Interview with MIT’s John Hart: 3D Printing Summer Class at University Looks to Teach Professionals

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mit2As 3D printing becomes more and more commonplace within the workforce, schools around the world are beginning to realize that this technology is not a fad. It isn’t going anywhere, and it is definitely in education to stay, as schools are starting to open up classes focused solely around the technology. Students at various universities have been showing a very strong interest in learning about additive manufacturing/3D printing and the possibilities that it provides. These students who elect to take courses in the subject are provided with skills and knowledge that future employers will certainly be looking for.

At the same time though, professionals who entered the workforce years ago are now finding themselves at a disadvantage due to the fact that they, unlike some of their colleagues who have recently graduated these universities, don’t have the same knowledge and background when it comes to 3D printing.

John Hart

John Hart

In the past, we have covered several stories about very unique 3D printing projects that originated at MIT, most of which were part of Associate Professor John Hart’s classes. These have ranged from 3D printers capable of printing objects on top of other objects, to machines which actually can print using soft serve ice cream. MIT is known for their terrific technology education programs, and they are staying ahead of the curve by teaching students about 3D printing.

This summer, Professor John Hart will be holding yet another class, called “Additive Manufacturing: From 3D Printing to the Factory Floor,” intended for design and manufacturing engineers, product designers, research scientists and engineers, VPs of product development, and technology and innovation strategists who may already be in the workforce, but want to learn more about what 3D printing can offer. We recently had a chance to catch up with Hart and ask him a bit about his class, his expectations for the future, and where he sees 3D printing going in the near term. The interview in its entirety can be seen below.

What gave you the idea to start this class?

Hart: I was impressed by the immense interest of industry in pursuing additive manufacturing for so many applications, and the discussion of it as a true manufacturing process. Therefore, I thought that we could help by presenting a cutting-edge AM course at MIT.

In your time teaching 3D printing, what has been the greatest accomplishment from one of your students thus far? Can you provide some examples of what other students have come up with?

Hart: In last summer’s short course, each participant worked on a case study with a small group (3-4 others); within several hours through the week, they made many impressive accomplishments including printing parts with novel mechanical properties, and proposing new methods for qualification of components made by AM.

What do you think is the most important thing that students who take this class will learn?

Hart: Above all, I hope everyone learns about the true capabilities and limits of AM as it is most relevant to their industry/business, and walks away with new knowledge and a clear perspective of how AM can change what they do immediately, or in the future.

One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of the course last year was the intellectual and professional diversity of the participants; and everyone learned not only from the course material but by sharing their experiences using additive manufacturing technologies and discussing the major problems that can be solved in the future and what’s needed to get there.
Also, in this year’s course we’re placing a special emphasis on how to design parts for additive manufacturing, and methods for additive manufacturing of high-performance materials (e.g., metals and composites).

What type of feedback did you get from last year’s students? Have any of them gone on to use what they learned in the workplace or to come up with any new innovative 3D printing technology?

Hart: We received a lot of very positive feedback, and the participants in the course ranged from engineers to executives, consultants and innovators, educators, and independent business people. I’ve kept in touch with several of the participants and know they’ve gone on to implement new AM initiatives in their organizations, and some have collaborated since the course and even filed patents together to pursue joint ideas. During the past year, some participants have been invited to speak at conferences on 3D printing within their industries, such as the aerospace or medical device industry.

Where do you see 3D printing 5 years from now? How about 10?

Hart: Within 5-10 years, I believe 3D printing (or let’s call it additive manufacturing) will make a significant impact on perhaps every industry, and most people will own at least one product that has a component made by additive manufacturing. We can’t yet imagine some of the new products and business models that it will enable, so I feel that courses like ours at MIT are important to educate us about the technology, then let our minds imagine the possibilities and create the future of additive manufacturing.

Hart has a deep knowledge of 3D printing, and this knowledge is passed along to his students. For those interested in taking this summer course, you can sign up now via MIT’s website. What do you think about the prospects that this course provides? Discuss in the MIT 3D Printing Course forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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