Episode Show Notes
Episode 3 features Dr. Richard M. Seugling, Manufacturing Engineering Section Leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Jay Dinsmore, Founder and CEO of Dinsmore Inc.; and Matt Sand, Co-Founder, and President of 3DEO. Richard, Jay, and Matt define additive manufacturing and discuss how to determine if this technology is right for your company, what to consider before taking the additive journey, and what they see for the future of additive.
Dr. Richard M. Seugling is the Manufacturing Engineering Section Leader within the Materials Engineering Division (MED) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He has been at LLNL since 2004 and has been supporting experimental programs at LLNL for over 15 years. He began his career in the Precision Systems and Manufacturing group in the Materials Engineering Division supporting the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) before transitioning to the Defense Technologies Engineering Division focusing on High Energy Density Science (HEDS). Richard received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2003 after which he was awarded an NRC post-doc fellowship at NIST where he spent a year studying small force metrology before taking a full-time position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Richard’s research interests include meso-scale metrology, advanced manufacture of precision structures, x-ray metrology, precision forming, additive manufacture and diamond machining.
Jay Dinsmore is the Founder and CEO of Dinsmore Inc. where he is an outspoken advocate and educator for Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing technologies. With over 28 years of experience in the AM industry, Jay brings his in-depth understanding of engineering, manufacturing, and design to help connect people with the right technology. After spending a significant time in traditional manufacturing, he’s developed a keen insight into successful DFP (Design for Prototype) and DFAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) using cutting-edge technologies from the leading manufacturers. When it comes to Additive Manufacturing technologies, Jay focuses on being plausibly unbiased. He uses innovations in the industry’s technologies as tools to help customers find solutions for their projects while objectively guiding and educating people about the best fit for materials and finishing. His outstanding achievements in the AM industry was further acknowledged in 2019 when he was awarded with the prestigious DINO Award.
Matt Sand is the Co-Founder and President of 3DEO. Matt received three bachelor’s degrees from Tulane University in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Political Science. Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Air Force as a Communications Officer. While stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Matt ran a team of 23 and was responsible for all core IT services. Matt then received his MBA from UCLA Anderson with a focus in entrepreneurship. Soon after graduating, he co-authored a book, “The Agile Startup,” with a professor of entrepreneurship. The book was published by Wiley & Sons in 2013. Since receiving his MBA, Matt has played a variety of roles across the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He has founded or co-founded several startup companies, invested in early-stage companies at two Southern California-based venture funds, taught entrepreneurship courses at UCLA and LMU, and consulted with dozens of innovative companies of all sizes.
00:00:00 - Introductions
00:02:49 - Definition of additive manufacturing and how it differs from traditional subtractive methods
00:04:50 - Whether additive can be applied to any manufacturer or if there is a “best profile”
00:09:37 - How to determine if this technology is right for your company
00:15:13 - Sweet spot for the type of parts best suited to be manufactured
00:20:25 - How volume size plays into sweet spot
00:22:30 - Complexity is easy to print
00:24:55 - Paradigm shift for how design engineers and manufacturing engineers think about things
00:27:03 - Discussion of projects at Lawrence Livermore
00:28:53 - What results to expect from this technology
00:33:02 - Why additive is not making a bigger impact today
00:38:55 - How to decide if additive is right for a particular application
00:41:05 - What to consider before taking the additive journey
00:45:48 - Future of additive manufacturing
Gregg Profozich [00:00:00] In the world of manufacturing change is the only constant. How are small- and medium-sized manufacturers SMMs to keep up with new technologies, regulations and other important shifts, let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC highlights leaders from the modern world of manufacturing from SMMs to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sectors' latest trends, groundbreaking technologies and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I'd like to welcome you.
Gregg Profozich [00:00:48] In this episode, I'm joined by Dr. Richard M. Seugling, Manufacturing Engineering Section Leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Jay Dinsmore, Founder and CEO of Dinsmore Inc.; and, Matt Sand, Co-Founder and President of 3DEO. Richard, Jay, and Matt define additive manufacturing and discuss how to determine if this technology is right for your company, what to consider before taking the additive journey, and what they see for the future of additive.
Gregg Profozich [01:01:15] Welcome, Jay. It's great to have you here.
Jay Dinsmore [00:01:16] Thanks for having me. I appreciate you guys giving me the opportunity to be involved. I'm excited for what we're going to be talking about today.
