What Is it Like to Study Additive Manufacturing?

This article and video series filmed at Penn State University illustrate what the school's first master’s students in AM are learning, and how they’ll apply it to advance 3D printing.

If you’re a manufacturing engineer who wants to learn about additive manufacturing (AM), how do you do it? Hit up your local maker space and borrow time on a desktop printer? Engage with one of the many equipment OEMs and get trained on their specific systems and software? Get the budget to buy one and find the time to figure it out? 

Unlike conventional manufacturing, there’s no obvious path from student or manufacturing engineer to “additive manufacturing engineer.” Or at least, there hasn’t been. But the path is starting to take shape at some higher education institutions. Certificate programs are one model, but Penn State University has another: a full-blown master’s degree in additive manufacturing and design. 

As Prof. Timothy W. Simpson (instructor at PSU and regular contributor to Modern Machine Shop) told me when I visited, now is the right time for an AM master’s program. The knowledge base is still growing, but already “There is more than enough content to create a degree,” he says. Just as importantly, the demand is there, too. Manufacturers are seeing the promise of additive manufacturing, and they need talented, educated people who can implement it. 

The program at Penn State is predicated on that need, and provides for both the future and current workforce. Enrollees include both conventional, in-residence students and online students currently in the workforce. Students take a core mix of classes that cover AM processes, materials, design for AM (DFAM), the science of AM and hands-on lab work. Electives in specific topics such as postprocessing and CT scanning are also offered, with more courses coming soon. The goal, Simpson says, is not to train technicians, but to prepare future AM engineers to anticipate and deal with all the various issues involved when implementing additive manufacturing into a supply chain. 

You can read the full story here, and also watch interviews with current students about the program’s curriculum breadth, student body and a medical device optimization project on the Additive Manufacturing website. 

 

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