and success.
 
With years in the industry, AM veterans have constructed a network of peers and experts they have vetted over time and developed a rich repository of their own information. But what is a newcomer to do? What about those who don’t dedicate their workdays to AM investigations?
 
Making gut-level decisions or trusting unvetted experts can have tragic outcomes. Expensive AM machines may sit idle because they were the wrong choice. Projects can wither because the time and money needed are far greater than planned. And companies can find themselves chasing unrealistic goals.

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A curated list would solve the issue of information gaps, but it has a weakness. AM expertise comes in many forms, from many regions of the AM landscape, and from many points along the workflow.
 
So, how would the list be managed so that you can tap into the individuals who have the experience, wisdom, and insights you need?
 
No one knows everything, so a curated list would require multi-faceted vetting that looks at every aspect of a candidate’s resume.
 
The issue for newcomers is that going it alone is unwise because of the mountain of facts needed. But how do you begin surrounding yourself with those that offer sound advice and insight?
 
To sniff out the keepers and walk away from the posers, there are a few high-level indicators that you should bear in mind.
 
First, consider only those willing to say things you don’t want to hear and confident enough to say, “I don’t know.” Know-it-alls and those that play to your ego should be discounted.

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Second, consider those who have a genuine interest in helping others. Walk away from those who are self-serving in terms of selling what they offer and making themselves look good.
 
Third, inquire about their years of experience in the specific areas of need. If they have no or little background in that area, exclude them.
 
Even if your experts pass these tests, do not rely on the opinions of a single individual, no matter how esteemed in the AM community. Instead, pose your query to a minimum of three experts, and craft your own opinion from the combined input.
 
A curated list of experts does not exist, and even if it did, it would still be up to you to vet that list for your specific needs. You need external expertise to make AM work, but there isn’t a shortcut, regrettably. 
 
Todd Grimm is president of T. A. Grimm & Associates, an additive manufacturing consulting and communications company, and a 30-year industry veteran.

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