The Power Of A 3D Printer In Business

With our jobs post, 3D Printing and Materials Skills In Demand, we had a number of conversations about entrepreneurial opportunities in the world of Additive Manufacturing. Since many new graduates from various materials science or additive manufacturing technician programs often contemplate starting their own 3D printing businesses, this post will take a look at some of the non-traditional paths that AM offers to the startup-mindset.

We mentioned 3D Hubs in the April 2017 AM News and it provides a good base of ideas for ways people are operating small print shops. 3D Hubs is an online network of 3D printer owners who operate as mini service bureaus to print parts for customers. It does an annual 3D printer guide (link at end of post) that is one of the best anywhere due to the fact that they have so many owners gathered in one place who are willing to provide input and feedback about their particular models. These are the super-users, the experts who are printing hundreds of objects over many hours, so they have invested a lot more time than the standard hobbyist.

Here is an ongoing, working list of business types that are actively building out 3D printing services to an existing business or a creating a new venture:

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AM News Profile: Tooling U SME Additive Manufacturing Training Courses

TEAMM, and a sister project, MatEdU, aka MaterialsEducation.org are both part of a larger project funded by the Advanced Technological Education Program of the National Science Foundation. Both are committed to increasing understanding and usage of materials in various educational areas. MatEdU, for example, has a large database of curriculum to serve educators for almost all ages. Each project has strong partners seeking to foster growth and opportunity to help students (and their teachers) to expand their knowledge and skills within materials science and additive manufacturing.

Note: If you head to the MaterialsEducation page for Educators, you will find core competencies outlined and can search for curriculum modules for free use in the classroom. TEAMM also has a Modules page that is smaller than MatEdU, but growing!

Image Courtesy Tooling U – SME

Tooling U, the training and development division of SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers), is an active TEAMM Network member and this month we are profiling a tiny slice of their work here on the AM News page. You can see the full list of courses that focus on Additive Manufacturing, but there is an extensive library of over 500 classes. They offer a free trial to allow you to sample at least part of one class.

You can also download the Tooling U Course Catalog in PDF here.

A couple of examples from the Beginner tracks:

–Intro to Additive Manufacturing 110 (Beginner)               

This class introduces users to additive manufacturing (AM) processes by outlining the history of AM, describing AM technology, and exploring current and future additive manufacturing applications.

–Additive Manufacturing Safety 120 (Beginner) 

Additive Manufacturing Safety describes how users can protect themselves against common mechanical, electrical, thermal, and airborne hazards associated with AM processes. This class also provides an overview of personal protective equipment (PPE), lockout/tagout procedures, Hazard Communication Standards (HCS), and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). 

Then you get to the Intermediate level for more intense training, here’s just one example:

–Additive Manufacturing Materials Science 211  (Intermediate)

Additive Manufacturing Materials Science provides a comprehensive overview of the materials that can be used with additive manufacturing (AM) processes. AM materials include a variety of polymers, metals, composites, and ceramics. Each material is distinguished from another material by microstructure, mechanical and physical properties, and life cycle. Different AM processes require the use of different AM materials. Therefore, an individual must understand materials’ science to ensure proper material selection. Understanding the materials that are compatible with additive manufacturing processes is an essential part of AM process success. After completing this class, users will not only be able to distinguish between thermoplastic and thermoset polymers, ferrous metals and nonferrous alloys, and ceramic and composite materials, but users will also be able to determine which material type is most appropriate for use with a specific AM process.

TEAMM is proud to have Tooling U as one of its dedicated partners. They continue to lead out in traditional manufacturing and new technologies, such as, Additive Manufacturing. It’s parent, SME, organizes the well-known and well-respected RAPID + TCT Event each year, and we have a brief summary of our visit to that show last month: 3D Printing Continues $6 Billion Strong Growth.

3D Printing Continues Strong $6 Billion Growth Via Wohlers Report

Advances in 3D technology from 3D printing to materials science are driving amazing growth for the manufacturing industry and many others. According to Wohlers Report 2017, 97 manufacturers produced and sold additive manufacturing systems in 2016, up from 62 in 2015. The industry achieved worldwide revenues of $6.063 billion in 2016.

Earlier this month, the TEAMM Network met the day before RAPID + TCT 2017 started. As people arrived in Pittsburgh to meet at one of the largest 3D printing events in the world, we gathered to talk about how technician education continues to change as well as how community colleges across the nation are preparing students for careers in the fast-growing additive manufacturing world. Naturally, the conversations continued as various experts from the TEAMM Network later spent time wandering the show floor.

While there were many innovations and inventions announced at this year’s show, here are a few of the big items:

— Stratasys made several big announcements, including its strategic partnership with Desktop Metal, as well as a continuous build platform that offers a modular bank of printers that can operate with very little help from an operator. You can check it out here.

–HP made numerous announcements around its Jet Fusion 3D Printer which is impressive, to say the least. Seriously impressive.

MarkForged talks about its updates to its carbon fiber 3D printer and had its Metal X, a new metal 3D printer, in demo mode at the show.

Many desktop 3D printing leaders were there:

–Ultimaker showcasing its new and elegant Ultimaker 3 printer.

–The well-known and highly-rated MakerGear team was demonstrating its newest MakerGear M3.

Lulzbot had an active booth due to its ever-popular and easy-to-use TAZ printers, including its newest TAZ 6 and the Lulzbot Mini cranking away on fun projects.

Desktop Metal wowed the crowd with its innovative, and many say revolutionary, new metal 3D printer. It has a Studio System and a Production System.

