Imagine being able to make customized brake rotors/discs for your car at home by using a 3D printer. That’s a very liberating thought! Yes, this may be a reality soon. Thanks to this disruptive technology named “Additive manufacturing (AM)” or “3D printing”.
3D printing or AM is the process of building 3D solid objects from a CAD file. The process is additive in the sense that objects are created by adding successive layers to create the object.
3D printing has been around for more than three decades but is gaining a lot of traction of late. In all possibility, 3D printing is set to transform the manufacturing industry completely. 3D printing is one of the technologies that has made it to the top 5 manufacturing trends of 2019, technically that makes additive manufacturing industry extremely lucrative in terms of business and job opportunities.
We need to understand why this technology is gaining more footage now. The answer lies in the fact that awareness about 3D printing has increased tremendously in the last few years. Both big and small manufacturing industries have realised that 3D printing is not limited only to prototyping but useful for mass-production. 3D printing allows flexibility to play with design and materials. Re-tooling is eliminated. This technology is extremely helpful while manufacturing non-standard parts. A whole set of supply chain activities like warehousing and transporting are eliminated; this results in significant cost saving.
The best outcome of advancement of 3D printing is, a level playing field is created for all. Be it an MSME or a large industry or a global company or an individual looking for career growth, the key qualities required are “Innovation in design” and “Ability to think “out-of-the-box”, create novel ideas”. Half of the game is won by adopting these two qualities.
3D printing is used in a wide variety of applications, and practically there is no limit to the scope of industries it can cater. It can be used from creating limbs to automotive parts to construction to education; the list is endless.
Blend into the 3D world
The answer to the scope of job prospects and career options in 3D printing, is the very classic engineering answer “It depends”. The developments in this technology are new; there is a need for people who can design, understand, operate and troubleshoot 3D printers.
Every engineer/non-engineer in the manufacturing space belongs to one of the following categories:
- Expert/experienced in traditional manufacturing, but an amateur in additive manufacturing. Keen to explore the prospects in additive manufacturing
- Experience in traditional manufacturing and additive manufacturing
As a first step line up your skills with your aim and aspirations, before you decide on the zone of 3D printing, you want to enter. Ask yourself these fundamental questions:
- Do I want to develop innovative and affordable 3D printers?
- Do I want to develop software that makes the 3D printer as functional as possible?
- Do I want to configure, commission, and install 3D printers and provide service support for smooth operation?
- Do I want to be a consultant who helps MSMEs leverage on the 3D printing technology?
- Do I want to start an MSME who provides exclusive 3D printing services?
- Do I want to impart 3D printing technical knowledge to a workforce which is following the traditional manufacturing process, but on the verge of switching over to AM?
- Do I want to sell 3D printers?
Finally, Do I want to be an intellectual property rights expert in the 3D printing space?
Once you have an answer, a plethora of options are open to exploring.
Let us list it down for you:
- R & D engineer, who can develop 3D printers. An extremely lucrative field to pursue., though it can be very challenging.
- A developer with the ability to write software for 3D printers, good software is a necessity. Also, if you have any knowledge of robotics, it is like icing on the cake.
- Product design engineer
- Field service engineer who offers service and support engineer for 3D printers
- 3D printing technician, who operates and manages the 3D printers.
- Expert in material selection for 3D printers, especially if you have chemical engineering or material science background.
- Metal 3D printing project manager
- AM designer
- Advanced technology manager who manages an entire AM team
- Sales and marketing personnel for 3D printers
- Intellectual property right expert with 3D printing as niche as this is a creative space every individual or company must protect its design rights.
Other related roles include industrial engineers, software engineers, 3D scanner operators, 3D artists, and post-production personnel. One can also explore possibilities of being specific to segments like automotive, medical, education and so on.
Since the technology is very new and challenging, there is a huge barrier in obtaining correct information on AM. The industry itself is in a very experimental stage, and there is immense scope for freelancers who upgrade their skills to carve a niche for themselves.
When a company hires a freelancer in any capacity in this field, it only benefits in the form of learning AM more deeply and based on the usefulness of adopting AM it can go ahead with it or postpone it.
The “What if” question?
It is interesting to observe the statistics of the Chinese printer market shipments depicted below:
These are the statistics for hobby or desktop 3D printers, which can also be termed as low-cost 3D printers and scanners. There is huge growth, does that imply the 3D printers are going the “inkjet printer” way? Does this mean 3D printers will be affordable and easy to operate? And, no special skill sets will be required to operate, install or manage one? Is it worth making a full-time career out of 3D printing, or reap the benefits of current growth as a freelancer and move on to other new and upcoming technologies?
Current trends indicate that additive manufacturing will aid subtractive manufacturing rather than replace it. Only time will tell the extent of the success of additive manufacturing. We also cannot ignore the fact that there are constant research and development in the field of subtractive manufacturing.
Don’t look further for motivation and mentoring. Learn, Read, Network on goHyP.