Smiles are big these days among local mold makers. So much so that Jonathon Azzopardi, an executive with Laval International, thinks a grand bargain is ahead for him and his competitors. In fact, he was quoted in the media on February 27 predicting a potential five-times increase in demand for products from Oldcastle’s mold maker cluster could result in 50,000 new jobs.
His optimism is fueled by a $100,000 cheque from Ontario’s Rural Economic Development Program and given to the Canadian Association of Mold Makers. The molders will use the money to largely polish their sales and marketing skills.
It is the usual voodoo often heard around these parts, but usually reserved for sporting events.
A government investment will generate millions of economic value and the mold industry will be watched by millions of world television viewers.
Unfortunately, a sad reality is escaping the mold industry. It is living in dangerous times and could face extinction in a matter of years.
This government largesse is misdirected. It should equip post-secondary institutions with advanced 3D printers so students can learn additive manufacturing. This disruptive technology eliminates the need for traditionally made molds, tools, dies, and fixtures.
Most local mold companies serve the competitive automotive industry, a sector always looking to save money. Although mold making relies on talented artisans, it is costly, time consuming, and physically restrictive.
Industrial Equipment News recently reported Volkswagen’s use of 3D printers allows the world’s largest car maker to, “test solutions in-house, purchasing costs were reduced by 91%, and implementation time was cut by 95%.”
An IDC study expects manufacturers to spend nearly $12 billion on 3D printing technologies this year. Other countries have taken notice and are feverishly working to retool their industries to support AM.
Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster is one.
The national program, led by Nanyang Technological University, is translating upstream 3D printing research in universities into downstream commercial applications to lower barriers so its domestic industry can incorporate AM into their businesses.
Since its formation in October 2015, it has developed a collaborative and innovative ecosystem for 3D printing to address barriers to AM adoption.
Ontario would be wise to do the same.