Women in 3D Printing Gets Boost from SME, Toure Weighs in

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Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) has already done much to change the additive manufacturing (AM) landscape. Through a variety of projects, including its TIPE event, it has not only opened up dialogues about diversity equity and inclusion (DEI), but it has driven AM companies to consider DEI in their operations. Now, the global organization will have further resources to drive forward its mission of closing the industry’s gender gap through a partnership with SME.

Dedicated to the advancement of manufacturing in North America, SME is a decades-old non-profit student and professional association. The group has long played a role in AM, from its 1987 Rapid Modeling Clinic to assisting in the establishment of America Makes and the F-42 committee for additive standards at ASTM International. It now has membership that spans over 72 countries as it continues to expand its offerings, including educational resources and more.

Wi3DP founder Nora Toure.

Wi3DP Founder Nora Touré. Image courtesy of Wi3DP.

As a crucial legacy organization in the industry, SME will be able to provide substantial support to the all-volunteer-driven Wi3DP group. Founded just seven years ago as a simple blog, Wi3DP has grown to become one of the largest AM communities in the world, with more than 80 chapters in 36 countries. Together, the two organizations will drive forward Wi3DP’s mission of DEI in the 3D printing industry.

The partnership between the two groups will include the Wi3DP’s flagship TIPE 2023 Conference, dedicated to Technology, Industry, People and Economics. The event will now be co-produced and powered by SME alongside Wi3DP. This will enable further support for year-around engagement and education via digital platforms. Additionally, SME’s 2023 RAPID + TCT event in Chicago will include a “Wi3DP Showcase” to introduce an in-person aspect to Wi3DP’s virtual TIPE event. In a conversation with at RAPID + TCT 2022, Wi3DP founder Nora Toure explained how SME will contribute to the larger TIPE event.

Data on women's seniority level in 3D printing industry.

Data on women’s seniority level in the 3D printing industry, included in the 2022 Diversity for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM): Differences in Pay within the Industry micro-report. Image courtesy of Women in 3D Printing/Alexander Daniels Global.

“We are going to have a nice showcase at RAPID in Chicago next year. We see it as being like an in-person experience of TIPE. It’s important that TIPE stays virtual because it enables everyone around the world come and be part of that experience and get access to content, whether or not they’re in the industry. So, we’re doing to stay virtual, but are considering doing an in-person event maybe once every five years. It will be continuation of the virtual experience.”

Wi3DP and SME will co-author the Diversity for Additive Manufacturing 2023 Annual Report, meant to measure DEI in AM and providing resources for making DEI accessible and actionable. With the help of SME, Wi3DP’s existing educational program will also be expanded into the NextGen Mentorship Pilot program for developing the next generation of AM professionals.

When a non-profit finds a larger sponsor, there’s always a question of how that organization will remain true to itself going forward. Toure assured us that Wi3DP would remain independent:

“SME won’t change the nature of Wi3DP. What’s important for the SME team is to make sure we stay all-voluntary. Because that’s really our driving force. We still have a lot to do in terms of gender diversity, for sure, but we are the only ones today that have a strong enough voice to tackle diversity in all of its shapes and forms. And that is really important to us, as well. We don’t exactly know how to tackle this yet, but we’re going to need as many people as we can because we know how big of a conversation that’s going to be. We also don’t know if we are the right ones to have those conversations. So, we’re going to be looking for everyone’s power having that. And we don’t want to own it. As an industry, we need to do something. Like if you really want the industry to grow, we really need to do something about diversity. We all need to work together. There’s no way around that.”

As the two organizations work together to expand the Wi3DP mission, we can be sure that the dialogue related to DEI in AM will continue. It will be exciting to see how this plays out in terms of material outcomes, with SME’s resources surely propelling Wi3DP forward. Because there seems to be no real equivalent to Wi3DP outside of AM, there’s a possibility that the concept of DEI grows beyond the realm of 3D printing and to industry as a whole. After all, SME is not limited to a single manufacturing technology, so hopefully they see the success that Wi3DP brings to its brand and apply similar models across the group.

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