Additae Digital on the 2021 AM Labour Market: It’s all about “People, Place and Progression”

As we currently go through 2021 and its highlights, we came to realize that there is one specific vertical industry that we did not talk about much: recruitment. The Covid-19 pandemic drastically changed talent acquisition teams, heaped new demand on others, and marked a milestone for this field of activity as virtually recruiting and onboarding a remote workforce became the norm for several organizations.

These hurdles eventually led to a new modus operandi in 2021 which meant sometimes considering internal talent pools. Furthermore, they highlighted the gap that needs to be fulfilled to create “multi-talented” teams, a gap that absolutely needs to be fulfilled by focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

In my opinion, this struggle is even harder for an industry like AM that already suffers from a gender gap; now imagine how high the stakes are when we involve minorities. That’s the reason why I believe that recruiters who will thrive in this sector are the ones who will go beyond “this perception problem” to add new skills, and for that they should have the highest degree of integrity and honesty, treating others as they like to be treated.

These are exceptional qualities that I discovered in Greg Waters, Founder and Managing Director of Additae Digital (previously known as Additae Global), a recruitment company that focuses on attracting and hiring the most sought-after talents across the world that will help companies design and implement their Advanced and Digital Manufacturing strategies. The company’s journey started in 2017 and this year saw the addition of another Director: Anthony Hickey.

And before you wonder, I do not intend to change my job. I officially met this recruitment entrepreneur last year, in the storm of the pandemic and all of the questions it raised with regards to DEI. In November 2021, formnext gave us the opportunity to chat a little bit more, during a walking dinner organized by AM Ventures and during a Women in 3D Printing panel on “Diversity & Careers in AM” he moderated. 

For this last edition of 3D ADEPT Mag of the year 2021, Waters and I caught up to discuss the key takeaways we should keep in mind from the 2021 Additive Manufacturing job market. A discussion that required us to turn the clock back to 2020, another tough year for recruiters.

Recruitment was hugely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. It was a complete mess for everyone. People were worrying about losing their jobs while companies were struggling to justify hiring new talent. 2020 saw the suspension of almost all recruitment activities. Fortunately, during 2021, companies started recovering, and the positive impact of that recovery has been felt across multiple industry sectors.

As far as applications are concerned, Waters notes that machine manufacturers are one of the groups that have hired the most consistently throughout 2021. “In our experience, the main hiring organizations were not necessarily those who have been developing Additive Manufacturing systems from the beginning. We’ve worked with several companies who have been developing  new products and new applications using AM technologies. Within those projects, we found the  most-in-demand roles to be sales, business development and application engineering positions. And of course software engineers. Everyone’s looking for software engineers! ”, he adds.

It should be noted that these roles were already among the most sought-after skills before the pandemic. While the pandemic may have expedited the need for these talents, it has also partially addressed the issue of lack of technical skills.

In Waters’ opinion, certain areas like software still require more technically qualified professionals but, in general, one should acknowledge the fact that the candidates the additive manufacturing industry needs are out there. “The main challenge consists of getting the right skills set in the right geography. For each open vacancy, we can always find suitable candidates, but he or she may not necessarily be based in the required location, and that’s one of the key challenges that many companies still face. It’s true that more and more roles can be carried out remotely, but that’s not always possible”, Additae Digital’s founder outlines.

So, how should companies attract and retain talents?

Every company must answer this million-dollar question, no matter which industry it operates in. Here is the thing, AM remains a niche market where it is relatively easy to network with other people, but to successfully navigate this industry, “you have to be humble”, Waters states.

You have to be humble to do business in this industry”, he repeats. “It’s important to understand that good candidates always have options. Companies should realize that people in the industry are hugely informed about Additive Manufacturing, so attracting or retaining them will depend on factors that go beyond the wage argument. Their ability to join or stay in a company often depends on their ability to progress both personally and professionally, to have the right balance between their personal and professional life, to recognize themselves in an organization’s values, or [to identify themselves with people who look like them].”

The focus on this latest point emphasizes another mission that is close to Water’s heart, and his company play its part in helping minorities thrive by putting on an equal footing all professionals no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, or skin colour. A point that is further reinforced in the company’s rebranding this year – from Additae Global to Additae Digital:

First and foremost, we needed to update what the company represents. The change to using the word “Digital” enables us to reflect the wide range of services we provide to the industry. As the Additive Manufacturing industry evolves, so do we. The market and new technologies are evolving to embrace the requirements of Industry 4.0. Adopting AM today, necessarily goes hand in hand with integrating software solutions, smart factories, IoT solutions and all other technologies related to industry 4.0, and all these digital manufacturing solutions have to be reflected in the services we can provide companies.

Furthermore, we felt like changing the colour scheme of the company logo will help more people to feel included in our mission, and the conversation that we want to foster about diversity. Taking into account that people are at the core of what we do, we really wanted to highlight that.”

What will the 3D printing labour market look like in 2022?

According to Waters, “organizations will increasingly look for people with software experience. This is something that grew exponentially in 2021, and we believe that demand will only continue to grow. The other key focus area is where companies in the AM industry now start to focus on volume production, the requirement  for manufacturing engineers will only grow, and there will be a trend towards trying to attract more people with hands-on aerospace, automotive and medical experience.”

Additae Digital will continue to go the extra mile to support organizations with their staffing requirements, and I have no doubt their efforts will pay off as they stay true to their vision that, “together we enable the makers of today to build a better tomorrow”.

This content has first been published in the 2021 November/December edition of 3D ADEPT Mag.

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Corporate communication and marketing expert by training at 3D Adept, Kety is currently leading the publication’s editorial and content activities. She has a unique gift for knowing how to grab an audience's attention on insights that matter – in this case, everything related to additive manufacturing. She believes that a wide range of innovations still have to be discovered about the technologies that shape the world of tomorrow and she has made it her objective at 3D ADEPT Media.