Gregg Profozich [00:01:22] Jay, can you take a minute or two and just tell us a little bit about your current role?
Jay Dinsmore [00:01:26] Yeah, of course. I am the founder and CEO currently of Dinsmore, which is a local southern California-based 3D printing and additive manufacturing service company. Been blessed to work in additive and 3D printing for 29 years, for my entire career. Every day I learn something new. It's super fun and exciting times.
Gregg Profozich [00:01:47] Well, thank you. Excited to have you here, and can't wait for the things you're going to share with us today. Welcome, Richard. Thank you for taking some time to be with us here today.
Richard Seugling [00:01:54] Thanks, Gregg. Glad to be here. Enjoy the topic. Hopefully, I'll bring a slightly different view from our other co-guests.
Gregg Profozich [00:2:01] Could you take a minute or two and tell us about your current role?
Richard Seugling [00:02:04] Yeah. Again, my name is Rich Seugling. I'm from Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and I'm a section leader within the manufacturing engineering group here. My focus is on new technologies in support of the stockpile stewardship mission of the lab.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:18] Excellent. Matt, happy you could join us today.
Matt Sand [00:02:20] Yeah. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here with CMTC and spread the gospel on additive manufacturing.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:29] Excellent. Could you take a minute or two and tell us a little bit about your current role?
Matt Sand [00:02:32] Sure. We're 3DEO. We're a production metal 3D printing technology company. We invented new technology for metal additive manufacturing specifically for mass production. I'm the president of the company and one of the cofounders.
Gregg Profozich [00:02:49] Well, thank you so much. Really looking forward to our conversation today, and looking forward to hearing your perspectives and insights. Let's get started. We're here to talk about additive manufacturing, the cases in which additive is a good addition to a manufacturing operation. Additive has been around for decades, but let's start broadly. For context, tell us what additive manufacturing is and how it's different than traditional subtractive methods. Richard, why don't you start us off?
Richard Seugling [00:03:11] Yeah. In general, I would say that additive manufacturing is taking the raw components combined with a 3D model, a computer model of whatever it is you want to build, and taking those constituents and then building the 3D geometry from it as opposed to traditional manufacturing, where you take a block of the material, and you find the part, so to speak, within the block. Fundamentally, that's the way I look at it. It doesn't really matter what material or what type of additive process you're doing; that's generally what you're doing.
Gregg Profozich [00:03:41] Okay. Jay or Matt, anything to add to that?
Jay Dinsmore [00:03:43] I love the term additive, and I love the term subtractive because when I'm talking to people that don't really understand our world with 3D printing, it's a pretty easy way to describe it. Subtractive, you're starting with something and removing material to get to your end part. Additive and 3D printing, all things, it doesn't matter, as Rich said, what technology that you're using or which OEM platform. You're basically taking slices of cross-sectional geometric data of that final end shape part that you're trying to create and feeding it to the machine, which is either depositing powder, or filament, or laser-based technology. They pretty much are all very similar in that regard. You're depositing some form of a material to create your end-use part. You can do things with additive in 3D printing. As I always say, the machines don't really care what they build. You can pretty much build anything with additive that you cannot do subtractively, and that's what really pushes our industry forward. We make the impossible possible with additive and 3D printing, I guess you could say.
Gregg Profozich [00:04:50] Can additive be applied profitably to any manufacturer, or is there a best profile for a manufacturer additive it fits best? We know we're building a part up from a 3D CAD model, from what you guys have described, instead of removing material down to a finished part, but are there places where it applies best, particular kind of manufacturing? Matt, why don't you start us off on that one?
Matt Sand [00:05:09] Sure. I think the first thing to realize when it comes to additive or 3D printing — and a lot of people use those terms interchangeably — there are so many different processes underneath the 3D printing umbrella that it's actually very hard to answer that question without a million caveats or just by saying it depends. Certain technologies are terrific for certain applications and terrible for other applications. You really need to understand what the application is. Once you know the application, you can start to evaluate various 3D printing technologies, whether it's on the plastics or polymer side or whether it's on the metal side. But I don't want to be completely noncommittal on this answer. In general, complex designs and complex geometries is where additive can really thrive. In fact, it's where we compete mostly against traditional manufacturing is on more complex geometries. With CNC machining, for example, if you have a part that is relatively small and requires multiple setups within that CNC machine. Let's say you have a top hole and a side hole, and you have to fixture it two different ways, and it requires a technician or machinist to stand over that part and to rotate it as part of the production process. That can start to become a pretty expensive part. That's really where additive can compete favorably either on complex designs or, as Jay pointed out, on impossible designs that just can't be made any other way.
