Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Anthony Hughes was drawn to the field of engineering because of the art he saw in making and building things. He has focused his career around this sentiment, both through his tenure in the software industry and the advanced technology sector. Now the founder and president of 3D-printing innovation strategy and design firm The Lanterman Group, Hughes is combining his expertise and passion into a national 3D-printing training program for industry and government.

Called ACADEMI, the training program is part of a long-term strategic alliance between America Makes, the national accelerator for 3D printing, and The Lanterman Group. The two are combining their efforts to develop ACADEMI as a nationally recognized training curriculum for additive manufacturing.

ACADEMI, which stands for Advanced Curriculum in Additive Design, Engineering and Manufacturing Innovation, is the first hands-on certification program in the U.S. focused on designing and producing products for 3D printing. Currently, other 3D-printing certification courses only teach participants the basics of 3D-printing software and equipment. But ACADEMI educates workers on how to apply the technology within their companies to drive competitiveness.

“The manufacturing field is going through a huge rebirth right now,” Hughes said. “We need to think differently about how we are going to give workers the right set of skills to thrive during this change, because making 3D-printed parts is a lot more complicated than picking up a single skill. What we need are people who think differently about product development: from designers, to material engineers, to manufacturing engineers – people who push their companies to think innovatively.”

The layer-by-layer manufacturing process of 3D printing has a myriad of benefits for both metal and polymer-based industries. The technology can make cheaper, lighter, more-customized parts in less time and with less waste than traditional manufacturing methods. This laundry list of benefits has caused industry and governmental organizations of all sizes to take notice, especially those in the metals field.

“Many people think 3D printing is an interesting way to make products faster and, hopefully, cheaper.” Hughes said. “But they are missing the larger opportunity. The true game-changer is in design innovation. 3D printing provides enormous design freedoms that can unlock a multitude of benefits if we free ourselves from thinking that a product or part must look the same as it always has. I want to teach people how to explore new possibilities and create the products of tomorrow.”

The ACADEMI program prides itself in providing both an advanced education about 3D-printing design and also hands-on skill development. This combination is intended to empower participants with job-ready design skills.

Hughes likens ACADEMI to the Lean Six Sigma methodology adopted by many corporations to improve business processes and performance. Like the Lean Six Sigma approach, ACADEMI’s training is an application-oriented, team approach and draws from field-tested research. The real-world connection to research and industry comes from The Lanterman Group’s strong partnership with America Makes.

“What ACADEMI is bringing to the table is an end-to-end approach to 3D-printing training, which is: you start with a problem statement built around a real, industrial-based application need and you end with a capstone project that is actually demonstrating and validating the learnings in a real-world environment,” said Rob Gorham, executive director of America Makes. 

ACADEMI officially launched in fall 2017, with the U.S. Department of Defense and Air Force as its first trainees. The first courses offered are focused on metal 3D printing, but Hughes has plans to expand the program to cover polymers and composites in the near future. Currently geared toward training technician-level workers, the program will soon include executive-level and manager-level educational classes.

“In the grand scheme of things, I would like for ACADEMI to have a significant impact on the productivity of individual companies as well as be a catalyst for broad industry adoption,” Hughes said. “I hope companies can look at us and say, ‘You allowed us to significantly cut the time it took for us to get our 3D-printed innovation to market, from two years to six months.”