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Advancing the Additive Manufacturing Workforce: Summary and Recommendations From a NSF Workshop

[+] Author Affiliations
Christopher B. Williams

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Timothy W. Simpson

Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA

Michael Hripko

National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, Youngstown, OH

Paper No. DETC2015-47274, pp. V003T04A003; 11 pages
  • ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 3: 17th International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Technologies; 12th International Conference on Design Education; 8th Frontiers in Biomedical Devices
  • Boston, Massachusetts, USA, August 2–5, 2015
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5710-6
  • Copyright © 2015 by ASME


Accompanying the increasing advances and interest in Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies is an increasing demand for a workforce that is knowledgeable about the technologies and how to employ them to solve engineering problems. As a step towards addressing this knowledge gap, a workshop was held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to discuss the educational needs of, and opportunities for, developing an AM workforce. With the goal of developing novel educational partnerships to better prepare and enhance the AM workforce, the workshop participants — 66 representatives from academia, industry, and government — sought to answer questions such as “What should we teach to the AM workforce and why?”, “To whom and how should we teach AM?”, and “How should we partner for AM education and training?” Key educational themes that emerged include: (1) AM processes and process/material relationships, (2) engineering fundamentals with an emphasis on materials science and manufacturing, (3) professional skills for problem solving and critical thinking, (4) design practices and tools that leverage the design freedom enabled by AM, and (5) cross-functional teaming and ideation techniques to nurture creativity. The paper summarizes the speaker presentations and outcomes from the workshop, along with several new educational partnerships identified by small working groups. Based on the presentations and partnerships, we recommend the following to advance the AM workforce. First, ensure that all AM curricula provide students with an understanding of (i) AM and traditional manufacturing processes to enable them to effectively select the appropriate process for product realization; (ii) the relationships between AM processes and material properties; and (iii) “Design for AM”, including computational tools for AM design as well as frameworks for process selection, costing, and solution generation that take advantage of AM capabilities. Second, establish a national network for AM education that, by leveraging existing “distributed” educational models and NSF’s ATE Programs, provides open source resources as well as packaged activities, courses, and curricula for all educational levels (K-Gray). Third, promote K-12 educational programs in STEAM (STEM plus the arts) and across all formal and informal learning environments in order to leverage the unique capabilities of AM in engaging students in hands-on, tactile, and visual learning activities. Fourth, provide support for collaborative and community-oriented maker spaces that promote awareness of AM among the public and provide AM training programs for incumbent workers and students seeking alternative pathways to gain AM knowledge and experience. Recommendations for scaling and coordinating these activities across local, regional, and national levels are also discussed to create synergies among the proposed activities and existing efforts.

Copyright © 2015 by ASME



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