People, not 3D printers, the most valuable assets at on-demand manufacturer

concept-laser-printed-piecesWhen I found out one of IndustryWeek’s scheduled plant tours in Raleigh for our recent conference was going to be at an on-demand 3D printing manufacturer, Protolabs, I knew what I had to do: Demand I be the tour guide. I thought of all the reasons I needed to go, from seeing all the high-tech machines to seeing cool processes such as stereolithography (SLA) up close to a recent chat with Protolabs CEO Vicki Holt. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to storm into my boss’s office like a cop show detective would to present my evidence, as evidently, I’m the technology writer and was the going to go anyway.

Once I got to the rural one-floor facility, I received another pleasant surprise. The most impressive part about the place was not the millions of dollars of 3D-printing hardware, but the people who operated them. The Minnesota-based Protolabs, which also has plastic injection molding, CNC machining and the recently acquired sheet metal services, is brand agnostic, so the company’s strength is 100% the people working there.

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People, not 3D Printers, the most valuable assets at On-Demand Manufacturer

concept-laser-printed-pieces

A recent tour of Protolabs’ 3D printing facility showed that as cool as the equipment was, the operators were the real reason for the company’s success.

When I found out one of IndustryWeek’s scheduled plant tours in Raleigh for our recent conference was going to be at an on-demand 3D printing manufacturer, Protolabs, I knew what I had to do: Demand I be the tour guide. I thought of all the reasons I needed to go, from seeing all the high-tech machines to seeing cool processes such as stereolithography (SLA) up close to a recent chat with Protolabs CEO Vicki Holt. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to storm into my boss’s office like a cop show detective would to present my evidence, as evidently, I’m the technology writer and was the going to go anyway.

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Help share the future of Additive Manufacture in the UK

Wall of members at Coventry's MTC, including Rolls-Royce, Airbus, EOS and Autodesk. Photo by Beau JacksonAt the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, Martin Dury, Learning Design Manager, and his team are working to address the manufacturing skills gap, encouraging UK businesses to be agile and adopt new technologies. Currently, Dury is mapping a number of Additive Manufacturing Competency Frameworks for all roles in AM.

The frameworks are intended to define the skills, knowledge and behaviour required for newly developed AM roles and identify appropriate training programs for every step of the process, from requirement capture, design, material selection and manufacture through to post-processing, inspection and verification.

To help form a comprehensive outline of the roles and skills needed in additive manufacturing in the UK, the MTC is seeking input and contributions from industry experts.

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MTC calls for contributions to stem additive manufacturing skills shortage

Wall of members at Coventry's MTC, including Rolls-Royce, Airbus, EOS and Autodesk. Photo by Beau JacksonThe UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) is where 3D printing and traditional manufacturing converge. Established as an independent Research & Technology Organisation (RTO) in 2010, the centre is the product of a collaboration between Loughborough University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Nottingham and TWI.

The centre’s privileged position in the market and well-cultivated contact list of over 100 industry members, places it in an ideal position for providing well-trained and talented individuals to the industry – a gap that the MTC struck upon in 2016 with the launch of the Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC).

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Imperial 3D Printing report calls for bridge between science and engineering

A report from the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) at Imperial College London details a vision for the future of additive manufacturing.

Community activities at Imperial College's invention rooms. Photo via Imperial College London.

The briefing, launched at Imperial’s new White City campus, notes that 3D printing requires advances in software, machines, automation and standards for wider adoption. A key driver of these innovations, as suggested by Imperial, may be through greater collaboration between molecular scientists and engineers.

 

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Imperial 3D Printing report calls for bridge between science and engineering

A report from the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) at Imperial College London details a vision for the future of additive manufacturing.

Community activities at Imperial College's invention rooms. Photo via Imperial College London.The briefing, launched at Imperial’s new White City campus, notes that 3D printing requires advances in software, machines, automation and standards for wider adoption. A key driver of these innovations, as suggested by Imperial, may be through greater collaboration between molecular scientists and engineers.

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New talent is the key to unlocking the potential of 3D printing

2017-03-08-1488967762-4219726-3DPartImageHP.jpgAfter years of hype, the 3D printing industry has reached a tipping point, where it is set to become a real alternative to traditional manufacturing processes.

The demand is here, with 42% of manufacturers expecting to use 3D printing for mass manufacturing in the next 3-5 years. Already major brands such as BMW, Nike and Johnson & Johnson are looking at 3D printing as a means to produce custom parts. And the technology is here. For instance, HP last year launched commercial grade industrial 3D printers which can produce parts 10 times faster and at half the cost of the previous generation of 3D printers.

This demand and supply boom puts 3D printing on the brink of taking a significant slice of the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry. However, there is an obstacle that needs to be overcome to unlock its full potential: there is an urgent need for a transfusion of fresh blood if this nascent industry is to thrive and mature.

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3D Printing is a powerful tool for STEAM education

In a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, it was found that scientists who win the Nobel Prize are also nearly three times as likely to have a hobby in the arts than the general scientific population. The idea that science also benefits the arts is one with which the West has been familiar at least since the time of Leonardo da Vinci. The idea that science and art are somehow not only separate, but also diametrically opposed, activities is one that is on its last legs and nowhere is that more apparent than in STEAM education.

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