Although web-based accessibility has both expanded and transformed most service industries,
manufacturing services lag. This topic emphasizes research enabling the commercialization of software tools and systems for making manufacturing services accessible to more customers and more customers available to manufacturers. Current manufacturing software applications are predominantly costly, process-centric, general-purpose programs with the universal applicability needed to justify their development, marketing and acquisition costs. They usually have broad capabilities, but are cumbersome to learn and often provide solutions that need troubleshooting by engineering experts, a major cost of production. There is an opportunity for researchers to accelerate the creation of an interoperating, cross-process manufacturing service layer that enables the bottom-up transformation of access to manufacturing services. Projects may incorporate business models that simplify app development by users and allow the marketplace to drive the evolution towards increased capabilities. A wide range of network-accessed manufacturing services, not limited by the following examples, will be supported:
* Tools that are transparent to users and make it easy for manufacturers to present computer-aided design (CAD) files to conventional browsers in parameterized form, allowing customers to select desired parameters within limits set by the manufacturer to guarantee easy manufacturability;
* Search utilities that link user needs to manufacturing services by evaluating the closeness of match of customer designs to the web-accessible part designs made available by manufacturers;
* Product-specific applications (or “apps”) that simplify the low-cost design, customization or manufacture of products or product components by restricting the design space to guarantee the intervention-free execution of the entire design-to-production process.