Developing Resources for Enhancing Additive Manufacturing Education
Additive manufacturing, which uses multiple layers of materials to create 3D objects, is increasingly important in the nation's manufacturing industry. The need for workers with the skills to design and create products using additive manufacturing technologies is also increasing. To help meet this need, Chippewa Valley Technical College will work with industry partners and secondary schools to develop new courses related to additive manufacturing, which is also called 3D printing. A Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) facility will be created to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the processes, materials, and design approaches used in additive manufacturing and to develop the skills needed to create items using those approaches. The knowledge and skills they develop, in turn, will prepare students for high-demand technician careers in manufacturing industries. The Fab Lab will also be available as a space for local entrepreneurs and makers to explore the use of modern equipment and technology. It is expected that the project will contribute to increasing the number of skilled technicians for the regional and national manufacturing workforce.
The goals of the project are to: 1) prepare manufacturing technicians with skills in additive manufacturing processes and concepts; and 2) increase the capability of secondary school teachers to teach additive manufacturing topics. Course content for five modules on additive manufacturing will be developed to augment the Manufacturing Engineering Technologist and Mechanical Design associate degree programs at the college. These modules will cover topics such as material properties, metal additive manufacturing, design principles, and quality assurance for digital manufacturing. The new Fab Lab high-quality makerspace will be equipped with multiple types of 3D printers (including thermoplastic, stereolithography, composite material, and metal 3D printers) and a 3D laser scanner. Students will participate in a capstone experience that incorporates project-based learning on real-world projects that allow students to work collaboratively with industry partners. Course modules with appropriate content for middle and high school students will also be developed. All students will have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials after completing the modules. Secondary school teachers will have access to faculty mentors and professional development workshops, to help them work with the Fab Lab equipment and integrate the modules and course activities into their curriculum. The project includes evaluation by an external expert. Results of this evaluation could inform other institutions about effective approaches to recruiting and educating technicians for additive manufacturing jobs.