As additive manufacturing—3D printing—expands through a growing number of industries and applications, studies indicate that a skills shortage has slowed its wider adoption. There exists a shortage of talent and training that understands the technology, processes, and equipment involved in its use.
In a research brief released in November by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Work of the Future department, the authors observe that education dedicated to additive manufacturing is being offered at all levels, starting with K-12 on through post-graduate instruction.
“Desktop hobbyist-style 3D printers are increasingly being used in K-12 educational settings to augment lecture-based instruction through laboratory exercises. At the university level, many institutions have ‘maker spaces’ or other accessible 3D printing resources,” the brief says.
The Pennsylvania State University offers a master’s degree in additive manufacturing and design. The Ohio State University offers a Master of Global Engineering Leadership with an additive manufacturing track consisting of five courses (students may choose four). Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh offers a Master of Science in Additive Manufacturing. Other universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offer professionally focused workforce training programs in additive manufacturing.
Professional societies offer workforce-level training in the technology as well.
Despite a growing body of professional training and degree initiatives for additive manufacturing, there is evidence that current programs may be insufficient to address the shortage of qualified professionals. Colleges and universities are stepping up to close this skills gap as more programs are arriving on campus to develop a prepared workforce of additive manufacturing experts.