When EuroBLECH organizers decide to have their European sheet metal tradeshow the last week in October and FABTECH holds its show in the first week of November, you have a pretty good idea of what I've been up to. It hasn't been blogging, regrettably.
My co-workers have provided nice summaries of FABTECH from psychological and technological points of view. I don't have much to add with the exception that, with 22,000 visitors, Atlanta appears to be an excellent host location for FABTECH every four years.
For a summary of EuroBLECH, stay tuned for the December 2010 issue of The FABRICATOR. We'll just say "fiber lasers" and "bending automation" and leave it at that for now.
For the first blog in a while, I wanted to talk about something serious: comic books. Actually, it's a graphic novel from science fiction writer David Brin, assisted by writer Jason Land and artist Jan Feindt. Tinkerers tells the story of Danny Nakamura sometime in the near future as he looks for answers as to why the U.S. doesn't make "stuff" anymore.
Actually, the opening page opens the scene much better than I can: "Imagine a nation that has lost its ability and desire to make things … That's the world of our story, Tinkerers. In the near-term future, we find a town where young people plan to devote their careers to service jobs, in a land where the biggest brand names are from overseas. But then, a catastrophic event changes everything for the town and our hero, a young man on a quest to learn the reasons for decline even as he works to reverse it. What does he find?"
He actually finds a bunch of characters—two of which look eerily like Morgan Freeman and the late Bernie Mac—with differing opinions about what went wrong. The graphic novel has no problem presenting a whole slew of familiar and frequently cited reasons as to why the U.S. doesn't have as much manufacturing know-how as it once did. The publication is thoughtful in its presentation of the discussion, if not a little over the top in its conclusion. As one who depends on a successful metal fabricating industry, I applaud the effort of the artists and those who spearheaded the effort, metal service center giant Macsteel USA and the Metals Service Center Institute.
Tinkerers apparently has ended up in the hands of plenty of people not in the metals industry. A Los Angeles Times blogger recognized the publication, and comic book sites have also been somewhat kind in their comments.
Will it cause a major change in how the general public views manufacturing? Probably not. But it does keep the issue out in the public domain for another day. By keeping the issue alive, you keep hope alive that people will recognize the positive ramifications of a robust manufacturing sector in the U.S.
For the record, supporting manufacturing jobs in the U.S. doesn't necessarily mean a vote for isolationism, support for unions, or xenophobic behavior. From my perspective, it simply means respecting those that work with their hands and realizing they actually may have more to offer this world than an attorney or an entertainer. Also, call me crazy for thinking that a company that maintains some domestic manufacturing presence is good for that local community and country as a whole. I simply don't see a downside to that point of view—or that message in a comic book.