According to freelance website Upwork, demand has risen sharply since last year for engineers with experience of all kinds in 3D printing and AM.

Ann R. Thryft

September 15, 2016

4 Min Read
Your Next Job May Be As a 3D Printing Consultant

Last week, we heard from Design News Senior Editor Rob Spiegel that engineering job growth is moving slowly. Those figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so they're about as good as we can get. But the BLS doesn't measure the leading edge of what's happening in an industry, and when things are moving fast the categories they use don't always reflect today's world.

The BLS categories include aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer hardware, electrical, environmental, health and safety, industrial, materials, mechanical, mining & geological, nuclear, and petroleum engineers. Some of these didn't exist several years ago, it's true, but even today the bureau doesn't break out robotics engineering as a separate category, as we've discovered in previous reports.

One area of engineering that's changing rapidly is reflected in how manufacturers are adapting to 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM). Although the BLS categories may not reflect this yet, companies are looking for engineers with experience of all kinds in 3D printing and AM. According to Upwork, demand has risen sharply in the first half of 2016 versus the same period last year. The company, which bills itself as the world's largest freelance website, was created last year after the merger of Elance and oDesk.

ESC Minn logo3D Printing's Brave New World. Ann Thryft will lead a panel discussion on one of the hottest topics in manufacturing: 3D printing. Come hear "3D Printing: The Brave New World of Manufacturing" at the Embedded Systems Conference, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.

During this period, demand for 3D printing-related skills increased between 83% and 227% depending on the category, Upwork's categories director Ryan Johnson told Design News. Since about half of the website's three million annual job postings are in IT and technology, including engineering, this represents a huge jump in demand. The site's engineering categories include mechanical, electrical, civil and structural, chemical, and software, among others, and the number of total freelancers listed on it exceeds 12 million.

"We're seeing a lot of growth in engineering job requests related to additive manufacturing skills and knowledge," said Johnson. "As the costs of 3D printing come down, more companies are getting into AM, and they want to fill their talent gap for civil, structural, and mechanical engineers. They're looking for 3D modelers, 3D printer technicians, and design engineers, people who can contract with service bureaus to get prototypes made, or individuals doing models and prototyping."


During the first half of this year, demand for independent contractors to create the physical product and/or prototypes, or work with a service bureau to get it done, rose 94% over the same period last year, said Johnson. Demand for 3D rendering skills rose 83%, and for CAD and AutoCAD-related skills by 227%. That last category includes programs like AutoCAD, 3ds Max, and Google SketchUp. Demand for engineers skilled in SolidWorks for 3D printing rose by 94%, and for Rhinoceros 3D experts by 83%. Most of the engineering demand is in the design stage, where companies are looking for engineers with 3D modeling/design software skills, primarily in 3D model design for prototyping.

Upwork is seeing the most demand for these skills in several different industries. In consumer electronics, which accounts for about half of their currently posted jobs, wearables is a huge trend, said Johnson. Another is automotive, one example being a job requesting 3D printing skills related to motorcycle parts and accessories. In medical applications, engineering jobs posted on the site include medical wearables and 3D printouts of an ultrasound.

[image via Pressfoto / Freepik]

Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 29 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

About the Author(s)

Ann R. Thryft

Ann R. Thryft has written about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for Design News, EE Times, Test & Measurement World, EDN, RTC Magazine, COTS Journal, Nikkei Electronics Asia, Computer Design, and Electronic Buyers' News (EBN). She's introduced readers to several emerging trends: industrial cybersecurity for operational technology, industrial-strength metals 3D printing, RFID, software-defined radio, early mobile phone architectures, open network server and switch/router architectures, and set-top box system design. At EBN Ann won two independently judged Editorial Excellence awards for Best Technology Feature. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and a Certified Business Communicator certificate from the Business Marketing Association (formerly B/PAA).

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