Somerset Community College (SCC) has become the first college in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to add metal additive manufacturing to its advanced manufacturing capabilities. SCC specializes in workforce development and it is the first institution of higher education in Kentucky to offer a technician certificate in 3D printing.
Although this may seem like marginal news in the overall global AM industry, it is quite relevant for a number of reasons. One is that this is the first Community College in the US (that we are aware of) that installs a metal 3D printer. While many US community colleges are better funded than Universities around the world, they certainly don’t have the purchasing power of the large universities traditionally associated with AM research.
Enter Open Additive
The reason why SCC could afford to install a laser powder bed fusion system is that it turned to Open Additive, a young company that has made it a goal to make this technology more accessible. Apparently, it is succeeding. As is often the case for young and potentially disruptive North American firms, the company’s vision was first covered by Sarah Goerke and our friends at Fabbaloo, highlighting how “[Open Additive] has partners in community colleges, universities, and production operations to continually gain feedback.”
Open Additive is the unifying theme behind the research, products, and services of Universal Technology Corporation’s AM business unit. The company has made its prerogative to build affordable systems that are component and material agnostic. It chose to focus on LPBF (aka, laser powder bed fusion, selective laser melting, direct metal laser sintering, etc.), as the primary focus of research, products, and services.
Working in LPBF
The fact that laser PBF technology is now becoming available at colleges that focus on preparing the workforce rather than further developing the AM process is also significant. As aircraft and automotive parts are Kentucky’s two most economically important exports, this field is considered vital to Kentucky’s future economic growth as aerospace, automotive, medical, and other industries are increasingly adopting metal additive manufacturing for production applications.
SCC selected the OpenAdditive PANDA laser powder bed fusion system from Universal Technology Corporation for its training and education needs. At an affordable price point, the PANDA system offers openness in design and operation to enhance instructor and student experience in understanding the laser melting additive process.
The system was installed only a few months after ordering, and included processing parameters and powder feedstock for printing in tool steel, stainless steel, and other metals. Peripherals included powder recycling and disposal equipment, post-processing equipment, and onsite training, as an integrated solution for metal AM education.
If you live around Somerset and/or are interested in learning more you can visit their Additive Manufacturing Program at this link. SCC currently offers a certificate in Additive Manufacturing/3D printing and offers additional training through the college’s Workforce Solutions program.