Based on the findings of the METALS project, CECIMO produced a panorama which focuses on skills for additive manufacturing technologies. The document shows how the AM workforce will need a hybrid skills pool made of typical skills in subtractive manufacturing, new emerging skills specific to additive machines, as well as soft skills in communication and presentation over the next decade.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is getting increasing attention in the European machine tool industry. The EU METALS project led by CECIMO aims at equipping workers in the sector with the needed competences to unleash the full potential of this technology in the near future. So, METALS identified how the adoption of additive techniques will impact on the type of skills demanded by employers. The findings will lead to the completion of an AM curriculum, from which e-learning materials for AM skills are being developed.

The METALS European machine tool skills panorama represents the first milestone in the project. It shows how the AM workforce will need a hybrid skills pool, where traditional skills in subtractive manufacturing are coupled with new competences specific to the additive space. Collecting inputs from a large group of AM experts, the panorama offers a stage-by-stage overview of competences, and it illustrates how the stage of design, in which this technology offers much to gain, will surge effectively in importance. Skills in areas such as computational thermal fluid dynamics and structural calculus will be fundamental for the virtual dimension of design development. Specialized designers will become prominent in unlocking the potential of AM. Another crucial stage for fabrication with additive techniques is STL file preparation and manipulation, where the digital dimension of AM becomes clear.

To this extent, experts pointed out the relevance of job profiles in application engineering, who will be responsible in the manipulation of the STL file to be sent to the AM machine. They will also be critical in supervising all remaining production stages and guaranteeing quality in the whole AM process. The AM application engineer will be the new real job profile generated by this technology.

Particularly in the metal segment of the market, the use of powder will add safety standards on the workplace. New vocational skills will be needed to ensure all necessary health and safety rules are followed. Operators and technicians will need to be aware of the safety linked to additive machines to perform tasks such as loading and unloading build platforms, removing and recycling redundant metal powder around the part created as well as replacing filters used in production. Add-on skills aligned with high safety standards in the workplace will affect all stages, from operation to post-processing and maintenance.

Finally, with increasing competition in the market for AM machine manufacturing, companies will sharpen their marketing strategies and personnel shall have solid communication skills to liaise with potential customers.