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I Knew So Little

February 5, 2022

Filed under: 3D printing,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:00

by Noah Mostow

The first time I used a 3D printer was in the library basement when working on my undergraduate degree. Late at night, when I should have been studying, I noticed a small desktop 3D printer with a light turned on. Filament was loaded and nobody was around. As with many college students, I wanted to tinker with it. I downloaded an entire chess set from Thingiverse and Googled “How do you use a 3D printer?” I found free slicing software online, and for the next few hours, I watched parts get built one at a time.

I never finished the chess set because the 3D printer was moved into an office a few days later and they began to charge students for its use. Looking back at this experience, I never would have imagined what else was happening back then, such as the Wohlers Report having been published for 18 years. Industrial additive manufacturing (AM) was already widespread, and in the library basement that night, I thought I was on the leading edge of technology.

Nearly 35 years since its inception, the AM industry continues to grow impressively. Today, students are graduating that know little about the technology. Yet, many now have access to industrial systems in engineering programs and libraries. Today, the University of Vermont (my alma matter) has eight material extrusion (MEX) systems and a vat photopolymerization system in a FabLab for student use.

Beyond students, I imagine many professionals outside our industry believe that polymer MEX is at the leading edge of what is possible. Being a part of the ASTM International AM Center of Excellence, I am excited about the education and workforce development team led by experts. With AM education, more people will see new applications and what advancements are possible.

Note: In a previous post, I wrote that the first 3D-printed part I made was at Burton Snowboards. This is incorrect. The first part I made on an industrial powder bed fusion system was at Burton.