Additive manufacturing (AM) is going places that many of us never anticipated. Frankly, I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. The more I explore the future potential of AM and 3D printing technology, the more excited I become. I truly believe that AM will develop to become the most useful technology for the development and production of products than any other.
The need for AM education and training has never been greater. That’s why I’m excited about the NSF-funded National Center for Rapid Technologies (RapidTech) housed at the University of California–Irvine. I had the privilege of attending this week’s seventh national workshop (RapidTech 2011), which involved about 50 educators from across the nation. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only national effort focused on preparing high schools, community colleges, and other institutions of higher education to include additive manufacturing and related technologies and processes in their programs.
RapidTech has partnered with the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd) at Edmonds Community College—another NSF-funded program. The collaborative project aims to prepare educational institutions across the U.S. to teach the new AM standards being produced by the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Already, terminology and file format standards have been published, with many more in the works. The work by MatEd and RapidTech could have a profound impact on our nation’s understanding and use of additive manufacturing technology and the industry standards that support it.
My hope is that Washington will continue to support RapidTech, MatEd, and other educational programs that concentrate on AM. This work will help to develop a workforce of technicians, engineers, and others that understand the potential of AM. These people will be among those that will develop, integrate, and use new-generation AM systems and materials. This will go a long way in ensuring our nation’s success in product development innovation and manufacturing for years to come.