How an Online Course Helped 3DVerkstan’s Joep Winkels Re-Think Additive Manufacturing

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Joep Winkels had amassed years of experience in the IT world throughout his career. A deep understanding of systems, systems design and infrastructure had been the Dutch businessman’s bedrock. These years of experience went out the window, however, when he got the chance to join 3DVerkstan, one of the largest 3D printing resellers in the Nordic region. Joep knew nothing of 3D printing and very little about manufacturing.

3DVerkstan offers Ultimaker, Markforged, Craftbot and Formlabs equipment to the Nordic region. With these vendors all moving upmarket and into more manufacturing-oriented environments, the technical challenge was going to become harder for Joep, not easier. The company also began offering Markforged’s printers and HP’s 300 and 500 industrial 3D printing solutions. With the complexity of the technologies increasing, Joep would find himself facing more technical questions and an expectation of expertise from clients. Joep had decided to join the 3D printing market at a point where for many companies 3D printing had gone from a shiny new toy in the corner of the lab to possible manufacturing technology. Since Joep was to head up Sales as well as Business Development for 3DVerkstan, the management team knew he had to develop a thorough understanding of 3D printing as was possible in a condensed time.

3DVerkstan opted to send Joep to the MIT xPRO’s course Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production. This twelve-week online course gives participants an in-depth understanding of 3D printing and how it can be applied in industry.

  • Learners explore end to end workflows of Additive Manufacturing technologies in polymers and metals.
  • By understanding the driving principles and limitations of each of the technologies, participants learn how to apply Additive Manufacturing.
  • Participants also learn when not to use Additive Manufacturing (AM).
  • If applicable to their field, participants learn where and how AM can be implemented.
  • The course takes an integrated approach whereby learners explore3D printing throughout the product lifecycle through understanding materials, processes, machines and the applications themselves.

Participants also learn how to design for AM, how to make an AM business case, and how to evaluate the success of an AM implementation.
For 3DVerkstan, the immediate benefit for Joep was learning how to engage and work with his 3D printing colleagues and customers. Joep was mindful that he “had to start from the very beginning” and obtain “an understanding of Additive Manufacturing.” He “needed a crash course Additive Manufacturing to catch up with my colleagues, customers, and partners.” He also knew that compared to the other learners he was starting with a big manufacturing deficit because most of them are experienced manufacturing executives or engineers. Newly minted 3D printing leaders and experienced engineering executives who were tasked with implementing 3D printing in businesses were some of the other learners he got to know, and they all had more manufacturing knowledge from the get-go than Joep.

The first noticeable benefit Joep saw was that he quickly acquired the terminology and understanding to converse with his fellow learners about 3D printing core principles. He generally spent between 10 to 15 hours a week and found it to be tough going at times, because “now you are not just doing a course to get a piece of paper, but you really want to understand and learn, so it takes more time and effort.”

Joep envisioned his participation in the course to be a lonely affair of him sitting in a room in front of the computer. He was rather surprised at all of the interactivity and online communication not only between himself and faculty but with other learners as well. What most surprised him about the course is that he found the online interactions to be fun and managed to build up a network via the provided forums. With the forums as well as the knowledge base, webinars and online feedback he felt he was a part of a team of people learning the same concepts. Online questions were often answered by learners who were further along or had a clearer understanding of certain concepts.

At the end of Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production, Joep could look back on the successful completion of the course and deem his participation to be useful. Indeed, he is thinking of getting two to three of his salespeople to attend the course, as well. After the course, he was quickly able to understand the needs of Additive Manufacturing teams at large corporate clients. Joep was able to join in complex discussions, sales negotiations, and 3D printing developments. Especially in his Business Development role, Joep’s newfound knowledge helped him scout for and identify new 3D printing technologies and vendors.

“I would recommend the MIT course to people who want to get started using Additive Manufacturing for business quickly. The course delivers comprehensive, in-depth knowledge to support meeting the challenge of reaching AMs full potential.”

At 3DVerkstan as a whole, Joep’s participation has made a business impact. Joep left with a real feeling that, “we need more materials in AM and that is where research should focus on.” Previously, 3DVerkstan focussed more on 3D printing in and of itself. After applying what he had learned through his MIT course, however, Joep’s insights made the company see 3D printing as an integrated part of many manufacturing processes. Whether by using CNC machines for post-processing or with 3D printing providing a subassembly or in injecting 3D printing into an existing manufacturing process, 3DVerkstan learned to adopt a more holistic approach to the technology. According to Joep, “The team is now more focussed on understanding other manufacturing technologies and the role Additive Manufacturing plays when used in concert with them.”

Now, 3DVerkstan can cater better to more sophisticated AM applications, players and manufacturing opportunities. Joep says that “every single day I use the knowledge I gained in verifying plans, discussing opportunities and actually doing business.”  

Learn more about MIT xPRO’s course Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and
Production here. To participate in a free informational webinar on Thursday, January 31st at 12PM EST (including a Q&A with Professor John Hart) RSVP here!

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