Jay Dinsmore [00:06:45] Yeah. I think what Matt said about there's so many different materials and technologies now. Twenty-five-plus years ago we had a couple and only a handful of materials. Now we're implantables in the human body; we're putting things in space, production parts in automobiles. But for us, the way that we approach that at Dinsmore with perspective or one of our existing customers is by doing discovery. What we like to try to do when we do discovery, when you talk about does it make sense, can you do this profitably, it starts with discovery to see if we're not able to cut costs. But that's not always the most important. A lot of times it's timing, where we need to create something very fast. It's not about cost; it's about timing. It really starts with doing discovery and ruling out the things that don't make sense. Unfortunately, there's a lot of marketing things out there that people think that 3D printing everything makes sense when a lot of it actually doesn't make sense. I have quite a few friends and an extensive background in traditional manufacturing, as well. I used to own a machine shop, subtractive and injection molding. I have friends of mine that still own companies that do that type of work. They call me and say, "Hey, this 3D printing thing — should I sell my company? Should I get out now, because you guys are going to completely take over?" It's like, "Absolutely not. Not in my lifetime are we going to get away from making things traditionally with injection molding and CNC machining." It's really the discovery piece. The information and education is where it starts. At least that's how we try to approach it here.
Gregg Profozich [00:08:26] Rich, what are your thoughts?
Richard Seugling [00:08:28] Yeah. I agree with both my colleagues on the call here today. One of the things, that from an R&D perspective — because that's a lot of what the lab does is development efforts — it's really about speed, almost like time to market. How fast can I evaluate a design and say that it's going to be functional? That's where AM really can help time to result. How do I know this is going to behave the way I expect it to behave, and does it behave the way I expect it to behave? One of the things that additive can do for you is you could do design changes rapidly. I can make a build plate on a metal machine and make 25 different designs of a part on one build plate and evaluate all of them. I could do a lot of different things quickly and answer really important questions in a much quicker time than I could in the traditional CNC way, where I'm going to make one, but we're going to test it; I'm going to make another one and test it.
Gregg Profozich [00:09:19] Cycle time reduction through iterative process.
Richard Seugling [00:09:22] Cycle time reduction and then, again, the ability to make geometry that you can't easily make in a CNC machine is the other part of it. Things like greater density, internal structures, those kinds of things. 3D printing is the only way to do it in a lot of cases.
Gregg Profozich [00:09:37] Okay. I'm hearing you guys talk about complex geometries and speed to result, as Rich said. Are there other elements of it? If I'm a small manufacturer and don't know anything about additive manufacturing, how do I figure out if my company is right for this? I'm a machine shop, and I'm building to print. Can I use additive? The print doesn't specify it on the part, but I could use it on fixtures and jigs. If I do my own design, can I coalesce an assembly, print a single part instead of five parts that have to be assembled then later? I think there's lots of areas where we can explore here in the kinds of ways that additive could apply. What are the other things I would want to consider or think about to continue my exploration?
Matt Sand [00:10:10] Broadly, there are two ways to get into "additive manufacturing." One way is to buy your own equipment. That tends to be a much harder way in that it's a much longer lead time. You have to have the expertise, the infrastructure, and the ability to buy pretty expensive printers. But if you have the right use case already fleshed out, it could make sense; it's just a longer road. The other way to get into additive manufacturing, if you're dipping your toes in the water, is to work with a company like Dinsmore, or a service bureau, or a production house like 3DEO where we make parts as a contract manufacturer, if you will. We're a part supplier. I think that's an easier way to get in, because it's a much lower barrier to entry. It's much easier and faster to get going. You get parts; you see cost structure; you understand. You get to talk to a guy like Jay or someone on Jay's team who's an applications engineer, and understand the benefits and the pros but also the cons of the technology. I think service bureaus are a great way to get started. You may be able to make the business case work with service bureaus. But even if you can't, you can always bring the equipment in-house later. I think that's a good way for small manufacturers to get started.
Richard Seugling [00:11:27] I would say that the manufacturer or the business that's looking to go into AM really needs to know their marketplace, either what they're in or where they're going, to say this is where I think it's profitable for me.
