Oct 7, 2016 | By Alec

Is U.S. manufacturing heading towards a new renaissance? It certainly seems that way, as global CEOs have named the United States as the best place to invest in manufacturing for four years in a row, and more than 800,000 new jobs have been created since the end of the recession came in sight back in 2010. This is partly the result of a very conscious and active approach by the Obama administration, which has strongly been pushing for innovation, investment and education to keep manufacturing viable for subsequent generations. As is apparent on Manufacturing Day 2016, held today, 3D printing strongly features in that vision of future manufacturing.

To be sure, 3D printing hasn’t exactly pulled the U.S. out of a recession single handedly; active government policies and a strong flow of capital investments have done a lot more to create all those new jobs. But as President Obama said in a statement yesterday, this isn’t just about today’s manufacturing sector: “Let us continue working to strengthen and expand the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow and ensure that opportunity for all is something we can keep making in America for generations to come,” the president said.

That statement was made for the occasion of the fifth annual Manufacturing Day, which is today. It’s a day that’s all about innovation, manufacturing and development, and celebrates ‘Made in America’ manufacturing. It’s also a day on which numerous announcements about new manufacturing initiatives from governmental and private sector supporters are made, while many institutes and companies are hosting factory tours, hackathons, career exploration panels and more. 500,000 students and local organizations will be active, with the goal of convincing as many people as possible about the merits of American manufacturing (careers).

While a fantastic and very diverse event packed with variety, we couldn’t help but notice that 3D printing is playing an increasingly prominent role – both in government policy, in local events and in new innovation announcements. But above all, the Obama administration sees 3D printing as a key educational tool. This is reflected in a special panel that Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will be chairing in Portland, featuring recent graduates seeking careers in manufacturing. Among others, Pritzker will take them on a tour of 3D printers and robots at the Portland Center for Advanced Learning.

But as was revealed for Manufacturing Day, the Obama administration is also setting up numerous 3D printing initiatives with an educational purpose. Among others, NASA’s second phase of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge kicks off today (with $2.5 million in funding). Phase 3 will open the summer of 2017, targeting the autonomous manufacturing of the habitats using 3D Printed technology. Meanwhile the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation, America makes and 3D Veterans are setting up the 3D Veterans Bootcamp. Through this program, 400 veterans will be trained in 3D printing and design skills every year, preparing them for advanced manufacturing careers. This transitional initiative will also provide startup support for veterans. 3D Veterans Bootcamp will be kicking off in Los Angeles, Carson, San Francisco, Philadelphia and El Paso.

More generally speaking, the administrations’ call to action also resulted in various other 3D printing programs. For instance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and others are committing to educating the next generation of (3D printing) manufacturers through more focused courses and resources that promote very useful hands-on experiences.

This is best reflected by a new introductory making course at MIT, which will be ready for the freshman class of 2020. As part of the class, all 1,100 freshmen will be educated in 3D printing, laser cutting and hand tools, and will even be provided with material and machine time funds. 10 unique freshman maker communities will also be set up. And next week, MIT is expanding the availability of manufacturing education for students around the world with the world’s first manufacturing-oriented MOOC (massive open online course) called Fundamentals of Manufacturing Processes. Through it, anyone can study a wide range of manufacturing opportunities, including 3D printing.

The same can be seen on a local level, where organizations from across the US are announcing educational programs for students and adults – encouraging everyone to manufacture their ideas at a realistic scale. Perhaps most remarkable is Branch Technology and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce are planning to 3D print a 1,000 sq. ft. house through a competition – the first 3D printed house in the US, and the first freeform 3D printed house in the world.

Even established 3D printing companies are seeing Manufacturing Day as an educational opportunity. Formlabs, for instance, has just announced the Innovate & Educate Challenge – which will award a Form 2 3D printer to the most inspiring submitted 3D printing lesson plan. They will also be launching a custom STEM and Arts education program with Scholastic with the purpose of promoting access to 3D printing and the inclusion of the technology in school curricula. Finally, they will be donating another Form 2 3D printer to the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, where young people can work with it as part of the Spark! Labs hands-on invention workshop. If there’s one thing to be taken away from this year’s Manufacturing Day, it’s that 3D printing is reaching a fantastic educational position.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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