Additive manufacturing is one of the most lucrative industries to be a part of. According to a research report published by Market and Markets, 3D printing is expected to be worth 34.8 Billion by 2026.
This is due to additive manufacturing becoming widely used across various industries like automotive, aerospace, medical, and consumer goods.
With this massive growth however, comes the need for skilled additive manufacturing professionals from printer operators, R&D, print managers, and more.
For this blog post we will be diving into the important position of 3D printing lab manager and what they need to excel in their field.
What is a 3D lab manager?
3D printing lab manager responsibilities may vary depending on the company and institution but at their core, they manage the entirety of a printing lab or model shop. This includes responsibilities such as:
- Overseeing the printing of clients 3D print requests
- Managing 3D printing materials and inventory
- Communicating with clients/staff/students/customers on statuses
- Reporting on 3D printer usage and costs
- Working with a team of operators and technicians
The three skills a 3D lab manager should have to take on their responsibilities include clear communication, organization, and diligence.
Being a manager or any leadership position requires one to work with multiple people from either a team or elsewhere. In this case, you might have a team of operators or technicians. They function as your hands and thus require clear orders on what they are doing. The ability to communicate in a clean fashion can prevent any miscommunication between parties which can lead to mistakes such as your team accidentally printing a job twice.
While it is easy to just use your email, texting, face to face discussion, or use notes, each has their own flaws. Using your email or phone would potentially have the effect of flooding your account with requests and lab correspondence. This would make it difficult to navigate non-lab related emails and texts.
Face to face discussions lack the documentative ability of email, texting, and notes can be lost which is no better than just forgetting. A fix could be to have all methods of communicating; however, having multiple channels to communicate can become an overwhelming task to keep organized depending on the amount of people you interact with.
Using a single method of communication can simplify any correspondence between you and people associated with your lab, just make sure you either check it often or have a form of notifications set up.
Being in charge of a 3D printing lab or shop naturally comes with having to also keep track of various assets and how they are being used. Taking inventory of what your lab needs and uses on a daily basis is the start of keeping things organized. Below are a few Common assets that might need to be tracked:
- Printer materials
- Parts for Printers
- Post-processing equipment
- Job requests
Using something like a spreadsheet can be effective in managing your assets if your lab is small. If you have a large amount of printers and people using the lab from multiple locations or departments, it becomes more complicated. You could either spend time creating custom filters in your single spreadsheet or you could try creating multiple spreadsheets. This is a far more efficient solution than trying to just eyeball everything or keep a physical written list.
This might be one of the hardest skills to build but also one of the easiest to find a solution for in this case. Diligence can mean so much within your job, like being consistent, attention to detail, and hard work. Each of your responsibilities calls on you to do that in one form or another. Keeping track of your inventory, your operators, keeping communication lines clean, and reporting on costs are all reflections of diligence.
The problem though is that objectively, even with having all the skills you need, it is still a time consuming and exhausting role to fulfill. This is due to the fact that most people in this role use manual processes to do everything I have said above. There is a way however to automate and centralize all the methods discussed by way of work order management software.
We have our own software solution called GrabCAD Shop that eases the burdens a 3D print lab manager experiences. Our work order management software centralizes lines of communication, enables tracking of all 3D printing lab or shop assets, calculates costs, all while presenting it within an intuitive application.