The Additive Mindset: Seeing Opportunity in Three Dimensions

The world of work is changing, and people need to adapt to a variety of new technologies. As software merges more and more with hardware, 3D-printing has become an important element of digital awareness.

The digitization of our world has begun to upend the very physical realm of manufacturing. Nick Pinkston, CEO of a manufacturing startup called Plethora, spoke with us about his vision of a new manufacturing ecosystem.

Pinkston thinks manufacturing should be like a local pizza shop—a.k.a. your friendly neighbourhood just-in-time manufacturing facility, with components customized to your specifications—where a customer can send in a design file and have a part in their hands within an hour.

Pinkston is working towards his goal by bringing a software mindset to hardware. He believes the new mindset is about “focusing on the what, freed from the how.”

While more complex manufacturing processes like CNC milling are producing higher quality products faster, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is what’s brought a lot of attention to the evolving ecosystem. “It’s the easiest process to design for,” Pinkston says. “With 3D printing you can just design something and it’s probably possible to print.”  

3D Printing in the Classroom

What if we bring 3D printing into the classroom? 3D printing could prepare students for the future of manufacturing by developing a kind of “additive mindset.”

So what is the additive mindset? For starters, it’s seeing physical objects as easy to copy and update. With rapid prototyping and reiteration, 3D printing facilitates a trial-and-error process to learning material science, spatial reasoning, and design rules.

Teaching an additive mindset could unleash a whole generation of makers in the same way we now have a generation of photographers thanks to Instagram and Snapchat.

Early familiarity also means being able to adapt to the impact of new technology. What happens when some whiz-kid with an additive mindset comes up with something so amazing it breaks the current model of manufacturing? The students who’ve learned 3D printing will have had the experience of learning a new technology, and will be more prepared to learn the next one. “I think that 3D CAD [Computer Assisted Design] is the most universal skill in manufacturing and will be with us the longest amount of time,” says Pinkston.

GE Additive is investing $2 million over the next two years to subsidize 3D-printers for the classroom. Participating schools will receive polymer printers, educational modules, professional training, and activities for the primary and secondary levels.

As students learn to convert digital designs into tangible objects, they’ll be further evolving software thinking into an additive mindset.

Primary and secondary schools that want to apply for Polar 3D classroom packages should apply here. Introductory applications are due February 28, 2017. 

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