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Editorial for SFF Symposium Special Issue
Article Type: Editorial From: Rapid Prototyping Journal, Volume 21, Issue 2
It is an interesting time for additive manufacturing (AM). I, for one, am excited with the developments. As anyone who follows the field at any level would know, there has been an explosion of interest, activity and participation in AM over the past 2-3 years. For those of us who have been in the field for a while, it brings back memories to the first spike in interest back in1995. More on this, in a moment.
The first Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) Symposium was held in 1990 in Austin, Texas. As a member of that organizing committee, I recall the then growing interest in the research community in the field. I have kept a track of the meeting attendance over the years, and the plot below illustrates my point regarding the first “hype” in AM interest 20 years ago. As a faithful attender of the SFF Symposium, I recall the excitement and interest at those meetings leading up to the mid-1990s. Unlike the present hype, AM was unheard of in the press, the public and by policy makers. The interest was spurred by industrial technical researchers who were eager to learn how this new technology might impact their company’s interests. This peaked with just over 200 attendees at the meeting in 1995. However, over the next five years, the attendance dropped by almost 50 per cent and remained at these levels for some time (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Meeting attendance at the SFF Symposium by year
Moving on to the present, the primary difference between the first hype in 1995 and this second period of AM enlightenment is the widespread societal awareness and the availability of low-cost AM equipment. 3D printers are in use everywhere: in elementary schools, in stores, in homes and on street corners. National news coverage of AM is remarkable, not so much that the stories are being covered, but rather that story writers no longer feel the need to define AM for their listeners before jumping into the actual piece of news. For universities recruiting graduate students, we no longer have to “sell” applicants on what the technology is; they already know. Policy makers see AM as a paradigm of advanced manufacturing with concomitant economic and job-creating potential.
This issue is a collection of best papers from the 2014 SFF Symposium. This three-day meeting was held during August 4-6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. It drew 334 researchers from universities, companies and national laboratories from all over the world, representing 17 countries. There were 199 talks and posters presented at this annual meeting. Based on evaluations of each presentation at the conference, 12 papers were identified as best papers from the conference. These are included in this special issue. The content represents the breadth of AM research. I am grateful to the journal for providing this outlet for wider dissemination.
The Twenty-Sixth SFF Symposium is scheduled for August 10-12, 2015 in Austin, Texas. I hope you will be able to attend.
David L. Bourell - Chair, Organizing Committee,SFF Symposium