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Minecraft and Manufacturing Day

If you have or regularly spend time with any kids over the age of five, then you have undoubtedly heard of the game Minecraft.  I have watched games progress in special effects and graphics for more years than I care to admit, and then this game, with a very basic format, hits the market and is hugely popular.  The website fully discloses that it is a game about breaking and placing blocks that, for most of us, resemble giant Legos.  So what is it that has drawn in over 12 million people after all this time we’ve spent building bigger and better and more complicated games?  I couldn’t figure it out. It sounded basic—a game with options for Creative or Survival mode, single or multiplayer, that allows you to pull blocks and build structures from unlimited resources.

As I’ve mentioned before, I worked for a manufacturing company eons ago prior to winding up at NIST MEP.  Things have certainly changed in that time, but the premise behind of additive manufacturing was lost on me until I recently took a tour of NIST’s Additive Manufacturing lab.  During our tour, Dr. John Slotwinski and Shawn Moylan explained why NIST is working in this area (spoiler: a 3 year Materials Standards Project for Additive Manufacturing) and how the machines work.

Just in case you are new to additive manufacturing (like me), I will break it down the same way they described the process for us newbies on the tour.  Traditional manufacturing is taking an item and changing it into what you need- - like taking a piece of metal and cutting it down into a small part.  In additive manufacturing you take a design created on the computer and the machine creates the item layer by layer from a material like plastic, metal or concrete.

My kids’ fascination with Minecraft suddenly made a lot more sense. Minecraft, similar to the idea behind additive manufacturing, is based in taking elements and creating what you want out of them. The kids get to construct an idea in pure form, similar to how additive manufacturing processes allow creation without restriction to current market availability or a particular geographic location.  All along I thought my kids were spending pointless hours building cities and houses when really they’ve been preparing for fields in manufacturing! What a relief!

Here is where Manufacturing Day comes into play.  I think this is seriously one of the coolest things to happen all across the country to show off our great American manufacturers and welcome youth into the facilities to see what opportunities lay ahead in manufacturing careers.  The preconceived ideas that many youth have about manufacturing can change when they get a chance to walk in and see great things happening.  We talk about bringing manufacturing back from overseas and buying American-made products, but we also have to make sure we have a skilled workforce for the returning companies.  Seeing the additive manufacturing machine in action made me realize how far we have come and how exciting the future can be.  We should encourage our children to pursue this career in college so they can be the engineers of the future.

Image courtesy of Thafnine 

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Great comparison. As the marketing focused guest co-producer of National Manufacturing Day it has always been our priority to speak to and look at the point of view of the folks that were looking to attract to manufacturing; namely our future workforce.
Thanks for helping me to understand and the linkage to from Minecraft to manufacturing does now make sense
Great comparison - my nephews are really into Minecraft and I can see them translating their virtual creations to a 3D printer in the not too distant future!

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