Jay Dinsmore [00:11:38] Yeah. Another thing, I would say, with a small manufacturer thinking about ways to how can I use additive, what makes sense, what doesn't make sense, is one of the things that we see, being that we work with many different companies across all sectors — aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, consumer products — people have figured out a way to use additive as a competitive advantage to their business. They have created things that they weren't making before, couldn't make, and now they're making those things. It's opening up whole new business channels for them. They're doing it where it's not easy to replicate. We have clients that we work with, where we're involved in the process of design, where we're doing DFAM, which is design for additive manufacturing, and their competitors don't see them coming. They come out with something that's revolutionized the business segment in their business and doing things that, again, you can't do traditionally with subtractive. That's where additive and 3D printing you see a huge benefit in this. I want to also comment on what Rich brought up earlier. I think about a complex assembly of 25 different components — machine parts, injection molded parts, maybe some sheet metal parts — this whole assembly of things that have to be made. Think about how much time, and effort, and energy goes into managing that thing from a tooling perspective. Let's say a few of the components are made stateside; some things are made abroad; maybe there's a 3D printed component to it. A lot of times our customers, when we talk about the value chain of what we do, they don't think about those what I call hidden costs of managing all that from a perspective of drawings, and design changes, and iterations, and tool changes. If you think of additive and 3D printing as like... If we're talking plastics, think of it as toolless injection molding. When we're in the middle of a production run with our customer and they say, "Oh, hold on. Stop the presses. The design has changed," for us, it's very easy. You're talking in a matter of hours to get those new design revisions into production. That's where the real value change comes in. For profitability to any manufacturer, small or large, once you start recognizing those benefits, that's where additive and 3D printing really starts to shine.
Richard Seugling [00:14:02] I would also add a little bit onto what Matt had said. One of the easiest ways to evaluate additive manufacturing is to start using some of the parts from a vendor of some sort. You could see what you're getting with a fairly low cost upfront. You could evaluate it pretty rapidly. Change is easy. Flexibility is one of the key things in additive manufacturing. Your ability, as Jay just said, to change gears quickly it's somewhat unheard of in other manufacturing techniques, especially things like casting, as you're going down casting path. Those are large investments with a lot of involvement. There are a lot of ways to get into or use additive manufacturing as an advantage within your company.
Matt Sand [00:14:42] Just to give you a real example — I'm sure Jay has millions of examples like this — we had one customer who was developing a part, and he got three iterations of parts in hand in a two-week time period. His exact quote, which is a testimonial for us now, is, "Had I done this with any other manufacturing technique, it would have been 90 days per iteration and probably $20,000 per iteration." We were giving him full production parts. If he liked these parts, we can go into production next month. It's game-changing from that perspective.
Gregg Profozich [00:15:13] It sounds like AM offers great opportunities. What's the sweet spot for the type of parts that are best suited to be manufactured? We can talk in terms of complexity, cost, materials, part size, batch size, any of these things that come to mind. Jay, why don't you start us off?
Jay Dinsmore [00:15:27] We're making Dinsmore production parts in a quantity of one of a part that could be four feet long — that's a $50,000, $60,000 part — or we're making tens of thousands of parts, which we literally can do in days. The sweet spot is, in my opinion, things that you can control. Every day here we get at least one request, where somebody comes to us with something, and we're like, "Additive's really not the best way to go about doing this," whether it be from a costing perspective... That happens a lot. A customer will send something over. "Well, we normally mold these parts, and we need them for two cents." "Okay. Well, we're throwing that out right now. It does not make sense to do that with 3D printing or additive." I had a very large razor manufacturer recently at a show come up to me. Their boss was wanting them to look at how they can get some of these high-volume parts into production. I know, because I've worked in that space. I said, "Pretty much all of your components, all your product SKUs, are in the millions and millions of parts." "Absolutely." I said, "Sir, I do not want to burst your bubble here, but there is nothing..." Matt and, I think, Rich would agree with me. "...on this entire pavilion of additive polymer and metal that is going to get you what you need for the price point that you need." They were deflated. But then I said, "Now, let's say you have a customized razor that a professional athlete hand scanned, and they're willing to shell out a thousand bucks for their name, and their number, and NFL colors, and they don't mind having that perfect razor that they can brag to their friends that they got. Now you have the market for additive, and it makes sense." Back to what I was saying about the discovery of the sweet spot, it really depends on the client; it depends on the technology of what they're trying to do. A lot of times it depends on the timeframe that they're in. We build components here on a weekly basis where the parts are normally injection molded, but the mold is not functional anymore; they can't find the tool; somebody forgot to order the injection mold tool; they need 3,000 parts; they need them tomorrow. That's a sweet spot.
