Metal Takes Form at MS & T 2015, FABTECH, & FormNext

Before we dive into the topics of metal forming and welding, we want to take a moment to honor the men and women who have served our nation on this Veterans Day. Today marks the 96th anniversary of World War I, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.




We Find Out What’s New with Metal Forming and Welding Technology at Materials Science & Technology 15

This fall, there has been a lot of activity in the metallurgical science scene, which includes advances in material science, metal forming, and welding. As you can imagine, here at Formaspace, we have quite a few customers representing different manufacturing industries that are interested in developments in metal production techniques. Formaspace itself falls into this category: we use a lot of high-quality, American-made steel to create our industrial-strength furniture, with our famous 12 year guarantee. At the Material Science and Technology 2015 Conference held a few weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio, graduate students from Ohio State University (OSU) demonstrated that brand-new technique for welding high-strength metals. 

Manufacturers of cars and trucks are trying to increase gas mileage by producing lighter weight vehicles. The OSU researchers have been studying welding technology used to assemble vehicle bodies and other components. What they found is that manufacturers are looking to use nontraditional metals, like aluminum, in vehicle manufacturing to reduce weight. However, traditional welding techniques aren’t very effective for welding different kinds of metals together, or for welding more exotic metal alloys.

So the OSU researchers developed a new technique called Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding or VFAW for short. This technique, which employs a sacrificial thin piece of aluminum foil that is vaporized via an electrical pulse, followed by a high-speed application of hot gas, allows two different types of metals to be fused together with a bond that is up to 50% stronger than conventional welding techniques. As a bonus, this VFAW approach uses only one fourth of the energy compared to traditional resistance spot welding, and thus has the potential to dramatically reduce energy use in manufacturing.


Edmunds Ford F150 vs. Sledge Hammer Test


All eyes have been on Ford Motor Company since their engineers went ahead with the radical decision to retool the number one selling vehicle in the US, the Ford F150 pickup truck, with an all-aluminum body (instead of steel.) For Ford, the advantages are clear: the truck bodies won’t rust like steel versions, they are lighter and according to Ford their new aluminum designs are stronger. Certainly these new Ford F150s get better gas mileage, which is a great benefit to consumers, although with two dollar gas at the moment it’s probably not as great a concern now compared to a few years ago.

The Detroit Free Press has been following sales results carefully. After an initial sales spike when the aluminum model was introduced, sales turned soft over the summer but bounced back significantly this fall. Ford acknowledges that it’s fallen short on its manufacturing capacity for producing the new aluminum bodies. They recently announced an $80 million investment for a new press line, including a hydroform press and two machining lines at their Dearborn Stamping/Dearborn Diversified plants that make the body panels, as well as a $250 million investment at Dearborn Truck assembly plant and a $200 million investment at the Kansas City assembly plant.

Meanwhile, General Motors has been “trash talking” aluminum pickup trucks in their television ads, touting their steel-bodied trucks are stronger. In the video above, Edmunds, the car rating website, investigated and found that the aluminum Ford F150 took blows from a sledgehammer quite handily. However, the cost to repair the damage back to like-new condition is probably twice as expensive as repairing steel, according to their investigators. Despite that, the rust-free aluminum body and better gas mileage are appealing  — as long as you don’t ding the vehicle.  


Materials Science Technology Fabtech 2015


What About FabTech & FormNext?

Meanwhile, the FABTECH show is taking place this week in Chicago. This is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing exposition. They are expecting over 1500 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees. One of the exhibitors at FABTECH is GPI Prototype, a 3D printing service Bureau that does very sophisticated work. Recently they printed a rocket engine out of Inconel alloy, an exotic metal alloy that maintains high-strength at high temperatures. The rocket engine was part of a series of tests by the University of California, San Diego chapter of Students for the Exploration Development of Space as part of their research program in advance of participating in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition held in Green River, Utah this past June.


NASA 3D Printed Rocket Parts


NASA is also testing 3D printing technology to manufacturer critical parts for its own rocket launch programs. GPI Prototype used a different 3D printing technique called direct metal laser melting (DMLM) to manufacture a replica of the delicate, elongated acorn-shaped grill from a 1937 Delahaye 135MS Roadster. Mark Lacey, who manufactures high-end custom guitars, incorporated this reproduction grill piece into a fully custom guitar. This made us curious to look at the metal forming work on the original Delahaye 135MS Roadster, which went on display along with several other gorgeous exotic Art Deco vehicles a few years back at a car show in Nashville, Tennessee.

