As additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, becomes more commonly used, Harford Community College faculty and staff are developing methods of educating students about the process.
John Mayhorne, dean for business, computing and applied technology, and David Antol, coordinator for applied technology programs, gave the members of the HCC Board of Trustees a presentation Tuesday, complete with additive manufacturing equipment and products.
Mayhorne represents the college on the Northeastern Maryland Additive Manufacturing Innovation Authority, which was created via state legislation signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley in May of 2014, to bring Harford and Cecil County organizations together to attract additive manufacturing jobs to the region.
"It is a consortium of federal state and local groups, a lot of education folks at the table," Mayhorne said.
Additive manufacturing involves machines that can create three-dimensional components by adding layers of material, rather than subtractive manufacturing involving grinding or cutting away material.
Other members of the authority, which is a collaborative effort with Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, include economic development officials, representatives of the public schools, the Susquehanna Workforce Network and the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.
Officials at HCC are developing a two-credit course for the spring 2015 semester as an introduction to additive manufacturing, and they plan to roll out an advanced course for the fall semester, Mayhorne said.
"We're looking at what we can do, from an educational standpoint, to prepare the workforce for this new process," he explained to board members.
Mayhorne noted some of the challenges to bringing additive manufacturing to the area include manufacturers' concerns about a "skills gap" in a potential workforce, and a lack of interest in manufacturing as a career.
He said few parents encourage their children to pursue manufacturing careers.
"How do we really have students prepare [for], at least consider, manufacturing as a new 21st-century skill?" he asked.
Mayhorne also noted 3-D products must meet international manufacturing standards.
"Companies might become a little leery about, let's say, putting a plastic part into a jet engine, if it hasn't passed a certain standard," he said.
Antol stood and spoke passionately about additive manufacturing as board members looked over plastic cellular phone stands that had been made with a 3-D printer.
"It's not a silver bullet for manufacturing, but a hook," he explained. "It's a hook for us to bring the young people into manufacturing."
He said manufacturing jobs are typically considered dirty, but 3-D printing presents an alternative, as it is considered affordable and clean.
"We can teach the manufacturing process through 3-D printing," Antol said.
Board member James McCauley said he had heard from some manufacturers who caution against excessive hype over additive manufacturing.
"For additive manufacturing, the part has to be so complex that the only way you can do it is 3-D printing, because you can't do it by subtraction, it's just too expensive," he said.
McCauley suggested that HCC "use additive manufacturing to teach manufacturing; that's a good idea as an instructional tool."
He said it could be "a gold mine for the county."
Board Chair James Valdes encouraged Mayhorne and Antol to develop course work involving the science behind manufacturing, such as chemistry and physics, and courses focused on international marketing standards.
Students could obtain a certification in standards such as those offered through the International Organization for Standardization, also known as ISO.
"We can train people to those standards so they become ISO experts, and then they're flexible," Valdes said. "They can go anywhere; they can work for any company, as opposed to training someone to manufacture something off of a printer. You're training someone whose skills transcend that."
Interior design, decorating programs ended
Board members voted 7-0 Tuesday to end the interior design degree program and the interior decorating certificate program – board members Bradley Stover and Jan Stinchcomb were absent.
Annette Haggray, vice president for academic affairs, told board members that ending an academic program is "something we don't like to do, but after careful deliberation, we believe in this case it's necessary."
Haggray said enrollment and graduation rates have declined in recent years, and prospective students have been discouraged by industry changes, including requirements that students obtain more work hours and experience to become certified in their chosen field.
"We feel like right now there's nothing we can do to salvage the program," she said. "We are going to recommend that it be discontinued."
Students who are enrolled in the programs have up to two years to finish, but no new students will be admitted as of the winter of 2015.
"We talked earlier this evening about potential new courses and new programs, and we have to be willing to look at the ones that are not successful," board Vice Chair Richard Norling said.
Valdes added: "Sometimes you have to prune the bush to make it healthy, right?"