SME Launches New Initiative to Prepare Students for 3-D Printing Careers

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SME, a Dearborn-based nonprofit that aims to advance manufacturing and engineering, is partnering with Rock Hill, S.C.-based 3-D Systems to launch M.Lab 21, an initiative to prepare high school students for careers in additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“This new initiative is exactly the type of program that will help prepare students to compete in the 21st century,” says U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “Too many young people still do not understand that a career in manufacturing can be challenging, rewarding, and a noble way to earn a good living. By connecting manufacturers directly with schools, we can work to change these perceptions, and get students excited about the manufacturing jobs of the future.”

As part of the initiative, participating schools will receive 3-D printers to help students print designs in a variety of thermoplastic materials; design software so students can create and craft 3-D designs; and portable 3-D scanners. M.Lab 21 will also give students and educators the opportunity to connect with future employers about skill requirements and lesson plans through an online network.

“M.Lab 21 goes beyond solely putting a 3-D printer in a classroom,” says Avi Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems, a technology firm in Rock Hill. “Our initiative is about revolutionizing tech and vocational education by giving students access to an innovative and integrated set of 21st century tools and technology. M.Lab21 aims to support what the manufacturing industry has been calling for — to ‘rebrand’ manufacturing, connect industry and academia, narrow the skills gap, and accelerate innovation.”

SME (formerly Society of Manufacturing Engineers) will work with industry experts to build a curriculum that addresses current and future manufacturing needs. By August, around eight industry professionals will be named advisors, while a pilot program consisting of 200 schools within the SME network will be ready to go for the new school year.

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