Training Center Leader Says AM Affects Many Competency Areas

Established knowledge and skill areas ranging from engineering design through postprocess testing and inspection and even supply chain management all need to be rethought with additive in mind.
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Manufacturing employers are well aware of the so-called “skills gap.” Across manufacturing in general, companies experience difficulty in finding qualified applicants for engineering and trade positions. But as Paul Bates of UL pointed out in a presentation at the most recent Additive Manufacturing Conference, the difficulty finding employees with relevant knowledge is even greater when it comes to AM. Bates (pictured) manages UL’s Additive Manufacturing Competency Center in Kentucky, which was created in partnership with the University of Louisville in part to respond to this challenge.

Partly because AM touches so many different knowledge and skill areas, the existing manufacturing training infrastructure is not yet equipped to build the competencies that will be needed to realize additive’s full promise. Indeed, part of his talk was to identify each of those knowledge and skill areas affected by AM. The list includes:

  • Engineering design. Future part designs will leverage AM’s freedoms, and designers will need to understand the interactions between additive and conventional parts.
  • AM processes. The different AM part-making technologies have different behaviors, and are affected by different input parameters.
  • AM materials. An additive-focused understanding of materials will recognize how materials perform in additive versus conventional processes. Safety requirements are key here as well.
  • Postprocessing. Completing the part after it has been printed is an important part of the process, and this knowledge area will be vital to succeeding with AM in production.
  • Testing and inspection. Traditional non-destructive testing is limited in its usefulness for AM. Simulation and process monitoring must also play a role.
  • Regulations and standards. Existing regulations need to be translated and applied to this space, while AM-specific standards emerge into their own.
  • Supply chain. New qualification requirements are needed for suppliers, including different agreed-upon practices for quality assurance related to parts made additively.