IASC Sector Skill Council

Installer and Operator-Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Additive Manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing, has emerged as a transformative technology with the potential to revolutionize manufacturing across various industries. As this technology continues to evolve, the roles of Installer and Operator have gained prominence, playing critical parts in the AM ecosystem. In this article, we delve into the significance of these roles, their responsibilities, and the skills required to excel in them.

Understanding Additive Manufacturing

Before diving into the roles associated with AM, it’s essential to grasp the fundamentals of this revolutionary manufacturing process. Unlike traditional subtractive manufacturing methods that involve cutting away material from a solid block, AM builds objects layer by layer from digital designs. This layer-by-layer approach offers unparalleled design freedom, enabling the creation of intricate geometries and complex structures that were previously impossible or economically unfeasible to produce.

Additive manufacturing encompasses various techniques, including Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and others. Each technique has its unique advantages and applications, ranging from prototyping and tooling to end-use part production in industries like aerospace, automotive, healthcare, and consumer goods.

The Roles of Installer and Operator

Within the realm of additive manufacturing, the roles of Installer and Operator are pivotal in ensuring the smooth functioning of 3D printing operations. Let’s explore each role in detail:


The Installer is responsible for setting up and calibrating the 3D printing equipment before the manufacturing process begins. This involves:

  1. Assembling the 3D printer: Installers must carefully follow manufacturer guidelines to assemble the printer components correctly. This includes attaching the build platform, extruder, and any additional modules required for specific printing tasks.
  2. Calibrating the machine: Precise calibration is crucial for achieving optimal print quality. Installers adjust various parameters such as nozzle height, bed leveling, and print speed to ensure accurate deposition of material during the printing process.
  3. Loading materials: Depending on the printing technique used, Installers load the appropriate materials, such as thermoplastics, resins, or metal powders, into the printer’s reservoir or feed system.
  4. Testing and troubleshooting: Installers conduct test prints to verify that the machine is functioning correctly. They also troubleshoot any issues that arise during setup, such as clogged nozzles, bed adhesion problems, or software glitches.


Once the 3D printer is set up and calibrated, the Operator takes charge of overseeing the printing process and ensuring that production runs smoothly. The responsibilities of an Operator include:

  1. Preparing digital models: Operators work with design engineers to prepare digital 3D models for printing. This may involve using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to modify designs, optimize geometries for AM, and generate support structures where necessary.
  2. Slicing and programming: Operators use slicing software to divide the digital model into thin cross-sectional layers and generate machine-readable instructions (G-codes) for the 3D printer. They select appropriate printing parameters such as layer thickness, infill density, and support settings to achieve the desired quality and mechanical properties.
  3. Monitoring the printing process: Operators oversee the printing process from start to finish, monitoring parameters such as temperature, pressure, and layer adhesion to ensure quality and consistency. They also intervene if any issues arise during printing, such as material jams, power outages, or mechanical failures.
  4. Post-processing and finishing: Once printing is complete, Operators perform post-processing tasks such as removing support structures, cleaning printed parts, and applying surface treatments or coatings as required. They may also perform quality inspections to verify dimensional accuracy and structural integrity.

Skills and Qualifications

Both Installer and Operator roles require a combination of technical expertise, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail. Key qualifications and competencies include:

  1. Technical proficiency: A solid understanding of additive manufacturing principles, including knowledge of different printing techniques, materials, and post-processing methods, is essential for both roles.
  2. Mechanical aptitude: Installers should have a strong mechanical aptitude and the ability to troubleshoot mechanical issues effectively. Operators should also possess basic mechanical skills for routine maintenance tasks and minor repairs.
  3. Computer literacy: Proficiency in CAD software for model preparation and slicing software for generating machine instructions is crucial for Operators. Installers should be comfortable working with firmware and software interfaces to configure and calibrate 3D printers.
  4. Attention to detail: Both roles require meticulous attention to detail to ensure accurate setup, calibration, and monitoring of the printing process. A keen eye for spotting defects and anomalies is also essential for maintaining quality standards.
  5. Problem-solving skills: The ability to diagnose and troubleshoot technical issues quickly and effectively is critical in the fast-paced environment of additive manufacturing. Installers and Operators must be resourceful problem solvers capable of thinking on their feet to resolve unexpected challenges.
  6. Communication skills: Effective communication is essential for collaborating with team members, conveying technical information, and documenting processes and procedures. Installers and Operators should be able to communicate clearly and concisely with engineers, supervisors, and colleagues.


In the dynamic world of additive manufacturing, the roles of Installer and Operator play vital roles in ensuring the successful implementation and operation of 3D printing technology. From setting up and calibrating equipment to overseeing the printing process and ensuring quality control, individuals in these roles are essential contributors to the AM ecosystem. By possessing the necessary skills, qualifications, and competencies, Installers and Operators can unlock the full potential of additive manufacturing, driving innovation and efficiency across diverse industries.

As the technology continues to advance and evolve, the demand for skilled Installers and Operators will only grow, making these roles increasingly valuable in the manufacturing landscape of the future. Whether it’s producing prototypes, custom parts, or end-use products, the capabilities of additive manufacturing are limited only by our imagination—and the expertise of those who harness its power.