Not a day goes by when you don’t see a headline about workforce development issues and bridging the skills gap. Although the discussions often center on classic skills such as machine-shop operations, they are just as apt to focus on the emerging field of additive manufacturing (AM/3D printing).
Groups spanning community colleges, city economic development councils, state-wide industry consortiums and professional societies are comparing notes, exchanging ideas and setting up programs to address the current and coming workforce shortages in advanced manufacturing.
Just as acceptance of AM technologies can only move forward with the establishment of independent production standards, so the development of the full workforce – designers, technicians, operators, engineers, inspectors – also needs standards by which to measure competency and progress.
Two major groups with long histories in manufacturing, SME and UL, recently joined forces to create just such a new “gold standard,” with America Makes as the lead sponsor. Building on their previous successes, they’ve developed a three-tiered program that combines UL’s multi-tiered training program and Tooling U-SME’s professional certification. The first tier is the AM Fundamentals Certification, with a review course and exam to be offered in April at both AMUG and RAPID + TCT conferences.
Fundamentals in Additive Manufacturing Certification Objectives
This SME website description shows the depth of thought, collaboration and planning that produced and will support this effort:
“The Fundamentals in Additive Manufacturing Certification aligns to the Additive Manufacturing Body of Knowledge compiled by Tooling U-SME, America Makes, the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC), and Technician Education in Additive Manufacturing & Materials (TEAMM), with input from more than 500 additive manufacturing professionals.”
Who would benefit from this certification? Individuals working in or seeking to work in AM roles in automotive, aerospace, medical, consumer goods and energy industries, as well as architecture, the arts and more. The program could also serve as a capstone or standalone achievement for high schools and colleges, to increase workforce readiness in additive manufacturing.
Tooling U-SME, the training and development arm of SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers), brings more than 85 years of experience to developing the manufacturing workforce, and a history of offering certificate programs in rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing since 2003.
This effort has now been augmented and advanced in the AM field through work with UL. Founded in 1894 to promote safe living and working environments, and previously known as Underwriters’ Laboratories, UL is able to leverage its decades of experience in safety science and certification programs as a measurable approach to demonstrating expertise.
In 2014, UL launched the first tier of a three-tiered AM certification program targeted to the existing workforce. The company had observed that some customers wanted general, public certifications while others wanted on-site, private programs tailored to their specific needs. After three years of offering both introductory (online) and advanced (hands-on) courses, UL used feedback from the AM community to approach SME and begin the revised joint efforts now underway.
Each tier is different and builds on the previous information. Tier One, the Additive Manufacturing Fundamentals Certification, covers the various AM technologies, related hardware and software tools, materials, safety and quality, as well as integration of AM with pre- and post-processing requirements. (At both the AMUG and RAPID+TCT events, a separate prep course on these topics precedes the afternoon certification exam; companies can also request that the full program be held on-site.)
In the works is Tier Two, the AM Technician Certification. It will be administered in person with a prep course and certification exam, and addresses technical details and the application of AM. UL leads the development of the review/preparation class and Tooling U-SME is working on the certification requirements and the exam. Additionally, more advanced certification tiers may be developed in the future as part of this collaboration.
Records of all certifications will be kept by SME, and digital badges will be issued. Although there is no expiration date attached to the Fundamentals Certification, given the fast pace of development in the AM world, SME sees value in updating one’s knowledge base and retaking the exam in three to five years.
Reserve Your April Time-slot, or Work Online
At this year’s AMUG conference, the prep course and exam will be offered on April 8 (see AMUG registration details). The course and exam will be repeated on April 22 during RAPID+TCT 2018 (see RAPID+TCT registration details).
Individuals or groups of individuals can also sign up to take the Tier One exam outside of the AMUG or RAPID+TCT events by making the online payment then working with SME to set up a proctored exam date and location.
Lastly, for both novices and experts, for the current workforce and future AM whiz-kids, some great resources for 3D design and manufacturing are at SME’s World of 3D website, including links to a number of AM e-learning classes offered through Tooling U-SME.