Workforce Planning: Preparing for the 3-D Printing Revolution
3-D printing technology has been around since the mid-1980’s and has been particularly useful for creating design prototypes. But, in recent years, it has matured significantly and is now used in a variety of industries to speed up the design and manufacture of products. As the technology, also known as additive manufacturing, continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly accessible to companies and individuals for countless real-world applications. By 2020, the global market for 3-D printing-related equipment and services is estimated to reach $17.2 billion.1
The increasingly widespread use of additive manufacturing is creating substantial demand for well-trained talent to operate these systems. This includes software and hardware engineers, industrial designers, as well as skilled technicians to keep the equipment in good working order. Talent for these roles, as with most tech positions, is in short supply in the current tight labor market. That means companies implementing this technology must get creative in their recruiting efforts. A high quality staffing company can help.
What is 3-D Printing?
3-D printing is the process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital design. Its genesis was in the 1980’s when the technology was known as ‘rapid prototyping’. The ability to quickly and economically convert concepts into real world objects through multiple design iterations was a ground-breaking innovation for specialty manufacturers. It meant they could cost-effectively produce products on demand.
To the layperson, who thinks of printers as handy devices for printing out two-dimensional documents or photos, the concept of 3-D printing is a bit bewildering. The process typically involves creating 3-D objects in layers, from scratch, choosing from a variety of materials.
While 3-D printer output is quite different from traditional printers, the process is related in the sense that the 3-D printer is applying a layer of material to a base surface, similar to ink being applied to paper. But with 3-D printers, the printed material becomes more substantial (actually becoming three-dimensional) with each successive layer.
This additive manufacturing process is, in effect, the opposite of a traditional manufacturing process which cuts, mills or machines raw material to make specific objects—hence, the ‘additive’ appellation. A benefit of the process is that it wastes comparatively little raw material.
3-D printing technology is in widespread use in the general manufacturing and construction industries, and is in the early stages of transforming others. Here are some examples:
3-D printers have been particularly useful for this purpose in the automotive, aviation, aerospace, and defense industries.
Logistics and Warehousing
Parts and equipment on demand is possible with 3-D printing. It also reduces the need for huge inventory, which, lowers operational costs.
Construction and Architecture
Architects have long used Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology to help fabricate construction models.
3-D printers can be used to create medical devices such as hearing aids, dentures and eyeglasses, as well as prosthetics, and artificial organs. The FDA recently approved a new 3-D printed drug for the treatment of epilepsy, which has opened the door to a plethora of other 3-D printed medications.
Research and Development (R&D)
3-D printing technology will continue to substantially reduce product development design cycles and allow companies to bring products to market much more quickly than in the past.
An unintended consequence of additive manufacturing technology is an anticipated boon in lawsuits related to intellectual property theft and liability.2 A logical consequence to this boon will be a demand for legal experts in this field.
As the digital revolution continues to transform our society, demand for skilled employees trained in the latest technology will likely persist unabated for the foreseeable future. Companies planning to implement the latest technologies face a daunting challenge trying to recruit and hire the necessary talent.
Given our extensive experience and deep network of tech workers, LINK can help procure this specialized talent. Give us a call today to find out how we can help.
- 3D Printing: A Manufacturing Revolution – atkearney.com
- Preparing for risks of 3d printing in manufacturing – travelers.com