February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and other people of color (POC) and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Here at ProtoCAM, we’re taking this opportunity to highlight the impact people of color have had in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing industries, as well as how these industries are working to combat systematic racism.
Now more than ever, we must reflect upon the history of people of color and resolve to make the future a better place for every person to live and work within. Given the systematic racism that has plagued our country and the world at large, and the recent renewal of the Black Lives Matter movement, the manufacturing and additive manufacturing industries have stepped up with statements and action plans to combat racism.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which represents 14,000 member companies in the US, has released an 11-point commitment plan detailing their Pledge for Action, including standing up for justice, equality, and opportunity; bridging the racial opportunity gap; strengthening workplaces as spaces where black people and all people of color will be heard, respected, and celebrated, and more.
Carbon, a partner of ProtoCAM’s and creator of our newest 3D printing technology, Digital Light Synthesis, comments in an article on LinkedIn about a collective need for a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Carbon’s President and CEO, Ellen Kullman, writes: “Make the time to listen and learn. If a door is opened for conversation, listen. We learn so much about how to be better allies by listening to the experiences of others.” Kullman continues: “Take action to address systemic racism. Change will take all of us. We need to use our voices to condemn injustice and support organizations working to bring about meaningful change.”
HP Inc. President and CEO Enrique Lores, another maker of a ProtoCAM technology (Multi Jet Fusion), also voiced his thoughts and his company’s stance on LinkedIn: “HP was built on values of diversity and inclusion, fairness and equity…There has never been a more important time for us to live by the values on which HP was founded…Support others with compassion, empathy, and respect. Be leaders in your communities and across our company, because standing up for what you believe in is, and will always be, the HP Way.”
HP has gone even further by implementing a pilot learning program focused on 3D printing at North Carolina A&T State University as part of its ongoing commitment to support students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In March 2020, HP provided a full-color 3D printing system to North Carolina A&T State University as part of an initiative to “inform and set the stage” for a broader program with other HBCUs in subsequent years. More than 60% of HP’s hires throughout 2019 were of people from underrepresented groups, and the company has also set a goal to double the number of Black and African American executives by 2025. While only 7% of the U.S. high-tech workforce are Black and African American (compared with 12% of the total U.S. population), HP and its HBCU partners are intent on providing black and ethnic minority people with ample career opportunities in, and clear pathways into, the tech space.
Meanwhile, persons of color are making strides to highlight Black History Month as well Black History in general, and simultaneously advance the additive manufacturing industry. Josh Ajima, instructional facilitator for technology at Dominion High School and London Academy of Science, wanted to create a 3D printing project that would help his students celebrate Black History Month. Noting the lack of 3D design files available recognizing people of color, Ajima launched the National Hispanic Heritage Month Maker Challenge, calling on educators and students around the country to create and share digitally fabricated art pieces.
Other persons of color demonstrate the tremendous impact the minority group offers to modern manufacturing industries. Dickson Ozokwelu was a widely recognized expert in chemical reactions and separations, as well as innovative ways to combine them. Dr. Ozokwelu served as an esteemed technology manager for EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office from 2001 until his passing in late-2019. Dr. Ozokwelu had a passion for finding novel approaches to make these building blocks of modern life more energy and cost efficient.
We also can’t forget those historical persons of color who contributed significantly to advancing the manufacturing industries and also contributing to the advancement of minority groups. In 1908, Madame C.J. Walker created her own company manufacturing specialized hair products for African American women. The Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company employed thousands of women, and in addition to on the job training in sales and grooming, Madame C.J. Walker taught many women how to budget, build their business, and become financially independent.
Here at ProtoCAM, we recognize the impact that people of color have had on the 3D additive manufacturing industry, as well as the world at large, not just in February, but every day. Our goal is to continue to highlight and recognize how people of color are changing our industry and environment, no matter what time of year, and to work towards a more inclusive world.