Dr. John Cheung is the chief executive officer of OMAX® Corporation, which designs and manufactures abrasive waterjets for the precision cutting of metals, composites, glass, ceramics and other materials.
CURRENT STATE OF BUSINESS
As we enter the New Year, my personal assessment is that the current state of business within the manufacturing industry is stable and increasing. The industry has been moving in this general direction since 2010 and I believe it will remain on such a course throughout 2013.
Much of this growth can be attributed to the fact that manufacturing suppliers are continuously developing and supporting new and improved technologies that meet the diverse and ever-changing needs of manufacturers worldwide.
While manufacturing suppliers are experiencing overall growth, notable fluctuations continue to occur. Historically, suppliers would experience increased business during winter months, while summers were typically slower. The past year, however, has seen consistent ups and downs within each calendar month.
Overall, the amount of orders has increased over those of 2011. For 2013, I see this trend continuing, with suppliers experiencing decent growth spurts during some months and drop-offs in others.
With respect to the market sectors generating the most activity, sales figures suggest the fabrication side of the manufacturing industry is seeing more growth than chipmaking operations. While it can be difficult to pinpoint what is driving a particular sector, it is my belief that fabrication is taking the lead because it typically involves larger parts, which makes outsourcing overseas costly, inconvenient and time consuming.
In terms of product applications, we continue to see an increased opportunity within the aerospace industry. This can be attributed to the fact that the aerospace sector has an ongoing need for replacement parts that support the country’s aging fleet of airplanes.
Furthermore, next generation aircraft will feature more parts made of highly advanced materials, such as composites with amazing strength-to-weight ratio. This transition will have a positive impact on abrasive waterjet technology because it cuts composite materials quickly and accurately, while operating in a cleaner and safer environment than traditional machine tools.
Long considered a non-traditional or alternative manufacturing process, abrasive waterjet machining is gaining wider acceptance than ever before. I see this trend continuing in 2013.
One reason abrasive waterjet technology is being more commonly embraced as a viable option in machining is because abrasive waterjet OEMs are doing more to educate the market on how abrasivejet technology is one of the most versatile machining options available.
From processing fine details in stone to cutting holes in titanium, abrasive waterjets can slice through virtually any material faster than traditional cutting techniques. Plus, now more than ever, shops have an abundance of abrasive waterjet machine table sizes and price points from which to choose.
Secondly, machine manufacturers are taking abrasive waterjet technology to new heights, allowing shops to compete like never before. While waterjet cutting started out as strictly a 2D process, new software and accessory advancements are now making it possible for abrasive waterjet machines to create high-precision, complex 3D parts.
Amid Challenges, Majority of Metalformers Predict Little Change in Economic Activity
U.S and Canadian incoming orders expected to remain steady, according to the latest barometer reading from the Precision Metalforming Association.
U.S. Manufacturing Grows in September –– PMI Dips 0.6% to 55.4
The Institute for Supply Management reports that among the six biggest industries, food, beverage & tobacco remains the best-performing sector, with fabricated metal and chemical products growing strongly.