Q2 Manufacturers' Outlook Survey

The means of production is changing and so is the outlook among American manufacturers. In this featured blog post, we take a look at the most recent Manufacturers' Outlook Survey by National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Released last month, the report notes another round of surging optimism among the survey’s respondents—but, on closer examination, provides insight into how 3D printing and additive manufacturing can become an effective solution for addressing certain obstacles that pose a dilemma for even the healthiest companies.


Along with continued optimism among respondents, key indicators of productivity such as sales and projected capital investment varied little from those reported in Q1. The overall confidence index remained near the previous quarter’s historic high, as well. What we find even more interesting than the current metrics for state of the economic sector is that American manufacturers once again cited the same worries about the future.  Specifically, uncertainty about possible regulatory changes, rising indirect costs of employment such as health care and insurance, and continued difficulty in hiring qualified employees.



The consistency of the survey respondents’ concerns provides some insight into the long-term thinking behind venture capital investments in technologies that automate production. Widely used technologies like FDM and PolyJet by Stratasys, as well as recent developments like Bound Metal Deposition by Desktop Metal, Multi Jet Fusion by HP, multi-layer PCB 3D printing by Nano Dimension, enable us to reimagine what we think of when we talk about highly trained, specialized machine operators. By integrating advanced manufacturing systems alongside traditional equipment, an entirely new type of professional can—and should—be considered. While existing staff can quickly learn how to use these additive systems to improve current workflow for greater efficiency, a larger number candidates also become available when you consider new hires. Today, there is an ever-increasing number of people to evaluate for hire when the expertise needed is just as diverse as the technologies a company uses.

3D Printing Operator - CNC Machinist 940x

For example, CNC machinists at FATHOM work alongside additive operators, as well as together in many cases when applications are best solved using hybridized methods. All kinds of specialists collaborate with 3D printing experts, from tooling to injection molding to urethane casting. Manufacturers who rethink the way their products are designed and manufactured may find that some of their top business concerns aren't as they seem.


We at FATHOM would challenge American manufacturers to consider how new technologies have enhanced their product development processes, and apply those lessons to their business operations. Organizations that find themselves facing the same problems quarter after quarter can benefit from new technologies—not just the equipment itself but the talented person hired to run it. If the common concerns cited in the Q2 survey by NAM resonate with you, we invite you to reconsider what the modern manufacturing worker looks like.

→ Read Full NAM Report

Interested in bringing 3D printing or additive manufacturing in-house? Start a conversation with a FATHOM expert—from plastics to metals to conductive inks, get the right machine for your application today. Ask about our on-site managed services and machine owner rewards discount!