Plastic powder as a proven training tool

Text: Michal Krzak ; Photos: Sinterit — 2019/07/22

Additive manufacturing irrevocably changed a lot of industries. As the technology continues to evolve, the need for engineers with AM knowledge is high. While workshops  play an important role for further training, SLS-technology can be very helpful.

While companies are heading into 3D printing, engineers need to follow, or even better, overtake it. The need for trained engineers who can operate 3D printers, and even more important, excel in designing for rapid prototyping, is huge. »While 18% of manufacturing companies make use of 3DP at present, this is expected to increase to one-third of all businesses over the next five years.« states the PwC report »Beyond prototyping: accelerating the business case for 3D printing«. That means a lot of learning many technicians.

Engineer of the future

Advanced 3D printing workshops could bring the solution. While students from technological universities are taking classes on additive manufacturing, and their labs are getting more professional, equipped with the best 3D printers, for engineers who already had their master degrees it is not so easy to learn. Where and when should they go?

But in the end, an engineer skilled with 3D printing knowledge will get a better-paid job.According to PayScale.com, 3D skilled engineers could get approximately 58k dollars per year. The best paid are Mechanical Engineers (65k USD), Manufacturing Engineers (71k USD) and Application Engineers (62k USD). 

In Germany, the biggest 3DP market in Europe. Benjamin Henkel, the owner of SLS 3D has an answer. As an engineer himself, for years he was selling 3D printers to the professionals, but now he is mostly dedicated to workshops and knowledge services. »People came to our showroom in Hannover to see some advanced 3D printers live, get more info« - Benjamin Henkel recalls. »After acquiring the printer they also want to know how to use the machine the most professional way.«

Find the best technology for your industry

Engineers who are participating in Benjamin’s workshops have different background and skill level. For many, this is the first time ever to be involved in the rapid prototyping process. As stated in »The 3D Printing Handbook« by 3D Hubs, »SLS is best suited for producing strong functional parts with complex geometries« [1]. This is why companies from automotive or other high-tech industries, which prototype a lot, need engineers with SLS knowledge. Especially after SLS patent expired in 2014 and more 3D printers producers joined the market with reasonably priced machines.

»A lot of my clients acquired or are planning to buy a desktop SLS 3D printer because instead of 200k euro now they have to pay 7 or 12k for a device which is sometimes even more accurate and suits their needs much better« - adds Benjamin Henkel.  »For my workshops, I am using Sinterit Lisa and Lisa Pro. Both Lisas make it easy to show the advantage of this technology when it comes to complex applications« - he adds.

To train or not to train?

As desktop SLS 3D printers seem to be easy to operate, especially in comparison to the big industrial machines, it is still a good idea to get professional training. Even while those printers don’t need a lot of powder to start printing, the fewer mistakes you made, the more money you will save.

Although Benjamin is working on Lisas for several years, for a lot of clients, the desktop SLS devices are still a novelty. »Sometimes, when we are visiting big companies or universities, we find out that they have bought a printer a long time ago, but haven’t started it yet, because for safety departments it is so new and unknown technology, that they are afraid to make a decision to let it work. This is why they need somebody to show how easy and safe it is in using or handling the powder. This is our job.« - summarizes Benjamin.