After the FABTECH exhibition closes later this week in Chicago, many of the same exhibitors will be reconvening later this month in Frankfurt, Germany for the Formnext exhibition. This conference will focus on tool-making and additive manufacturing technologies. If this doesn’t satisfy your hunger for 3D printing in manufacturing, we actually have a movie suggestion for you! You can watch the film “Print the Legend” on Netflix; all about the movers and shakers that created the revolutionary additive manufacturing industry, with highlights of young entrepreneurs from MakerBot and more.


Formaspace is Looking Ahead in Manufacturing Technology

Electronics Repair Tech Lab Workbench
View in Gallery

We invite you to join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, Ford, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.

Now you can get our top-quality, made-in-America workbenches that we build here in our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas. Like all Formaspace furniture, it’s backed by our famous 12 year, three shift guarantee. Want more information? Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of built-to-order computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services.

See How it’s ‘Made in America’ at the Fabtech 2013 Convention

As the first taste of colder weather greets us here in Austin, Texas, we suddenly realize Thanksgiving and the holiday season are already upon us. That’s how quickly 2013 has gone by. This is also the season for one of the largest manufacturing trade shows of the year, FabTech, which kicks off this coming Monday, November 18 for three days at McCormick Place in Chicago. This is a very large convention; the organizers expect record-breaking attendance of over 35,000 people, over 1500 exhibits, across more than 500,000 ft.² of floor space.


Fabtech Logo, image by Dimeco
Fabtech Logo, image by Dimeco


Fabtech 2013 Showcases the Newest ‘Made in America’ Manufacturing Technology

Why is Fabtech so large? Well there are a couple of reasons. American manufacturing is on the upswing, and Fabtech itself touches on a whole series of related technologies: metal forming, represented by the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA); fabrication, represented by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association Int’l (FMA); welding, represented by the American Welding Society (AWS) and metals coating, represented by the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI). The other primary sponsor is SME, formerly known as the Society for Manufacturing Engineers, which produces this show and some of the other industry meetings we discussed back in October.

We’re interesting in all these new developments because we are ourselves are a leading manufacturer of technical furniture, with both standard and customized lines of industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, cabinets, packing tables, computer workstations and more. So we’ll be paying particularly close attention to all the new product introductions in metal forming, cutting and powder coating processes. For example, PPG is presenting their complete line of products for metal protective coatings at the Fabtech show.

There will be hundreds more product introductions, many of which you can view at a special events web page on the Fabtech website. We’re interested in these innovations because we’re interested in knowing more about how our manufacturing customers work and what their needs are for technical furniture. The attendees at Fabtech span the gamut from automotive manufacturers, petroleum pipeline construction companies, oil and gas exploration firms, light manufacturing to heavy industries, like steel production, and specialty metallic alloy casting and forging applications. But we’re also interested because so many of these new advances in manufacturing technology are incredibly cool. For example, ABB Robotics will have a display of their new robotics for welding and cutting, for paint applications and more. All this high-tech manufacturing gear really gets us excited.


Fabtech Panels Assess ‘Made-in-America” Manufacturing

Two important panels will discuss the state of American manufacturing. The first panel called “State of the industry — Executive Outlook” will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the US manufacturing sector. (You may recall we touched on this topic as it affected the furniture industry in our article Are we experiencing an American Revolution in Manufacturing? )

A second panel will highlight the importance of building an American work force to tackle the challenges of the manufacturing industry into the future. Here executives from Caterpillar, Kelly services, and SME, among others, will highlight ways that industry, government and educational institutions can come together and create a sustainable pipeline for educating and developing the workforce for tomorrow’s American manufacturing industries.


formaspace made in america


Formaspace is Always Looking for Ways to Improve Our “Made in America” Furniture

Here at Formaspace we will be looking out for innovative new technologies introduced at the Fabtech 2013 show. It’s our goal to create the best quality industrial workbenches, computer workstations, packing tables and other technical furniture installations. If you are looking to remodel, expand or build out a facility, why not ask to speak with our design consultant? We know you’ll find they can give you new ideas on how to make your manufacturing facility, laboratory, healthcare facility or educational institution become more efficient, safe and productive.

