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More Universities are Offering Degrees in Additive Manufacturing

Advanced degree programs help prepare engineers for design, fabrication and inspection using additive manufacturing technologies.

More universities are offering advanced degrees in the field of additive manufacturing to meet the growing need for skilled professionals in the industry.

Penn State recently announced it will offer master’s degree programs in additive manufacturing starting in the Fall. The Master of Science in Additive Manufacturing and online Master of Engineering in Additive Manufacturing are 30-credit programs that will teach analytical and practical skills to design, development, modeling, fabrication and inspection of components using additive manufacturing technologies. The Penn State program integrates graduate coursework across a number of departments and includes hands-on experiences in the lab with electives that will allow graduates to specialize in desired sub-sectors.

Penn State received strong guidance from the industry in designing the program. “Industry wants to make sure engineers think differently about designs to capitalize on the opportunities that additive manufacturing allows,” Karen Thole, head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, said.

Other universities offering graduate programs in additive manufacturing include the University of Maryland and University of Texas at El Paso.

“The real power and potential for 3D printing technologies is only achieved when you design things to be additively manufactured.”

Manufacturers both at home and abroad also have opened internal innovation centers to help spur development, and to train and educate employees. Emerson, for example, opened an additive technology center in Marshalltown, Iowa three years ago and recently opened another in Singapore in collaboration with Nanyan Technological University. David Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson, said the centers will play a key role in helping the company move to quickly leverage the benefits of additive manufacturing to meet customer needs.

In January 2017, GE founded the GE Additive Education Program, which will invest $10 million over the next five years in two educational programs to develop “pipelines of future talent in additive manufacturing. Investments will include $2 million to subsidize desktop polymer printers at primary and secondary schools, and $8 million to subsidize metal additive machines at colleges and universities.

Additive manufacturing is generating interest in a number of manufacturing sub-sectors, from consumer goods and medical devices to aerospace and oil and gas. Tim Simpson, director of the new program at Penn State, said feedback from industry leaders in the field has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly with our focus and emphasis on design. “Everything we make today was designed to be made with traditional manufacturing processes such as casting, machining and forging. The real power and potential for 3D printing technologies is only achieved when you design things to be additively manufactured,” Simpson said.

As an evolving field, those involved in additive manufacturing will need to engage in continuing education. A number of schools and universities also offer short courses and online programs. Terry Wohlers, principal consultant and president at Wohlers Associates, Inc., said less than 1% of practicing engineers and designers that need to understand additive manufacturing have the right knowledge and skills.


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