Richard Seugling [00:17:34] One of the things that is a focus for our activities is it's built for a specific function and designed for a specific function. In our case where we're trying to do things with graded density materials — and they could be ceramics, or they could be metal-type products, or even polymers — then that's where we need to design it for a specific function. Using additive process allows us that flexibility in design space, where we could do a lot of different things pretty quickly. The bottom line is get the functionality out of the part at the end of the day. That's really important. The other thing to where this really is valuable is the one-offs. I see the biomedical industry is just the wave for that into the future. Everybody's different. You could imagine printing casts; you could imagine hearing aids, implants, all kinds of different things. There's a broad area as this technology advances where you're going to see a lot of different options.
Matt Sand [00:18:26] I guess just to echo one thing, quantities are the key to understand where additive fits. There's a pretty nice curve, if you could imagine, where at a volume or quantity of one, traditional manufacturing, like I'm getting a mold made, mold cost $5,000; that's a $5,000 part. With additive, it might be a $50 part. With additive that curve is flat. It's $50 regardless of quantity, essentially. With the traditional as you scale up in volume, the cost curve eventually drops below that $50 per part. What a manufacturer would do is look at those cost curves and figure out if I'm making 500 of these, additive might make more sense; if I'm making 500,000 of them, then additive certainly will not make sense. You just have to understand the cost curves. They're different for every technology. But at some point, there's a quantity where additive may not make sense. What I like to say is what's exciting about the additive manufacturing industry in general — Jay's got such great perspective on this — I'm sure 29 years ago the cost structure was probably 10X where it's at today. That cost structure, the cost curve, continues to drop. What was a $100 part was then an $80 part is now a $50 part. I think with more technology development, with more automation, robotics, and software technologies being layered in, the cost curve continues to go down. As that $50 part becomes a $30 part becomes a $10 part, all of a sudden it gets pretty interesting on the quantities where additive can compete. I think that world is coming to us pretty quickly. Not saying the additive is going to take over everything, like Jay said; it's going to be another tool in the toolkit. But it's going to become more and more competitive from a cost structure perspective, which is probably the number one barrier to further adoption of AM technologies in general.
Gregg Profozich [00:20:25] We've talked a lot about the volume size. We've talked about the cost. What about complexity? I read about additive; I hear this term that complexity is free. How does that play into the idea of the sweet spot?
Jay Dinsmore [00:20:35] Yeah. Again, like I said — I say this quite often — the machines don't care what they're printing, for the most part. You could have the most complex part that you cannot make. We literally have parts that we make, production end-use medical components, that cannot be made any other way. They cannot be molded. You might be able to figure out how to machine it. But the cost and having to repeat all of those processes and those steps over and over again in setups, we don't have to do that with additive. That opens up the floodgates for... We haven't really started talking about the design side of things. You're talking about taking assemblies of multiple different components. You had to make it that way traditionally before additive. Now you can group all those things together and reduce that part count. All those tooling costs that are in there, and setups, and NREs, and managing all of that can be done with one part in additive. That's where we really shine and excel.
Gregg Profozich [00:21:36] You're talking coalescing of an assembly. I previously made four different parts, and somebody had to assemble it together, which also adds in the quality defects. Is it the right torque, the right pressure, the right fit, etcetera, those kind of things?
Jay Dinsmore [00:21:51] Yes. The human error factor or whatever. Even if there's some automation in there, the more parts and the more touches that you have of something as you build something, you're increasing the likelihood of having a problem or having an error, whereas if you're making end-use parts that come out of the machine that are done and ready to go primetime after post-process, now that's a game-changer.
Matt Sand [00:22:13] I would just say for the listeners, Gregg, if they want to learn more about that, which happens a lot in additive, what you should google is parts consolidation. If you google parts consolidation, additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, you'll turn up a lot of great articles and educational material on how that works.
Gregg Profozich [00:22:30] Excellent. Then also, Jay, you were talking about the medical applications. As you were talking, I had that picture of the hip joint, the part of the hip where the thigh bone goes into it. They print those with those lattice structures or honeycomb structures on the backside so that the bone can actually grow into it. You can't machine that. It'd be so incredibly expensive to try to machine something like that, but it's easy to print. That complexity is easy to print in additive is what I hear you guys saying.
