Additive Manufacturing Education Part 2: Chronological review

Additive Manufacturing (AM) has  garnered  a  lot  of  interest  from  industries,  government  agencies,  and institutions  around  the  globe. Manufacturers are relying on this technology to significantly re-invent product design and manufacturing cycles. Additive Manufacturing technologies in particular offer significant technological development, but require agile specialists to embrace manufacturing technologies. Master’s degree-level education is therefore essential to developing this specialized workforce.  Since Additive Manufacturing is inherently an interdisciplinary avenue, the AM workforce requires skill-sets crossing all engineering backgrounds.

AM education at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels could be a thought catalyst for engineering majors from diverse backgrounds and enable collaboration within different engineering sciences. This paper identifies several key areas where foundational engineering education research can help to highlight and shape AM as an emergent field, including opportunities for learning science, online education, and workforce development; the development of interdisciplinary and agile expertise; and considering belongingness, diversity, and inclusion in Additive Manufacturing.

Chronological Review of AM Education Efforts

The literature on Additive Manufacturing Education is scarce, likely due to the recent emergence of both the disciplines of AM and Engineering Education. The first effort and suggestion of including Rapid Prototyping into the engineering curriculum was proposed by Bohn in 1997. The emphasis on the need for integrating aggressive prototyping into the design development cycle was highlighted in his work. He asserted that the engineering curriculum at that time did not address the importance of prototyping and was less practiced in homework, projects, or laboratories. An experiment was conducted with senior design students through an iterative design-fabrication-redesign-fabrication sequence to enable hands-on experience on desktop-level manufacturing equipment. His work strongly asserts the need to include practical training while including design-intensive prototyping courses. During the initial phases, universities do not need to invest in commercial-level equipment, since desktop machines could provide students with useful insights for basic understanding of processes. The same experimental introduction activity can be further pursued in a modern design or prototyping class to study the effects of availability of prototyping equipment in student’s ideation and process.

Anecdotally, instructors lament that engineering design is ‘hard to learn and harder to teach.’ There has been a rising interest in ‘Design for additive manufacturing’ (DfAM) education within the past decade. DfAM is a thought process where existing and new design principles are consolidated to develop a framework which could optimally make use of the design freedom served by Additive manufacturing. Williams and Seepersad attempted to address the gap in AM education by developing an undergraduate/graduate course to educate students on the underlying science of AM processes using principles of DfAM. The authors used both problem-based and project-based methods for providing students with a hands-on experience with Additive manufacturing technologies. The findings from their experimental work posit that introducing students to challenging design activities can increase their learning quotient and promote creativity. The decision making process adopted by students could have been provided for a better overview and repeatability of the experiment. Engineering educators can use similar techniques in early years of academia to introduce design activities to expose students to the world of design and cultivate interest in manufacturing education where design is an integral part of the process.

Minetola et al. presented a survey on the impact of additive manufacturing on engineering education. The consequences from the survey present that there is an increase in the ease of learning, perceived interest and motivation amongst mechanical engineering graduate students after being able to get hands-on access to AM technologies. Such findings could provide a basis for engineering professoriate to build a case for Additive Manufacturing education. The paper also suggests that an early exposure of future generation designers to AM techniques can aid in the development of a “think-additive” style to product design. Inferences from this paper could be used as cases for universities to explore the option of including AM education in freshman and sophomore curriculum.

Concepts like BYOD (bring your own devices) and DIY (do-it yourself) are proven to be useful for hands-on student led projects where they use open-source software and hardware to create projects and assignments. Exposing students to open source architecture could lead them to be part of “makerspaces” and DIY clubs thereby enhancing their manufacturing quotient. Chong et proposed a blended learning model for inculcating skills required for Industry 4.0 readiness, including additive manufacturing using traditional methods, online learning, and flipped classroom approaches, with an emphasis on computer aided drafting (CAD) skills, which are imperative in 3D printing design. Chong’s work reveals that most engineering programs in their university are not ready for the transition to 3D printing-focused curriculum because of the paucity of courses that incorporate Industry 4.0 elements (in Chong’s study, 28% of courses). Similarly, the challenge of inadequate resources for training and implementation of Additive manufacturing related academic activities are major concerns for universities. Radharamanan recently highlighted the significance of including an Additive manufacturing course as a part of the manufacturing curriculum, detailing the development and implementation of a senior-level elective course in Additive Manufacturing. He noted that the students needed additional training in CAD and reverse engineering skills with the help of hands-on projects, a suggestion that likely applies to other academic institutions adopting AM education curricula.

Current Progress: The Advent of AM Graduate Programs

Graduate programs dedicated to Additive Manufacturing have seen a measured growth in the last three years. The Pennsylvania State University’s Masters of Science in Additive manufacturing and design program is considered to be the first of its kind in the USA. The course offers an online option as well for professionals intending to continue education. The students find benefit in lectures from industry experts from Center of Innovative Materials Processing through direct digital deposition (CIMP 3D) and Applied Research Laboratory. The University of Maryland also offers a graduate program in Additive manufacturing and students use resources from the Makerbot Innovation Center on campus. Carnegie Mellon University has recently announced a two-semester long Master of Science (MS) in Additive manufacturing program. In the United Kingdom, Nottingham University, University of Sheffield, and Derby University offer a graduate level course in Additive manufacturing. The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain offers a Design and Engineering for Additive manufacturing master’s program with collaboration from industry experts.

In addition to these formal degrees there are several initiatives for online certification and certificate programs. MIT offers a 12-week online course on the fundamentals, applications and implications of 3D printing for design and manufacturing which has garnered interest from industry professionals. Management consulting firms like Deloitte, PWC, and Ernst & Young are offering tailor-made courses for their clients to foster adoption of Additive manufacturing. Dedicated courses in Additive manufacturing are emerging, but the demand from the industry surpasses the existing supply. Therefore, more universities can include dedicated AM degrees into their curriculum coupled with research opportunities to develop AM engineers of the future.

© 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. ASEE (Annual Conference) Proceedings, (June 15 -19, 2019), held at Tampa Convention Center, Florida.