3D Printing specialist

3D printing engineer 3D print technician additive manufacturing technician

Career outlook for 3d printing specialist

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

£26,000

Currently employed in Scotland

1,100

Five year job forecast

-0.69%

"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures.

What's it like?

3D printers work in much the same way as a traditional printer – but instead of layering ink on a page, they build layers of materials like plastic to create three-dimensional shapes. The tech, sometimes called additive manufacturing, is relatively new but is already used to print parts for everything from prosthetic limbs to F1 cars. 

You’ll be key in creating products like these, taking a designer's CAD design and overseeing the printing process that brings it to life. You’ll make sure machines are set up correctly so every measurement and angle is bang on. You’ll need to be precise – even a fraction of a millimetre miscalculation can mean an entire job being scrapped. 

Once the job is printed, you’ll need to manually remove the structural supports. These extra pieces are included in the design to support complex shapes as they print. For some jobs you might have other finishing tasks to complete too, like polishing or adding textures.  

3D printing is still an emerging technology, so you’ll need to keep up with the latest developments. Who knows what we’ll be able to print next? 

What you’ll do

  • Calibrate the machines, load the materials and review the designs before each job  
  • Manage printer schedules to minimise downtime 
  • Review CAD designs to make sure they’re suitable to print 
  • Sand, cut, snap off or dissolve the structural supports 
  • Polish finished pieces, if required 
  • Check the quality of each printed piece 
  • Troubleshoot when pieces don’t print correctly 
  • Order print materials and other supplies 
     

Working conditions

Hours

3D printing specialists usually work 9-5 but, depending on your role, you might work weekends or evenings for conferences or showcases.

Environment

As you’ll be working with advanced hardware, you may find yourself working anywhere from a research facility to a manufacturing plant or factory.

UK employment status

Full-time

60%

Part-time

27%

Self employed

13%

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Working with technology
  • Designing
  • Innovative
  • Problem solving
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Time management
  • Making decisions

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

There are a number of ways to get qualified for this job through college, university or work-based qualifications, such as apprenticeships.

Although 3D printing is a relatively new industry, applicants will often have qualifications in subjects such as:

  • Computer science
  • Mechatronics
  • 3D modelling/Product design

As 3D printing is being developed in a wide range of fields, from dentistry to fashion design and even food technology, knowledge and experience of the industry you want to work in may be valuable. 

Employers might consider applicants without formal qualifications if they can demonstrate knowledge and experience of the industry.

Apprenticeships

You can gain skills and qualifications in the workplace through options such as:

Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) are chosen as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 but include hands-on learning at a local employer or college. They are the same level as a Higher.
You might want to consider an FA in areas such as:

  • Software development
  • Engineering

 Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) mean you learn on the job. You get paid and work towards a qualification at the same time.

You might want to consider an MA in areas such as:

  • Engineering
  • Print industry occupations

 Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) are designed for industry and you'll spend most of your time learning on the job but you'll also go to uni or college. You'll get a job, get paid and work towards a qualification at the same time.

You might want to consider a GA in areas such as:

  • Engineering: Design and Manufacture
  • Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control

Useful subjects

Many colleges and universities will have required subjects that you must have for entry. They might also highlight additional subjects that they would value. Look at individual institution websites for specific entry information.  

Useful subjects for this job would be:

  • Computing science
  • Engineering science
  • Maths / English
  • Physics
  • Design and manufacture

Helpful to have

Not all employers list specific qualification requirements but they might ask for relevant experience, usually work based, that show a range of transferable skills.

You would need to demonstrate an up to date knowledge of hardware and software developments and it is helpful to have experience of computer modelling and the ability to use CAD (computer-aided design).

The 3D Printing Industry on Additive Manufacturing is a good source of knowledge, it has a business directory and job board -https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/how-to-get-a-job-in-3d-printing-145655/

There is also a free Beginners Guide to 3D printing -https://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide#08-applications