The European Welding Federation (EWF) has launched its first International Metal Additive Manufacturing Qualification System (EWF-AM), beginning with six professional qualifications approved in May 2019. The qualifications are expected to reduce the hurdle of competence recognition and assure the reliability and skills of the diploma holder, promoting common trust and cooperation at an operational level in both the European and international context.
To develop the new qualifications, EWF brought together a group of experts from industry, training centres, universities and research organisations to discuss and define the technical content and qualifications needed for present and future professionals in metal Additive Manufacturing. The organisation also conducted a survey among European AM organisations, gathering 215 responses to help it develop the most relevant system of skills qualification.
The EWF-AM qualification system targets professionals in the following roles in laser-based metal Additive Manufacturing:
- Directed Energy Deposition (Laser) Operator
- Directed Energy Deposition (Arc) Operator
- Laser Powder Bed Fusion Operator
- Metal AM Engineer
- Directed Energy Deposition (Laser) Engineer
- Laser Powder Bed Fusion Engineer
The course content that will lead to the EWF-AM diplomas includes the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competencies necessary for the AM sector, and is reported to bridge the gap between companies using AM and higher education institutions by including pedagogical approaches such as real-case problem solving methodologies and work-based learning scenarios, as highlighted in the ‘Renewed EU agenda for higher education’ (2017).
The course has been designed to allow flexible learning pathways for adults, developing qualifications based on short term competence units (modules) which are or will be required by the AM industry based on skills forecast and the identification of technological trends according to current and upcoming needs.
The first trial course for DED Laser – Operator was held in Italy for ten participants, half of which are reported to have applied for the examination and been awarded diplomas. Germany, France, Portugal and the UK are said to have engaged to request access to use the EWF-AM system, with audits of the organisations that will manage the qualification system in these countries currently ongoing.
“Additive Manufacturing is clearly one of the most promising new technologies in manufacturing, but its broad adoption faces challenges, among them workforce qualification,” stated Professor Luísa Coutinho, EWF Executive Director. “Globally, the industry is witnessing a widening qualification gap that if unchecked, as recently stated on the Manufuture 2030 Vision document, could compromise the goals put forth by the European Union in terms of continued relevance of the industrial sector.”
“The need to replace a highly qualified but ageing workforce is faced with a less-than-perfect interest for the young generation on these job offerings, even if at a very competitive value. The new workforce requirements, more lenient on digital skills, coupled with learning schemes, the broad adoption of European Qualification Systems and lifelong learning methodologies, they could all contribute to improve the prospects of a thriving European industrial sector,” she continued.
“It is anticipated that many jobs, both new roles and already existing, will be created as Additive Manufacturing enters the mainstream. Its challenges are multidimensional and the profile of the professionals to deal with it will also be different, as they are required to have more digital skills and they will also need to be educated under a new paradigm that brings academic/research practices and industrial/market practices together.”
“Advanced and digital-enabled qualification systems, such as the one EWF is now launching, are a key component of AM’s success, as it can scale its system to the whole network of national members, providing a unique pool of qualified professionals whose competencies are recognised across the spectrum of countries that work with EWF’s qualification system,” she concluded.
At the close of October 2019, the second EWF-AM course will take place in Portugal, with thirty participants registered. With further courses being organised in a number of countries in the near term, the EWF stated that it expects to see rapid growth in the number of qualified professionals working in Additive Manufacturing.