A Bold New World: 3D Printing

David Busacker 1500x400

David Busacker

On his first day of class in the Manufacturing Operations Management 3D printing course, David Busacker’s head was spinning. “3D printing was the coolest thing I’d seen in my life,” Busacker says. “I was just blown away. I knew I had to make this part of my career.”

The MM 3305 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, which Busacker had taken as an elective in Industrial Systems and Engineering, taught him the basics of 3D printing and included a final project of solving a business challenge. A 15-week course and held only once a week, it was the highlight of Busacker’s schedule. Each week was different: A crash course on CAD (computer-aided design) one day, an industry speaker in metal 3D printing the next, and later a trip to a 3D-printed castle.

 

David Busacker photo

 

So transformed was Busacker by the course that after it was complete, he asked his instructors if he could stay involved by becoming a teaching assistant (TA), and so began his teaching career. Busacker was a TA for each of the three semesters leading up to his graduation in 2016 from the College of Science and Engineering. In May 2016, he graduated summa cum laude when his advisors approved his thesis in 3D printing within the peer economy space. Ever since his first day in MM 3305, he kept his eyes fixed on 3D printing technology.

“3D printing is not just a toy that design agencies have on display to show off to customers,” Busacker says. “This is a real technology, and it’s seriously affecting how manufacturing is happening today.”

 

3D printer

3D Printing as a Game Changer for Manufacturing

 

There’s a reason that the 3D printing course is part of the Manufacturing Operations Management program. This technology plays a pivotal role in efficiency in the manufacturing industry. As Busacker explains, “Compared to many manufacturing solutions today, a turnkey solution. You can create a 3D-printable end-of-arm-tooling part for automated components on your assembly line in little time. And if that part ever breaks, you can quickly and cheaply reprint it. 3D printing ramps up automation, allowing companies to cut costs by 50 percent in some cases. It also frees up workers who were previously doing low-value tasks so that they can be reassigned to more skilled labor.”  

“I can guarantee that this is a very marketable skill. Students who understand the ROI involved in 3D printing and who can make 3D printing technology recommendations will be highly valuable to employers in a variety of industries.”

Busacker goes on to say that more and more companies are using 3D printing to take their manufacturing operations to the next level. It’s not necessarily news that makes the front page, but it’s quietly taking production operations by storm with its ability to create modular tools rapidly. Students who are equipped with knowledge about 3D printing will be pleased to find that their expertise is in high demand.

“I can guarantee that this is a very marketable skill. Students who understand the ROI involved in 3D printing and who can make 3D printing technology recommendations will be highly valuable to employers in a variety of industries.”

 

Giving Back to 3D Printing at the U of M

 

David Busacker photo

After he graduated, Busacker’s appetite for 3D printing led him to a job as an applications engineer at Stratasys, an Eden Prairie-based leader in 3D printing technology. He missed the energy of the Innovation Lab on campus, however, so he inquired yet again about an opportunity to assist in the MM 3305 course. He was invited to co-teach the class in the fall of 2016.

“We talk about design theory, design thinking, iterative design--all these relevant topics that you need in order to validate a 3D printing application,” Busacker says. “We want our students to walk out at the end of our 15 weeks knowing when and when not to use 3D printing. We want them to be able to take a part that was being manufactured one way and modify it so it can be 3D printed, thereby creating ROI for companies. We also want students to learn the soft skill of pitching ideas effectively.”

“The team that initially taught the class made me feel so empowered in my college experience. I’m so fortunate to be able to give back like this.”

Busacker is grateful to stand in front of the classroom in the course that inspired him to pursue a career in 3D printing. His enthusiasm is contagious to the students, who come from a variety of majors—from engineering to English.

“The team that initially taught the class made me feel so empowered in my college experience,” Busacker says. “I’m so fortunate to be able to give back like this.”

Busacker and his co-instructor, Mick Kuehn, consistently revisit the course syllabus, looking for ways to update it so that students have the most current information. They’re continuing to add a manufacturing application to the coursework as well, since 3D printing is so well-suited to improving manufacturing operations.

“The goal of the course is to expose students to not only to 3D printers, but their own potential to solve real-world problems” Busacker says. “We’re trying to develop students into well-rounded pre-professionals.”

That’s what the course did for Busacker, and that’s what he’s hoping to give back to students who follow him.