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President Barack Obama said it has the “potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” A recent Freelancer.com study found that it has experienced unprecedented growth. A MyCorporation infographic also estimated that it will become a $5.2 billion industry by 2020, with a projected 14 percent annual growth between 2012 and 2017.

As the 3D printing industry booms, what does it mean for job seekers? From designers to nontechnical positions, here are 10 jobs that will be created or get a boost from 3D printing.

3D design

3D printing relies heavily on designers who can take a product idea and translate it into something that can feasibly be brought to life. Thanks to its growth, 3D printing will create jobs for 3D designers at 3D printing firms, in companies as part of creative teams, and as freelancers.

3D printers are being used in many design disciplines, such as product design, medical device design, architectural visualization and entertainment design, said Erol Gunduz, a professor at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), which offers programs in 3D printing, design and modeling.

To be competitive, job seekers should gain hands-on experience in 3D technologies and stay-up-to-date on how companies are using 3D printing. For instance, recent graduate student designers and researchers who are familiar with 3D printing methods have the benefit of knowing how to use the technology within their design process and in supporting its usage within company initiatives, Gunduz said. 

“This gives them a significant advantage when looking for career opportunities within creative fields,” he said.

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3D computer-aided design (CAD) modeling

3D printing would not be possible without CAD experts, who have the skills and expertise to convert product designs into digital blueprints that 3D printers need. Along with product designers, there will be a demand for 3D CAD modelers.

“I see a lot more demand for CAD and 3D modeling jobs on the horizon because of 3D printing,” said Alex English, owner of ProtoParadigm, a 3D printing business that also performs research and development on 3D printing hardware and new printing materials. 

Although 3D CAD professionals are also needed to construct models for mass 3D printing, they are especially important for custom products. “Bespoke manufacturing and custom prototyping both rely on the user’s ability to conceptualize the object they want and accurately create its digital representation,” English said.

As such, 3D CAD modeling jobs will require 3D printing-specific modeling skills, such as feature size, geometrical constraints and knowledge of materials, he said. 

Research and development (R&D)

From 3D-printed shoes to 3D-printed clothes and accessories, 3D printing is the fashion of the future. Just as the 3D printing industry will require more product designers and CAD modelers, jobs will also open up for forward-thinking R&D professionals who understand the intersection of tech and consumer products while keeping an eye on the bottom line. 

“While 3D visualization technologies have been used in the past within various fields, such as engineering and scientific agendas, many artistic and consumer product industries, such as fashion design and jewelry design, are beginning to take advantage of 3D printing systems,” Gunduz said.

Companies will need people who can find the best way to utilize 3D printing for consumer products at the lowest cost possible. 

“The ability to visualize a line of fashion accessories or jewelry designs before committing to working with expensive materials affords an advantage for companies to reduce costs in development cycles,” Gunduz said.

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