AMS Spring 2023

Why Is There so Little 3D Printing Training Available?

Inkbit

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If I ask friends what they need in 3D printing the most, mature users often point to training. I did a survey at one point and, the more production oriented firms were, the more budget they wanted for training. I also often get asked by people new to the industry what training is out there. All over the additive manufacturing industry, people are screaming out for more sales and application engineers; however, a lot of new marketing, sales, and other professionals are joining our industry and would benefit from a good introduction to 3D printing.

Universities

Now, there are university level programs. Often, though, these consist of PhD, contract or post-grad positions, such as these programs at Loughborough or Nottingham. Nottingham and Sheffield now have Msc programs in Additive, as well.  There are also specialist programs, including a Master’s of Engineering in Additive Manufacturing and Design at Penn State or a broader Digital Manufacturing Master’s at UCL. In Barcelona, there’s a six-month post-grad program in 3D printing architecture that sounds like a world of fun. Carnegie-Mellon has a two-semester Master’s in Additive, as well. Is it weird that there’s only one program specifically for metal AM? Fraunhofer IAPT has its Academy, which can be custom or standard. UL too has a series of trainings.

Executive Education Courses / Certificates

If you don’t happen to have a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering or a relevant Bachelor’s degree, the options thin out considerably. One great offering comes from MIT. Purdue University and Barnes also offer a certificate course. The MIT course is $2,229. That seems like a great investment for companies interested in professionals with additive backgrounds. For many recent grads or startups, however, this is a lot of money.

ASTM has developed several major certificate and certification programs backed by industry. Notably, Machine Operator Certification which is based on published ASTM/ISO standards geared towards people operating laser powder bed fusion machines.  Their main certificate program is backed by nearly twenty instructors from industry, academia and regulatory bodies offering an industry standard training program for professionals with assessment. They also offer other certificate courses based on the roles of individuals, a webinar program, and an on-demand webinar program.

Cheap Online Courses

Addmio is an inexpensive bite-sized 3D printing course online. Led by experienced people, it seems very useful, but, I struggle to think of direct competitor to Addmio. Coursera offers a free program from University of Michigan For desktop 3D printer users, Flowalistik´s desktop course is valuable, too.

Issues with AM Training

As you can see, there is some training available. You can get a Master’s or take an executive education course. There are even a few free options. But, why are there not a plethora of options? Why is it still so limited overall? If we look at classes and courses in German, Italian, or other languages, the variety is even more constricted. There used to be a powder handling course, but I can’t find it anymore.

How about 3D printing for medical? Or operator training for dental or medical? What about design for aerospace AM? A lot of the programs we would expect, simply don’t exist. And since training and people is one key area holding the industry back, this is an important issue.

Another issue worth noting is cost. What if someone made a really good training that was offered entirely for free? Wouldn’t that help everyone in the industry all sell materials and printers, and get parts made?

Possible Causes

  1. One possible cause is that our industry is a lot smaller than we think. Even though additive manufacturing has passed the $10.6 billion revenue mark, the sector doesn’t seem to employ that many people. The lack of personnel may be important to the industry, but the industry is simply not big enough to attract enough people, which limits the profitability and survivability of training programs.
  2. Maybe we just haven’t come up with the perfect training course for college students, high schoolers, and professionals? Maybe its all a bit too long, too short, too brief, too expensive, not focussed enough etc. Maybe we just have a Goldilocks problem where none of the current products really satisfies the market sufficiently enough to expand this market.
  3. Perhaps the offerings from MIT and other schools are simply perfect. Perhaps these courses are so good that they preclude a larger 3D printing training ecosystem from emerging.
  4. Maybe we could have a volume of people who want more training, but we have difficulties reaching the right people exactly when they want training.
  5. Perhaps, there is not enough volume at any right moment to justify many in-class courses? Meanwhile, the online classes are not engaging enough, not specific enough, or are too expensive?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. I have no idea. Am I just wrong? Or is there something that we can do to create a universally useful, well-priced 3D printing class for all?

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