Making Way with Additive

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on May 25, 2017

With all the buzz surrounding additive manufacturing, you’d think it was created yesterday. The truth is, additive has been around for quite a while—since the early 1980s. What makes this technology so exciting right now is its affordability and the advances in materials that are now hitting the market. With prices as low as $500, just about anyone can buy a 3D printer today. And the advances in materials, especially in metals, are helping to bring this futuristic technology to mainstream manufacturing.

Making Way with Additive

SME has long been a leader in advancing this technology, beginning in the 1990s with the first “RAPID” event – a small conference focused on stereolithography and rapid prototyping that’s evolved into the leading conference and trade show in additive manufacturing. Since then, we’ve significantly expanded our offerings to include publications, member communities, initiatives for students, public-private partnerships such as that with America Makes to help accelerate the awareness and adoption of additive technology, and so much more. Through Tooling U-SME, we can train your workforce in design, safety, production, or any other additive topic and in a number of formats, including instructor-led training, online classes, Turnkey Training, and an apprenticeship program.

And, we recently announced two new initiatives: An additive manufacturing certification program and SME ITEAM. The Additive Manufacturing Fundamentals Certification and Additive Manufacturing Technician Certification – both co-sponsored by America Makes – are the first and only certifications validating an individual’s knowledge in additive manufacturing, as defined by hundreds of leaders in the industry. SME ITEAM will provide a virtual, open platform and evaluation tools to enable users to determine their parts’ suitability to be manufactured additively against the available machines and materials.

As with anything new, however, there exists a skills gap that could limit manufacturers from fully adopting additive technology. Challenges in the workforce include:

  • Engineering: Designers need to build new skills for designing in different geometries and considerations for parts reduction. Manufacturing/production, quality, and industrial engineers need a broader understanding in the application of additive technologies, process and materials – including what it takes to bring the technology in-house and establishing a safe work environment.
  • Leadership: Leaders seek guidance on strategic implementation and integration of additive technologies throughout product and equipment lifecycles.
  • Production: Equipment operators and other production staff lack training in additive technologies – from file preparations to secondary processing, there are many new processes the production workforce will need as additive technicians.
  • Education: Additive is slowly being incorporated into manufacturing technology training programs, but not quickly enough to meet the demand of employers.
  • Companies overall are challenged to develop, recruit, and restructure the workforce to accommodate an increase in additive manufacturing operations.

Additive manufacturing is transforming design, manufacturing, and the entire supply chain. Forward-thinking manufacturers are getting their workforce up-to-speed now in anticipation of the boom. According to the recently released “2017 Wohlers Report,” the additive manufacturing industry reached revenues of $6.063 billion in 2016, and with expected growth of 4.3 times over the next few years, the market is estimated to reach about $26.2 billion by 2022. Addressing the skills gap now will position manufacturers with a competitive advantage.

Want to learn more? Please reach out to us at 866.706.8665.

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