The growth of 3D printing and 3D scanning in the manufacturing industry has been fuelling demand for professionals trained in these technologies to a high standard. In response, WorldSkills UK has launched an Additive Manufacturing Competition which aims to promote the education of 3D printing experts and to set standards in the field. The students competing in the challenge will remake a part using Oqton’s industry-leading 3D reverse engineering software Geomagic Design X.
The driving force behind the WorldSkills UK competition are 3DGBIRE, an additive manufacturing service and training provider, and Create Education, which supports education about 3D printing.
Andy Knight, Corporate Partnership Manager at WorldSkills UK, stresses that competitions play an important role in raising education standards. “We want to inspire thousands of young people with different career growths by introducing them to different skills and industries. Today we cover over 50 different skills, ranging from construction to IT to hospitality, from healthcare to mobile robotics and hairdressing.”
WorldSkills UK is part of an international network that organizes world championships for vocational skills every two years, in different parts of the world. Always on the lookout for new industry sectors, Knight was thrilled when 3DGBIRE’s technical trainer Steven Taylor proposed launching the additive manufacturing competition in the UK.
“When I started working in additive manufacturing, one of the things that I found was that there's a lack of skills in the technologies, specifically in design and reverse engineering,” Taylor explains. “WorldSkills competitions are a great way to promote vocational skills and I hope the Additive Manufacturing Competition will prompt colleagues to start embedding these in curriculums. We want students to go into industry familiar with how additive manufacturing and 3D scanning work, and how they help save money and time in manufacturing,” he adds.
Knight echoed this sentiment, “This competition highlights the opportunities for young people in the UK to go into additive manufacturing. It's becoming an industry, and we’re going to need people with an additive manufacturing skill set and training. We’re using these competitions to bring additive manufacturing into the education system.”
Taylor saw the fruit of his efforts at the start of 2023, with the launch of the demo competition, the goal of which is to demonstrate there is a need for a vocational competition. Taylor decided to bring in Geomagic Design X at an early stage. “I reached out to Oqton and asked for access to the software so that our competitors could get to grips with it and use it in the finals,” he explains.
The process started in February and culminates in November 2023, when the UK’s top eight competitors face off in the finals. They underwent several stages of testing in the lead-up to this event where they had to demonstrate general knowledge as well as practical skills in manual measurement and design with CAD software.
In the nationals, they get to reverse engineer with Geomagic software. “Each competitor will get an hour with a 3D scanner to capture the geometry of a part. On the second day they are going to use Design X. I'm going to give them a broken part and they’re going to have to reverse-engineer it from an STL file. They will have to bring this mesh into Design X, orient it to the correct axis, and they're going to have to use the mesh section sketch tool to reverse engineer the part as a brand new one,” Taylor says.
In order to familiarize the students with the software, Taylor assigned them learning tasks and Oqton gave them a three-month training license in tandem with online tutorials.
The winner of the 2023 competition will become part of the World Skills UK squad and train for the International Competition in Additive Manufacturing in Shanghai, in 2025. “Whoever wins the finals will have two years of intensive training with experts to get to grips with all the tools and all the equipment that they will need to compete with the best of the best on the global scale,” Taylor adds.
Plans for other educational programs are already afoot. “I’m in discussions with the Apprenticeship Institute to create an apprenticeship for additive manufacturing. This will cover the skills that you need to take part in the World Skills UK competition which is based on the competencies that we seeing on a global perspective,” Talyor adds.