Have you ever stepped out for a night of fun and bumped into an old acquaintance? Someone you rejected way back when as not quite up to your standards, only to find out now that the person has lost weight, gotten a new wardrobe, and taken a really cool job?
That’s the experience I think many people had this month during the RAPID conference on additive manufacturing. Presented by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) from June 10-13, in Pittsburgh, PA, the conference showcased cutting edge manufacturing in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Sessions included additive manufacturing research, applications, product design, materials, and creative uses in art, architecture, medicine and more. While many participants at the conference were already working in that “space,” others were seeing their old friend, Manufacturing, in a new light. Additive manufacturing is the latest version in a series of manufacturing makeovers that started decades ago and has finally gone mainstream. Conference attendees included old hands and young students, and everyone there was excited to see how futuristic manufacturing has become. New ways to design and manufacture ideas are easier than ever, but also require higher-level thinking and skills to bring creations to life.
In understanding the job and education requirements for additive manufacturing, the tea leaves point to a demand for engineers of all stripes (design, materials, electronics, optics, software, hardware). Technicians will be required as well. As manufacturing operations become more automated, these technicians will ensure that the machines, whether they are robots or 3D printers, will function as needed.
Educational opportunities for additive manufacturing are already underway, with SME, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute offering an Additive Manufacturing Certificate. Based upon a body of knowledge this certificate is the first step in validating expertise. Additional certificates will soon be offered in design, manufacturing, enterprise, and research/education. The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education Centers also offer coursework and degrees that are specific to additive manufacturing.
If you are curious about how manufacturing is transitioning from pedestrian to ka-pow, you might want to check out these MEP centers acquiring expertise in additive manufacturing: High Tech Rochester, ITAC, MAGNET, CMTC, Manex, North Carolina Industrial Extension Service, Enterprise Minnesota, Idaho TechHelp, Oklahoma Alliance, TMAC, Hudson Valley MEP and Wisconsin MEP.