SME and Wi3DP team up to advance workforce diversity in 3D printing

SME and Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) have announced a partnership to build a more diverse and inclusive future additive manufacturing workforce.

The partners will combine their respective experience, programs, and networks to conduct four initiatives to close skill gaps within the industry and attract new talent to choose a career in 3D printing. 

“SME has been enabling the development and growth of the additive manufacturing industry since the late 1980s and we continue to be inspired by its people and technology,” said Robert Willig, CEO of SME.

“Collaboration is crucial, and we are excited to embark on this strategic partnership with Wi3DP, an organization that shares our passion for promoting and advancing additive manufacturing and creating a more inclusive industry for everyone.”

Combining two equality powerhouses

SME has been operating for over a century as a non-profit association with the mission to advance North America’s manufacturing industry. In recent decades, the organization has worked to grow and develop the 3D printing industry, forming the standards committee F-42 with ASTM in 2008, playing a key role in the launch of America Makes in 2012, and joining forces with Rapid News Group to expand the US’ leading additive manufacturing trade show, RAPID + TCT

The organization’s more recent milestones include releasing its 2018 medical additive manufacturing report and launching its ITEAM online evaluation platform to help manufacturers determine if 3D printing is right for them. Alongside America Makes, SME’s strategic partners in the 3D printing industry include the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG), TCT, and now Wi3DP.

Since its founding in 2014, Wi3DP has championed gender equality in 3D printing and worked tirelessly to drive greater female involvement in the sector. Through its reports on diversity in 3D printing, Wi3DP has investigated the industry’s gender pay gap and how it can be addressed, and in 2021 the organization launched its TIPE 3D printing conference to provide a platform on which women can share their experiences, expertise, and visions for the sector.

Wi3DP's all-female keynote speaker lineup for TIPE 2022.
Wi3DP’s all-female keynote speaker lineup for TIPE 2022. Image via Wi3DP.

Building a next-gen diverse AM workforce

Through their combined expertise and resources, SME and Wi3DP are seeking to attract and develop the next generation of additive manufacturing employees with diversity and inclusion at its core. The partnership will benefit from SME’s manufacturing resources and reach built up over 90 years alongside Wi3DP’s network and programs to promote the benefits of a career in additive manufacturing and close skills gaps within the sector. 

Four initiatives form the basis of the partnership. First, the organizations will co-produce the next iteration of Wi3DP’s TIPE conference, TIPE 2023. Through this, the associations hope to deliver on their shared goal of offering 3D printing engagement and education year-round, including through digital platforms.

Hot on the heels of the conclusion of this year’s show, SME and Wi3DP will launch the Wi3DP Showcase at RAPID + TCT 2023 in a bid to extend the value of TIPE with an in-person experience. Additionally, the organizations are launching a joint NextGen Mentorship Pilot program, expanding on Wi3DP’s existing initiative, focused on building a diverse, next-generation additive manufacturing workforce.

The fourth element of the partnership will see the organizations co-author an annual Diversity for Additive Manufacturing report, with the first iteration planned for 2023. The report aims to provide an annual measure of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the 3D printing sector. In addition to observing how organizations are expanding and developing their workforce, the report will provide resources for companies to better access, understand, and action diversity, equity, and inclusion within their workforce.

“It is important that the additive manufacturing industry is reflective of the real world, and we want to send a clear message that it is for everyone,” said Nora Toure, Founder of Wi3DP. “We were looking for a partner to help us access even more people in the additive community in more ways, and we are proud to join SME, with its decades of expertise, on this important mission.”

SME Talent and Workforce reports. Photo by Michael Petch.
SME Talent and Workforce reports. Photo by Michael Petch.

Addressing the AM skills gap

3D printing, alongside the manufacturing sector in general, has experienced an employee skills gap and issues regarding long-term workforce development, representation, and diversity for some time. In addition to SME and Wi3DP, others in the 3D printing sector are increasingly looking to tackle these concerns through various education initiatives and programs. 

For instance, after publishing the results of its first study into existing skill gaps across the 3D printing workforce in 2020, the SAM consortium launched its European Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing which proposed strategic objectives and initiatives to address the challenges of the sector’s critical skills shortage.

Elsewhere, PBF 3D printer manufacturer EOS has launched its student scholarship program, EOS Affirms, with the aim of opening up STEM education programs to minority groups and people of color, while the like of PrintLab and the CREATE Education Project have provided 3D printing licenses to schools and opened primary education 3D printing hubs

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Featured image shows a 3D printed Women in 3D Printing logo. Photo via Women in 3D Printing.