Metal additive manufacturing is increasingly becoming a reality as it becomes more cost-effective and we move towards full part production, and away from plastic-based prototype prints. The metal AM market and the sales of metal 3D printing systems have increased dramatically over the past years. This is largely fuelled by the increasing demand for metal 3D printing from industrial verticals such as automotive, aerospace and defense.
As this sector grows, with more applications and part production, companies are increasingly demanding talented professionals that can work with and optimize the use of these machines.
With metal additive manufacturing on the rise, how and where do companies find the right people?
Alexander Daniels Global, additive manufacturing recruitment company, is experiencing a surging demand for metal AM professionals; a demand which is more than double the demand for plastic AM professionals.
This is not necessarily an indication that there is less need for polymer and plastic specialists, but more an indication that metal additive manufacturing professionals are more difficult to find and hire; thus, the need to engage a specialized recruiter. Alexander Daniels Global highlights three key factors that make metal additive manufacturing professionals a scarce resource.
1. A lack of specific experience
The sales of metal 3D printing systems have grown exponentially since 2013, according to Wohlers’ Report, with an impressive surge in sales in 2017. Metal additive manufacturing is still relatively new as a widespread manufacturing method, which means that there are very few people who have specific and hands-on experience with using metals in additive manufacturing. Hands-on experience is often a key requirement for hiring organizations.
2. Solely academic knowledge
While there is a lack of professionals with hands-on experience of metals in AM, the ones who do have that experience have it from the academic world, where there is a great increased focus on additive. Hiring someone with strictly academic knowledge of a topic tends to be too risky for well established companies, who need people that can optimize and operate their machines now.
Fehrmann, a company offering industrial safety components made of high-performance aluminium alloys, has recently begun its move into metal 3D printing. Alexander Daniels Global has spoken to Fehrmann about this move and how they are experiencing the talent market.
Along with many other companies looking to hire metal additive experts, Fehrmann has encountered the academic issue in their recruitment; “many applicants are also trapped in their science, so that they lack the foresight or sometimes the motivation and curiosity to enter new or similar fields of work,” Fehrmann mentions.
3. Difficult to transition from plastics to metals
Besides a lack of specific knowledge of metals, there is a lack of synergy between polymer and metal 3D printing; there are significant differences in the use of plastics or metals in the additive manufacturing process and post process, making it difficult for plastics professionals to immediately transfer into a metal role.
“In our experience, this is only possible if the candidate has previously gained experience in the metal sector. Without any knowledge, it may theoretically be possible to train the person in the metal field, but the effort is very high. And to catch up in a short period of time with the knowledge that candidates with appropriate metal experience have is usually not feasible,” says Fehrmann.
What kind of talent the metal AM sector needs and where to find them
The metal additive manufacturing sector needs professionals with an understanding of how to produce metal parts using conventional manufacturing, to bridge the gap between what is realistic for the use of metal AM and what does not necessarily make sense nor is cost or time effective.
To be successful in the segment, companies need metallurgists with a strong understanding of material qualities and their performance during the printing process. Additionally, companies need individuals who understand the various metal additive processes and who can accurately select the right process, depending on the required functionality of the final part. Besides metallurgists, Alexander Daniels Global is seeing a need for Process Engineers who can adapt the printing process to suit their application, along with Design and Application Engineers who can create and develop the new applications for metal additive manufacturing.
These skillsets and experience are often found outside the additive manufacturing industry; professionals coming from areas like metal injection molding, advanced sintering and advanced laser manufacturing are likely easier to transition into metal additive manufacturing than a polymer AM professional. These are all key areas in which the professionals will have both experience with metals and a good process engineering knowledge.
In Fehrmann’s experience, “it is more feasible to hire someone with a background in advanced welding or advanced laser manufacturing, than hiring someone with a polymer 3D printing background.”
Besides specific knowledge of metals and process engineering, there are some soft skills companies should look for when hiring. Some of which are the ability to learn, adaptability and creativity. Fehrmann also highlights certain soft skills, crucial to being successful in working with metal 3D printing.
“We are looking for absolute expert knowledge in the field, but we are also looking for very special/unique know-how. The person must be very open to new challenges and be able to think outside the box, he or she must be curious, ambitious, highly motivated and a team player,” says Fehrmann.
Are you looking for talented metal additive manufacturing professionals to join your team? Get in touch with Alexander Daniels Global to learn more about how to find them.