Jay Dinsmore [00:22:56] Yeah, the complexity. Then you started talking about... Back to designing for additive specifically, you started talking about lightweighting and, yes, lattice structures, and design, things like that that you would have never thought about doing before, because hey, you can come up with something amazing in CAD, but there's your dead end, because you couldn't make it before. Now think about the possibilities that that opens up. Pretty much whatever your mind can create into a mathematical model you can now print in thousands of different materials both on the polymer side, metal side. That's where you're seeing a lot of growth and development in our industry, as it's fairly mature now. We've been around for decades. The first human anatomy models that I saw with my own eyes were back in 1994. We were 3D printing from CT data, from CAT scan data, back then. The things we're doing now, those models we make overnight now for planning models, for surgery, and they're very complex.
Gregg Profozich [00:23:57] Rich, any thoughts?
Richard Seugling [00:23:58] The other thing that comes into play on the design side, as Jay alluded to, with the complexity of, let's say, the human anatomy, there are other things, too, in terms of design optimization. You could create optimized designs in geometries that you couldn't previously do, whether that's lattice structures or just base geometry, based on looking on stresses and things of that nature. Again, the design space is really wide open compared to what it has been in the past.
Jay Dinsmore [00:24:26] Not to scare all of our mechanical engineering students out there, but now because the technologies and the materials are fairly mature, you're almost working backwards. You're saying here's my parameters; these are my attachment points; this is the load. The computer now, regenerative design, will do it for you, and pick the process for you, and say, "Okay, you want to print this in aluminum; it's going to be 3D printed in metal, obviously. There you go." It's almost like we're starting to work in reverse, if that makes sense.
Gregg Profozich [00:24:55] It sounds like it's a major paradigm shift for design engineers and manufacturing engineers on how to think about things.
Jay Dinsmore [00:25:02] It is, because the computer can be doing all that work for you, and you can be on to the next thing, whereas before you'd be on your CAD II running your Pro/E, or your SolidWorks, or whatever. Now the computer can be crunching 50 different design simulations in the background, regenerative design, that finds the best one and spits out the process for how you want to 3D print that part.
Gregg Profozich [00:25:23] Or alternatively, thinking about what Rich said earlier, I could print 20 versions of this on 20 different iterations. Right?
Richard Seugling [00:25:29] Yeah, that's definitely happening.
Matt Sand [00:25:31] Hey, Jay, I'm curious. That's the holy grail for where the engineers want to be. Here's the function; this is where it needs to be; go do it. How far off do you think we are from that?
Jay Dinsmore [00:25:42] Well, we're already doing a little bit of that now. It's funny, because the OEMs will ask me, "Well, what do you want to see?" I say, "I want to see the machine, the entire process — design, optimization, build orientation, tell me what material, the whole thing — where it just does it. From the OEM perspective in the software, that's a ways out. But these are the exciting things that we see in our industry right now.
Gregg Profozich [00:26:12] If I'm a small or midsize manufacturer, I need to be thinking about this and the opportunities that are going forth. My design engineers and my manufacturing engineers don't have to think about design for manufacturing; they have to think about, almost in a sense if I'm hearing you correctly, design for utility or use.
Matt Sand [00:26:28] Yeah. I'd say they have to keep an eye on it, Gregg. I wouldn't say they have to stop what they're doing, because what we're talking about I think is pretty far out. I just want to make sure the listener understands exactly where the software is today, that the generative design, and the idea of inputting parameters, and having the software tell you what the design should be, what the material should be, what the process should be, it's not quite there yet. Keep an eye on it. Make sure you're not falling behind competitively, because as soon as this technology becomes usable, then it's going to be a serious competitive advantage for design teams.
Gregg Profozich [00:27:03] Okay. Rich, I know you guys at Lawrence Livermore are doing a lot of unique and pioneering stuff. Tell us a little bit about what's going on at the lab.
Richard Seugling [00:27:10] One of the things that we're focusing on at the lab is topology optimization, where you're basically taking the performance or the design of either the part, or the material, or both and optimizing the system for functionality. That could be changing the design. Let's say we're starting with aluminum and optimizing the design to meet a stress load, for example, or going in the opposite direction and saying I have the stress load; what material properties would I like to have in order to get this output. Those types of optimizations are happening on both ends of the spectrum. Additive technologies really make that possible. You wouldn't have done that in a traditional design space. You have properties of aluminum, and you work with properties of aluminum. Now you're working in this space, where I'm going to define a new type of material. It could be a combination of materials, whether it's a metal with a ceramic base for things like body armor, for example. Optics, for example, would be another one where I could do a graded density dopant within an additive manufactured optic. I could change the properties of that optic and make it more efficient. Those are the types of activities that are happening at the lab which, I would say, are the future of additive manufacturing. That's where some of the design space is going.