SME Manufacturing Events Shift into High Gear

October’s Manufacturing Day was the First of Several Manufacturing Events Taking Place


October kicked off with Manufacturing Day, an event designed to educate the public about the role American manufacturing plays in our economy, particularly among young people who might not be aware of their potential career choices in the manufacturing sector. Now in its second year, Manufacturing Day is co-produced by several leading manufacturing organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA). Falling close on the heels of manufacturing day are major educational conferences and trade exhibitions hosted by SME, the society for professional engineers working in the manufacturing field. The first of these is Westec which takes place this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center. A related conference, South-tec, will be held on the other side of the country in Greenville, South Carolina on October 29-31. These two conventions will be followed in November by FabTech, a conference dedicated to metal forming fabricating and welding technologies.


Adam Steltzner, Popular NASA Media Figure, Headlines Westec Manufacturing Conference Opening Keynote


Adam Steltzner Crane Demo, image by Smithsonian Magazine
Adam Steltzner Sky Crane Demo, image by Smithsonian Magazine


Adam Steltzner, the well-known engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who was responsible for the unique ‘sky crane’ landing system that lowered the rover Curiosity onto the surface of Mars in August 2012, opened the Westec conference this week with a keynote address. The media savvy Steltzner, who has appeared on NPR as well as several episodes of the television program NOVA, is a great ambassador for the manufacturing industry not only because of the unique, exciting space projects he is associated with but also because Steltzner’s ‘rock and roll’ image bucks the stereotype of the straight-laced pocket protector clad engineer.


Importance of STEM Curriculum for Developing Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Professionals

The agenda at Westec (as well as at the South-Tec conference taking place at the end of this month) reflects national trends in the professional engineering field. The first trend is the ongoing effort to attract and prepare today’s students for careers in manufacturing. A well educated workforce is essential to meet the challenges brought on by advances in technology as well as the need to replace the first wave of baby-boom engineers retiring from the workforce. SME will address this as part of their “Bridging the Skills Gap Summit” moderated by Rodney Grover, who serves as a manager at the SME Education Foundation. Grover sees manufacturing as a true wealth generator for future generations and he is focused on developing and improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum in America’s K-12 schools.


The Challenge and Opportunity of Additive Manufacturing: What is Real and What is Hype?

The second trend is coming to terms with what role additive manufacturing will play in the industry in the coming years. While the term 3-D printing has entered the popular lexicon, manufacturing engineers are also beginning to use the term additive manufacturing to refer to a group of related technologies, including stereolithography, laser sintering and fused deposition modeling. The term additive comes from the concept of adding material in successive layers to build a prototype or finished product. This is in contrast to traditional subtractive techniques, like computer-aided milling and machining, which remove excess material to create finished parts. Today SME will present a panel discussion titled: “Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing…Opportunity or Threat” where a number of experts will present their views on the potential of additive manufacturing to be a disruptive game changer that upends established industries and business models by separating fact from fiction and hype from reality.


Third Trend: The Increasingly Important Role Design and Manufacturing of Medical Devices Plays

The third trend addressed at the conference is the increasing importance of the medical devices industry. Technological advances in this field are having a profound impact on our health and quality of life. Recent advances in new materials, such as flexible electronic circuit boards, the ongoing revolution in device miniaturization and nanotechnology, as well as the aforementioned additive manufacturing techniques are converging at a dizzying rate to fuel development of incredible new medical devices whose capabilities seem like they came directly from science fiction. SME will showcase many of the new, unique technologies in their Medical Manufacturing Innovations Center at the conference.


FabTech will Attract Over 35,000 Manufacturing Industry Attendees to Chicago this November

Looking ahead to November, over 35,000 attendees are expected to meet up for FabTech at McCormick Place in Chicago during November 18-21, 2013. Here the focus will be on technologies related to metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing. In addition to SME, the following industry trade groups have come together to sponsor FabTech:

  • American Welding Society (AWS)
  • Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Int’l (FMA)
  • Precision Metalforming Association (PMA)
  • Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI)


Formaspace Keeps Up with New Manufacturing Technology Trends


mobile cart attaches and detaches to workbench
Detachable Mobile Cart Station


Here at Formaspace, we will be monitoring these manufacturing industry innovations with great interest. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our own ‘made in America’ workbench manufacturing processes and sustainable business practices in order to deliver the best quality industrial workbenches, computer workstations, packing tables and other technical furniture installations. Why not contact us today and speak with one of our technical furniture experts? We can show you how Formaspace can help your manufacturing facility become more efficient, safe and productive.