Learning from Children

by Thomas Masuch


As most people know, milling, lathing, grinding, and similar machining techniques are considered »conventional « in the world of Additive Manufacturing. These technologies are used by thousands of midsize companies, which is where one sometimes finds a very specific type of entrepreneur: After cutting their own teeth on greasy machining equipment in ear-splitting production halls, they started companies around 20 or 30 years ago and have built them into fairly successful organizations over the years. Now hardened by crises and bolstered by their accomplishments, they are confident in their opinions, but remain downto- earth, affable in their own way, and every inch the boss.

I myself am fortunate enough to call one of these entrepreneurs a friend. When we were discussing Additive Manufacturing over a year ago, I remember telling him that I thought the technology presented some exciting opportunities for his 50-employee production company. I also mentioned that he could do more to get young people interested about the firm and learning a technical trade.

At the time, my friend‘s response was less than enthusiastic. »You handle your business and I’ll handle mine,« he retorted. »We‘re dealing with cutting machines here, not 3D printing.« That put the subject to bed – until we visited the training facilities of a chamber of crafts together a few weeks back. The young trainees we met in a class for cutting mechanics seemed a bit listless at first. When the subject turned to 3D printing, however, many of their eyes lit up; some even talked about how they were already coming up with designs on their own computers and printing custom phone covers and other creations for all of their friends.

In the next room, more than 20 students between the ages of 10 and 14 were taking part in a summer vacation program offered by the chamber. It was easy to see how excited they were about turning their construction kits into FDM printers and taking them home the following afternoon.

»Why isn’t that part of our training program?« I heard my enterprising friend ask his company‘s training director. It’s always good when real men can learn so quickly from the shining eyes of children, isn‘t it?