Knowledge is key to scaling additive manufacturing

July 19, 2021
Additive manufacturing is about providing the dreamers and doers with the tools they need to turn their dreams into reality.

The additive manufacturing (AM) sphere is now about more than just printing, it is about supporting and encouraging creativity in the world and providing the dreamers and doers with the tools they need to turn their dreams into reality. AM is all about generating customer success, upending the economics of traditional manufacturing, while spurring innovation and boosting efficiency.

Our industry is growing at an incredible speed. It’s our responsibility to keep up with the changes in technology and the evolutions in mindsets as they happen to best support the true hero the story—the innovator who is using our materials and machines. As most in the additive world know, we will soon hit a critical mass where our need for individuals with highly specialized skill sets far outpaces the supply. In fact, we are already entering this realm.

Industry leaders must foster and encourage education in the AM industry. From ideation to investment and design to production, it’s critical that more people understand the value of AM and how to incorporate it on the factory floor to accelerate the move toward a smarter industry.

We recently partnered to conduct an independent review of the global AM environment. This research is serving as a powerful reminder and wake-up call for the need for education, skills and training in additive organizations. Twenty-eight percent of manufacturers reported that their personnel lacked sufficient AM skills. If we want to bridge this skills gap, which will most certainly lead to hiring constraints for growing organizations, we need to act fast.

I encourage industry partners and customers, along with schools and universities, to utilize targeted education for these needed skills. This isn’t just for the engineers and designers; this need spans across all organization teams. For example, 29% of those surveyed stressed a need for a deeper understanding of AM by their finance teams. We need to fundamentally change our mindsets on how we approach a given industry. Rather than simply knowing your teams’ efforts, we need to ensure that our personnel understand the ins and outs of how their piece fits into the larger puzzle—not only within their specific organization, but in the additive world as a whole. That knowledge is critical for supporting our customers in achieving their goals and educating them on how AM affects industry and supply chains.

The next generation of 3D-printing innovation is poised for fast adoption as companies strive to cut lead times and respond more quickly to customer needs. But we aren’t here to sell a technology alone. We are here to support the success of manufacturers. AM is ready for the big stage. Let’s be sure we have strong foundations to build upon when the time comes.

By Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder, Essentium