Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how the direct access to additive manufacturing (AM) systems impacts on education of future mechanical engineers, within a Master’s program at a top Italian University. Design/methodology/approach – A survey is specifically designed to assess the relevance of entry-level AM within the learning environment, as a tool for project development. The survey is distributed anonymously to three consecutive cohorts of students who attended the course of “computer-aided production (CAP)”, within the Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Politecnico di Torino. The course includes a practical project, consisting in the design of a polymeric product with multiple components and ending with the production of an assembled prototype. The working assembly is fabricated by the students themselves, who operate a fused deposition modelling (FDM) machine, finish the parts and evaluate assemblability and functionality. The post-course survey covers diverse aspects of the learning process, such as: motivation, knowledge acquisition, new abilities and team-working skills. Responses are analyzed to evaluate students’ perception of the usefulness of additive technologies in learning product design and development. Among the projects, one representative case study is selected and discussed. Findings – Results of the research affirm a positive relationship of access to AM devices to perceived interest, motivation and ease of learning of mechanical engineering. Entry-level additive technologies offer a hands-on experience within academia, fostering the acquisition of technical knowledge. Research limitations/implications – The survey is distributed to more than 200 students to cover the full population of the CAP course over three academic years. The year the students participated in the CAP course is not tracked because the instructor was the same and there were no administrative differences. For this reason, the survey administration might be a limitation of the current study. In addition to this, no gender distinction is made because historically, the percentage of female students in Mechanical Engineering courses is about 10 per cent or lower. Although the answers to the survey are anonymous, only 37 per cent of the students gave a feedback. Thus, on the one hand, impact assessment is limited to a sample of about one-third of the complete population, but, on the other hand, the anonymity ensures randomization in the sample selection. Practical implications – Early exposure of forthcoming designers to AM tools can turn into a “think-additive” approach to product design, that is a groundbreaking conception of geometries and product functionalities, leading to the full exploitation of the possibilities offered by additive technologies. Social implications – Shared knowledge can act as a springboard for mass adoption of AM processes. Originality/value – The advantages of adopting AM technologies at different levels of education, for diverse educational purposes and disciplines, are well assessed in the literature. The innovative aspect of this paper is that the impact of AM is evaluated through a feedback coming directly from mechanical engineering students.
|Titolo:||Impact of additive manufacturing on engineering education - evidence from Italy|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2015|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||10.1108/RPJ-09-2014-0123|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|