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Are We Ready to Prepare the Next-Gen 3D Printing Workforce? What Do Top Global Universities Think?

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HP Inc. is going to the source—higher education around the globe—to answer questions about the state of 3D printing in higher education today to ensure we are providing the right educational programs, curriculum, and technology to empower an "additive manufacturing native" workforce of the future.


Every day, we see news in our feeds about how Industry 4.0 technologies, including 3D printing (3DP), will radically change the landscape of future jobs. According to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report, new categories of jobs will appear, while others will be displaced. The WEF report also covers the importance of lifelong learning and a focus on significant reskilling, stating that "by 2022, everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning."1

Wow! How do we fit this into our existing educational efforts? Do we have enough of the right 3D printing—also known as additive manufacturing (AM)—educational programs, curriculum, and technology to empower a "3D printing native" workforce that will radically change the way we make things? What needs to be done to graduate and prepare the next-generation workforce? Make 3D printing concepts as ordinary as freshman English?

To answer these questions, we decided to go to the source. This year, HP in collaboration with ASME and A.T. Kearney is conducting a survey among 300+ top tech universities focused on additive manufacturing across 12 countries. Over 1,000 professors and academicians from leading universities including Stanford and MIT will share their perspectives on the future of 3DP adoption.

The survey will focus on which universities are focusing more on additive manufacturing than others, what they think are the drivers for accelerating adoption and skill sets, existing challenges, and where we can find opportunities to create game-changing programs.

How Additive Manufacturing Is Incorporated at Higher Ed Institutions

One of the first areas the survey will query university focus is additive manufacturing. Data points such as class size, graduate versus undergrad, number of professors, number of dedicated AM courses, AM specialization efforts, and whether AM lab exists will help us understand the extent to which the university is committed to additive manufacturing.

Furthermore, the survey will ask questions related to their industry focus (aerospace, automotive, health care), which will give us an insight into what kind of technology use cases we can expect sooner rather than later.

Challenges and Opportunities Driving Adoption

An important part of the survey is to get expert opinions on challenges that have restricted 3D printing adoption so far and how to add new material into existing courses. Some examples could be initial/ongoing costs, lack of material options, and machine reliability. We are interested in gathering subject matter expert perspectives on the key drivers to accelerate technology adoption and how soon can we expect the inflection point where the technology is incorporated in undergraduate, graduate, specialized, and other classes.

What's Happening in 3D Print Labs?

To understand practical use cases for the top tech universities, the survey will ask targeted questions about their 3DP lab—type of labs, how labs are used, and what projects and research they are working on. To better understand the 3DP ecosystem and user preferences, we will query about preferred materials used for 3DP (metal, ceramic, plastics, etc.), associated tools and technologies, and preferred characteristics of 3D printers (ease of use, material breadth, robust service and support, etc.).

Where Do Universities Look for Help?

Finally, what matters the most is how technical innovation gets commercialized and how top universities partner with corporations. The idea is to understand how companies support lab infrastructure at universities (equipment donation, service support, training, technology licensing, etc.) and how they develop a feedback loop to improve technology development.

At HP, we are passionate about the future of 3D printing. It's poised to disrupt a $12 trillion manufacturing industry and change jobs as we know them. According to a recent A.T. Kearney study, "Four to 6 trillion (USD) of the global economy will be disrupted and redistributed in the next 10 years due to the accelerating growth of 3D printing."2 This represents up to 3–5 million new jobs, and the need to ensure we develop a pipeline to have the talent ready as the 3D printing market grows. That starts in our schools.

We look forward to hearing from top universities' additive manufacturing minds and plan to share our findings as an industry report by the end of this year.

Have a look at what HP is up to in 3D printing, and if you have any questions or know someone who should take this survey, drop us a line here [http://www.stateofindustry40.org/Introduction-Additive-Manufacturing.aspx].


  1. World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2018, Geneva, Switzerland, 2018.
  2. 2.A.T. Kearney, 3D Printing: Ensuring Manufacturing Leadership in the 21st Century, 2018.

Camille Caron is Global Director, Education, 3D Print at HP Inc.

© 2018 HP Inc.