The technologies behind additive manufacturing have hit an exciting tipping point.
No longer just for prototypes and fantasy, 3-D printers are churning out new "real-world' products into the market every day, providing applications for everything from rocket engines to running shoes – see "3-D Printing in the Real World [SLIDESHOW]."
Few organizations have pushed the technology further along in this regard than the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
The lab, according to a new article on Aviation Week, is on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing, developing solutions for large scale printing (the next frontier for the technology), new high-strength materials and novel robotic components for the Office of Naval Research.
But, more importantly, as the engineers at ORNL learn to "think beyond current materials and designs," they understand that – to really drive the technology forward – they need an inspired workforce trained with very 21st century skills.
So the organization has done something neat.
As Aviation Week explains, the ORNL is in the process of placing thousands of 3-D printers into U.S. school in order to give future designers and engineers the skills they need to drive this new market.
Though starting slow with just 250 machines this year, the lab will place 3,000 printers into schools next year, and then 4,000 the following and then 28,000 printers all for students. Which means the lab is single-handedly shaping the skilled workers of the future.
The lab’s goal is to move from prototyping to production and enable distributed, "democratized" manufacturing where 3-D printers are a source of revenue for everybody, says Lonnie Love, group leader for automation, robotics and manufacturing at ORNL.
It is, he says, a high-tech return to the cottage industries that predated the Industrial Revolution.
Read the full article at Aviation Week: "ORNL Uses New 3-D Printers To Break Down Development Barriers"