–SmarTech Publishing had a booth where you could peruse one of their many reports, including a metals report showing almost $1B in revenues.

Impossible Objects (materials science experts)

CMU NextManufacturing Center had a presence to share the many cool things they are doing.

–Resin-based 3D printers were represented by Carbon and FormLabs.

As you can see from this short list alone, there are a ton of great companies showcasing exactly how 3D printing and related 3D tech is keeping the manufacturing industry on its toes. TEAMM Network members were excited to be in the midst of this event packed with almost 350 exhibitors — and the big opportunity they represent for additive manufacturing technicians coming out of college programs.

–An earlier version of this post appeared on Forbes.

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) from Wohlers Associates with Olaf Diegel and Terry Wohlers

Wohlers Associates and Materialise recently announced a three-day Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) course. This exclusive course is limited to 25 participants and provides training and hands-on learning to understand and practice methods of design for AM. It includes the consolidation of many parts into fewer parts, topology optimization, lattice, mesh, cellular structures and other methods of design for AM.

The course is May 31 – June 2, 2017 at the Materialise headquarters location in Leuven, Belgium. Wohlers Associates has twice offered a similar course for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, which received high marks for its effectiveness.

Associate consultant Olaf Diegel, PhD, will serve as the lead instructor. His rare combination of experience with both conventional design and manufacturing and DfAM makes him one of very few people capable of leading quality DfAM instruction and hands-on learning. “Olaf has created more than 80 commercial products and is an engaging instructor, making him ideal for the course,” Wohlers stated. “The people at NASA had great things to say about him.”

Wohlers Associates is an independent consulting firm that provides technical, market, and strategic advice on the new developments and trends in additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and rapid product development. Most TEAMM Collaboration Network members are familiar with the eponymous Wohlers Report that is published annually.

More details on the course are available at the Wohlers Associates site. It is a packed three days of learning, here is a glimpse of the program outline:

Day 1

  • Introduction to AM, the State of the AM Industry
  • AM Process: from CAD to Part
  • Introduction to Design for AM
  • Introduction to Part Consolidation
  • Part Consolidation Exercise
  • Design for Mass-Customization Exercise

Day 2   

  • AM Process: from CAD to Part
  • Materialise Tour
  • Designing for Metal AM
  • Topology Optimization and Mesh/Lattice Structures

Day 3   

  • Design for Other AM Processes
  • Tooling Applications of AM
  • Lead Time Reduction
  • Economics of AM
  • Panel Session
  • AM in the Near Future

This special, advanced course from Wohlers and Materialise is aimed at industry professionals. For the student or teacher seeking lessons that range from intro to intermediate needs, head to the TEAMM Modules page where you’ll find specific curriculum to help in your additive manufacturing courses. For example, two intermediate courses: 3D Printing In The Classroom and 3-D Spatial Visualization Skill Building for Additive Manufacturing are available for download as PDF, PPT or ZIP files. More Additive Manufacturing and Materials Science course resources are available at the Materials Education site.

3D Printing and Materials Skills In Demand

Over the last couple of months, we have been studying the job market to see if 3D printing skills were in demand. As you would have guessed, they are in high demand. In fact, most experts agree we have a shortage of skilled workers in additive manufacturing.

According to the World Economic Forum, the organization sees both positive and negative in 3D/AM employment trends for 2015-2020. WEF notes an overall negative number (-3.6%) in manufacturing job growth, but for architecture and engineering, however, they show 3.3 percent growth.

Based on the TEAMM network goal of helping technicians understand material properties both individually and as they are combined during the AM process, we wanted to look at what the job marketplace was looking for. Here are a few simple nationwide findings that show promise (as of this April 24, 2017 posting):

LinkedIn:

  • 587 jobs with 3D Printing in description or title. Most of them posted in the last month.
  • 298 LinkedIn jobs with Additive Manufacturing in description or title.
  • 1,567 LinkedIn jobs with Materials Science in description or title.

Monster.com: 

  • 600 Jobs with Additive Manufacturing in title or description
  • 918 Jobs with 3D Printing in title or description
  • 1,000+ Jobs with Materials Science in title or description

Indeed.com:

  • 912 Jobs with Additive Manufacturing in title or description
  • 1,067 Jobs with 3D Printing in title or description
  • 2,440 Jobs with Materials Science in title or description

In his post, 3D Printing Skills Is Accelerating Globally Forbes contributor Louis Columbus showed that the number of job advertisements calling for 3D printing skills increased 1,834% between August 2010 and August 2014, with industrial engineers, mechanical engineers, software developers, and industrial designers among the most sought-after professionals. It increased 103% when comparing August 2014 to August 2013.

Based on his post, and to broaden the perspective beyond traditional 9 to 5 jobs, there is also a growing need and interest in project-based or freelance, on-demand work opportunities for those who earn and rent out time on their 3D printers.

In April 2017, we turned to the 3D Hubs platform for that data:

  • 781,498 parts printed
  • 48 hours avg. turnaround time
  • 6,938 services listed online (totaling over 30,000 printers in use on the worldwide network)

The freelancer platform Upwork has over 200 open 3D Printing Projects listed

CAD Crowd has 300+ 3D printing freelance experts and provides a global map of their locations. There are over 14,000 designers from around the world listed on this site. Important to note: These are freelancers, not job listings. However, given the increasing growth in contract work, this is a significant trend to track.

Overall, there is solid growth within the type of education and training that TEAMM Network members offer to their respective communities. As our members could have probably told the “experts” – there is a huge need for skilled technical workers in additive manufacturing and materials science.