By now, you probably know that 3-D printers are one of the trendiest technologies on the planet. Finding the most qualified people to operate these machines in a corporate setting is getting harder; in the past four years, demand for these skills has risen more than 1,800 percent [source: Forbes].
3-D printing technology (also called additive manufacturing) has been around for many years, but recent advances are making it a better option for a wider range of companies. In short, 3-D printers take objects modeled on computers and print them (often in plastic) layer by layer, until the object is complete.
These printers can make bobblehead toys, prosthetic body parts or even firearms. Notably, they can also be used to print circuitry. Build the electronics circuits directly into a 3-D printed product and you can design it to work with the IoT any way you like.
If a company prints a custom-made heart just for you, it could also build in a range of sensors to keep tabs on your new body part. Those sensors would track all aspects of your heart's functionality to make sure it's working properly and to keep you alive. All of that data could zip from the heart to your phone to your doctor's computer, and each day she could skim your updates and note any abnormalities.
To make these kinds of advanced products, a 3-D printing engineer must understand how the printer interfaces with its software. He also needs a firm grasp on how well (or how poorly) various combinations of plastics work in the printer, particularly when throwing in the added complexity of integrated electronic circuity.
The best printing workers have experience in industrial and mechanical engineering. Those with advanced backgrounds are positioned to ride the surge in this booming technology.