Clarify 3D Policy to help UK adopt Additive Manufacturing
The UK was the birthplace of the first Industrial Revolution and I write this near Ironbridge in the heart of the country that spawned industrialisation. The irony is not lost on me.
In order to get more staff skilled-up to utilise 3D printing as a technology, our educators need to adopt it into the classroom. Without the skills necessary, this Second Industrial Revolution is likely to pass us by here in the UK.
I meet great teachers across Shropshire and the Midlands and I can vouch for the fact that we have lots of far-sighted educators in the UK and great STEM teachers. However, without clearer direction from Government, is it likely that schools will adopt 3D printing in any great numbers in the short term? The focus appears to be on Cuts in schools and not investment in the future.
That said I have also met teachers still using pipe cleaners and toilet rolls to make models right here here in this County of Shropshire for Chemistry in a secondary school. There is absolutely no issue with saving money, but is this possibly a lost opportunity to incorporate DT, Chemistry, Mathematics and other skills and engage and teach students new technology at the same time.
Is it true that UK teachers think 3D printing is a fad, or is it actually that they don't have the necessary skills themselves? Is it that there is no clear policy direction or is it because we as a country do not have the same sense of national pride as other nations across the globe? I don't happen to think its any one of these things alone is true, but a combination of them all is possibly the case.
However, it has become clear to me that we in the UK do need a clarification of Government Policy to include 3D Printing into education and teach our children how to join the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow, but we need to act now, today.
The Chinese government already appear to have taken steps to ensure their children are educated about 3D print technology early.
Chinese Government to Put 3D Printers in All 400,000 Elementary Schools by Next Year
The children who were exposed to desktop computing decades ago have developed a mastery of the technology but only after a full cycle of education. The Chinese Governments thinking may be that its children of today will leave school with expert knowledge of 3D printers that can be utilised in the manufacturing workforce as they leave school.
Ms. Suki of Winbo Industrial Co. Ltd who opened Baiyun Winbo 3D Printing College in in December 2014 in China said “3D printers are a great way for schools to really engage their students in the learning process and offer many advanced possibilities in college
for a variety of disciplines,” Ms. Suki went on; “Every school will need to integrate 3D printing to ready our next generation for their future careers. So in the future, the students will create more good things that can help themselves and the company save money & shorten time by the 3D Printing Technology."
The vision is one of educating a workforce to be more efficient, more competitive and class-leaders in the world.
Do we share that vision for our students in the UK?
We are in danger of succumbing to an inertia which will mean our competitors move so far ahead, we will be left too far behind to ever catch up.
Are we alone in the UK?
"Europe is in dire need of new economic dynamism.” said Reinhard Bütikofer at the Additive
Manufacturing European Conference this month. Bütikofer is a Member of the European Parliament and he also commented that: “Additive manufacturing offers great potential for disruptive innovation. It can boost industrial competitiveness and, at the same time, deliver significant material and energy efficiency gains. We need an ambitious EU industrial policy that taps into new technologies and industrial trends to promote competitiveness and sustainability”.
Andy Middleton, President, Stratasys EMEA was also at the Additive Manufacturing European
Conference and he feels that EU is being left behind by other nations: "Without significant investment in education Europe cannot compete with the US and Asia. My kids, who are 10 and 14, print their own parts; phone cases etc. They won't win any prizes for design but they are beginning to understand the technology.”
surely one shouldn't have to be the President of a major 3D Printer manufacturer for your kids to have access to 3D Printing, it should be available at all schools across the UK.
So is 3D printing a passing fad, or a technology to embrace?
With desktop FDM technology prototyping machines costing just a few thousand pounds it is no longer an excuse to think the technology is too expensive.
Education have Operating Lease available for acquisition and could be starting off with one printer for as little as £2.26 a day. That is much less than a photocopier!!! Leasing for MakerBot 3D printers
But the problem is not just with schools here in the UK, its with SME businesses who seem to be very slow on the uptake.
The Head of Manufacturing and business Investment at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Clare Marett was at the Additive Manufacturing European Conference and she voiced concern that UK SMEs are wary of additive manufacturing. Marett suggested that of the businesses she had visited, who themselves might actually benefit from 3D printing within their manufacturing processes, most felt that the technology was a just passing fad and one they were not prepared to invest a significant of capital or time.
So are our UK businesses likely to "die of ignorance or lack of skill"?
With 1,000 3D Printed working parts in flying Airframes today and Aerospace and Automotive having embraced 3d technology, if we wish to keep up, we need to wake up and to skill-up and educate the business managers of today and educate the workers for tomorrow.
Here in the UK we used to be strong in Automotive Manufacturing, but now we produce fewer cars and sadly in May 2000 Ford announced that passenger car assembly as its Dagenham plant would cease in 2002, ending 90 years of Ford passenger car assembly in the UK. It is interesting to note that Andy Middleton of Stratasys would confirm that that 50% of the business Stratasys do in Germany is with the automotive industry.
Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General stated at the Additive Manufacturing European Conference : “Additive Manufacturing is moving fast towards becoming a mainstream technology. However there are challenges and obstacles on the way to its industrialisation that should be cleared and to that end, adequate government policy must play a role in technology development and market uptake. With the know-how, skilled workforce and resources, Europe has the potential of becoming a global centre of excellence in AM. Europe does not have the luxury to lag behind competitors in disruptive technologies that transform the economy. It has to aim at global leadership. We hope that the new EU Industrial Policy Roadmap and the Digital Single Market Strategy will give the necessary attention to AM”.
'We are competing in a global race. I want British children coming out of school to be at the top of the class, beating the best in the world. ...In order to do that we have got to have the most rigorous curriculum, we have got to measure it against our competitors"
Mr Cameron later appeared on ITV's This Morning, where he told presenters Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield that children needed to be pushed to achieve more
Two full years on, and a year after implementation of the new curriculum , we still need 3D Printing in Education and 3D Printing for SME's in the UK, and we need it today, and the only way to fully achieve this I believe is for David Cameron to restate and Clarify 3D policy.