By Allen Foster
3D printing has quickly moved from the realm of science fiction to being touted as the next big technological advance that is going to revolutionize the world. As more and more brilliant people jump on the bandwagon and experiment with new methods and materials, the impossible will occur with greater and greater frequency. Imagine being able to “print” your own clothing, food, medicine, and even fully functional body parts. What is ultimately possible will only be limited by the imagination.
However, as futuristic as printing human organs sounds, the technology isn’t all that hard to understand. In short, 3D printing is merely a fancy name for an additive process where you build something one very thin layer at a time. In fact, if you were interested in pursuing a career in 3D printing, the schooling you would need to prepare you for this field already exist. Actually, you might already have a degree that would allow you to slip effortlessly into this fascinating world.
Believe it or not, if you studied animation, specifically 3D animation, you already understand many of the tools used in 3D printing. For creating original 3D models, you need to be able to conceive of a design and bring it to life in a three-dimensional space on your computer. Exactly what animators do day in and day out. Even if you don’t have a degree, merely understanding the principles of a free open-source program such as Blender will give you a thorough understanding of how this magic really works.
Yes, this is a no-brainer. Engineers are essential to the world of 3D printing because these are the folks who understand and operate the machines. Conversely, engineers need 3D printers, too. This device is invaluable to the engineer desiring to draft components for manufacturing. All in all, it’s a symbiotic relationship: 3D printers need engineers who, in turn, need 3D printers.
As 3D printing becomes an integral part of our everyday life, the demand for innovative individuals who have a knack for creating user-friendly software will rapidly grow. A child intuitively grasps how an iPad works. That same breed of shrewd designers will be the ones who are directly responsible for making 3D printers a staple household item.
Having a background or a degree in any one of the countless fields that 3D printing is permeating (e.g. biomedical technology, food technology, toy design, model making, filmmaking) is a backdoor way to slip into this exciting world. As your job begins to delve further and further into this fascinating adventure, be sure you keep up on the latest technology so you can be part of the 3D printing vanguard in your chosen field.
Excelling in any one of the aforementioned skills may be enough to get your foot in the door, but those wishing to work at the core of the 3D printing industry probably need to go a little bit deeper. A firm grasp of 3D CAD (computer aided design) would be ideal. And finding an apprenticeship is another way to help ensure you are thoroughly prepared to be part of tomorrow’s workforce.