Around 250 students come through the Additive Manufacturing Lab at the Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) in Massachusetts every year, part of WIT's Mechanical Engineering program. In one of the country’s most advanced additive manufacturing labs, students have access to various industry-relevant equipment, including 3D printers from Stratasys and Desktop Metal, CNC machines, and 3D scanners. Since 2017, Ryan Bakinowski has been the lab technician. We spoke to him about how college students gain valuable experience in the lab, preparing them for design, engineering, and manufacturing jobs.
Hands-On Experience for Students
WIT emphasizes project-based learning, which the Additive Manufacturing Lab applies in multiple ways. Most students who come through the lab are in a Stratasys Certification Exam class. They are challenged to design a consolidated assembly that is printed out in one print.
WIT is known for its comprehensive co-op program, where students get a full-time temporary job, applying what they learn in the classroom and lab to professional work experience. Unlike most schools, co-op is a requirement at WIT. To graduate, all undergraduate students must complete two co-op semesters.
In their senior year, students collaborate on design projects, culminating in professional presentations. The Additive Manufacturing Lab is the busiest over the summer when students are working on these projects.
Partnerships with Local Companies
Ryan and the faculty and staff team work closely with local companies in the area, identifying skills gaps in the workforce and developing innovative ways to train students and fill industry needs upon graduation. For example, the team is working with a local manufacturing company to create a certificate program. The company doesn’t have enough staff to keep up with demand, so this certificate will help fill their gap and provide skilled students with jobs. The WIT team is always looking for companies that need employees knowledgeable in additive processes and machines. WIT works with these companies to bring on students for co-ops and hire new grads.
The industry-leading equipment in the lab offers students many options for bringing their ideas to life across a range of applications. Students have printed items that have become niche products, including keychains, medical wearables, and makeup applicators. Some have even earned patents!
One mechanical engineering student started creating car parts in the Additive Manufacturing Lab. He has gone on to found his own successful company making after-market race car parts, hiring his WIT classmates as it has grown.
Advice for Additive Manufacturing Lab Technicians
Ryan’s advice for other additive manufacturing lab technicians who are starting out or have smaller labs is to “Get something. Even if it’s a MakerBot. Students want to print things as fast as possible and see, touch, and test them.” Every day is different in an additive manufacturing lab, and there is always something new to learn.