by Anthony Rodriguez, December 20, 2016

Say Goodbye to "You Can't Make This"

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My dad was a machinist by trade, so my interest in manufacturing started young. He would often come home at night and talk about what he’d made that day, the challenges of making it, why it was important. I remember holding parts for the STS-26 Space Shuttle in my hands. Landing gear from the Boeing 757 and the F-15. I started wondering: who invents these designs and how does all this stuff happen? I thought, maybe this is what I want to do.

So I started drawing. Creating concepts for rockets. Machining bike ramps and nunchucks using the two-axis mill, drill press, and band saw that Dad kept in the garage. By high school, I was designing real stuff—products and the parts to make them.

But when I brought my designs to my dad, his response was often, “You can’t make that.” He wasn’t trying to be negative. He was right. He would take time to explain why it was impossible to hollow out a piece of metal a certain way, why plastic parts needed drafts, the limitations of folding sheet metal. His mind went straight to the boundaries and restrictions that he knew so well.

If You Can Dream It, You Can Build It

future of making things generative design chairs

That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the changes that lie ahead in design and manufacturing. Last month, I attended Autodesk University in Las Vegas, and the new technologies, capabilities, and materials on display make me look forward to the day, not far off, when no one can tell me that I can’t make something I design.

With additive manufacturing, new subtractive techniques and CAM capabilities, and simulation tools built right into design software, we’re reaching a point where whatever you can dream, you can build. To me, that’s what the future of making things is all about.

The potential of these new tools is enormous, the possibilities are nearly endless.
But this kind of rapid change also means that we as design and manufacturing
professionals have to break away from previous habits and restrictions. We have to keep learning, evolving, and expanding our skill sets. The work you do today in your job will not be the work you will do three years from now in the same job. You have to be sure that you don’t get left behind.

My dad still works as a machinist today. But the very real restrictions he’s lived with in manufacturing will soon be history. The next generation of designers will be able to create with total freedom.

future of making things manufacturing

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing a series of posts with my thoughts on steps we can take now to help prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. From generative design to new materials to cloud computing resources, there are new practices you can start now that will set you up well for the future of our industry.

In the meantime, I’d like to connect with you and talk about your thoughts on the future of manufacturing. What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them? What challenges do you foresee in the years ahead?

Call me at 714.458.3386, schedule a time to talk with me via email at or fill out the form below. Let’s talk about what’s next.

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