Gregg Profozich [00:28:28] It sounds like it offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for a design engineer or a manufacturing engineer. I'm no longer constrained by the idea of design for manufacturing.
Richard Seugling [00:28:38] Yeah. I think that's going to be the future. You're going to be able to develop material properties, whether it's strength, stiffness, those types of things, that you're going to go into the design world with a much more blank slate than you would have in the past.
Gregg Profozich [00:28:53] We've talked a little bit about cost and profitability as we've gone through all this. If I'm a small to midsize manufacturer and I decided to go down the additive journey, and, to what Matt said earlier, whether I'm going to use a service bureau or whether I'm going to buy a machine and have it all in-house, what are the other results that I would expect from the additive capabilities — better relationships with customers, opportunities, productivity, energy, quality? What are some of the other things that additive brings me?
Matt Sand [00:29:16] I think at the end of the day if you're an owner, an executive, a leader of a small manufacturing company, additive has the potential to give you a competitive advantage. The competitive advantage comes through. This is not widely used, widely distributed technology; you're able to do very unique things. You're able to create proprietary designs that perhaps solve the problem better for your customer or create new possibilities with new products that you just weren't able to do. One example is Blackland razors. We just launched a metal 3D printed safety razor. If you search, it's called the Era on their website. He had an idea for a design that he was hoping to make one mass-market safety razor. His CNC machine razors are about $300 each, and he wanted to hit an $80 price point with the razor. He had the idea to make one. When he realized how easy it was to iterate on designs, to launch different designs, we're actually taking to market 10 different iterations on this product with him. It's a unique design, uniquely for 3D printing. It gives him competitive advantage. He's able to launch 10 products and serve the entire market rather than forecasting a year in advance, guessing which one product is going to do the best and then hoping for the best. He's able to launch all the products and see what really lands with his customers.
Gregg Profozich [00:30:50] That's a compelling case for the flexibility and the customization capability. Rich, I know you're not selling to customers, but you do have internal customers in a sense. What are some of the other values that they've realized from some of the work you guys have done at the lab in additive?
Richard Seugling [00:31:04] Well, I think as Matt's example illustrates, that design optimization and/or design iteration, where I can offer a number of designs with low cost and low impact to schedule, is really important. I can evaluate it. In an experimental world, which tends to be the bulk of our activities, that's really important. Getting results quickly, understanding what the right solution is and what the wrong solution is, because knowing what doesn't work is just as important to know as what does. You could do that pretty rapidly with additive technologies.
Gregg Profozich [00:31:37] Jay?
Jay Dinsmore [00:31:37] We are a manufacturer, just not... We have made some of our own things, but a majority of the work that we do is for others, for our customers. Some of our largest customers have very capable in-house additive manufacturing and 3D printing labs. We are basically an extension of their lab. One of the things that we see quite often is the creative juices are flowing when you're able to access additive, whether it's internally, externally. You will start doing things that you wouldn't normally do, which leads to innovation, which leads to new products, which leads to problem-solving. We see that quite often with our customers. What I also notice is a lot of the executives in organizations are starting to figure out... Oakley, for an example, sunglass manufacturer. They make a lot more than sunglasses now. They've had a showcase premiere additive lab that they would show all their executives. That's going back into the early 2000s. They will use that as, "You want to partner with us, because we can do all these amazing things with this technology." They use it to showcase and boast their innovation for their companies and what they're doing.
Gregg Profozich [00:33:02] It seems like there are a lot of developments in the technology in the past 20 to 30 years since Chuck Hall's original stereo lithography machine. Why isn't additive making a bigger impact today? What's holding it back?
Matt Sand [00:33:13] I would come back to what we had touched on earlier. I think cost structure is probably the biggest barrier that we see with our customer base. When it comes to prototyping, I don't think anybody is going to argue that the world of prototyping has long ago been fundamentally disrupted and changed by 3D printing. The high schoolers now have the FDM printers at home, and every mechanical engineer is printing at a university lab for prototyping. But the question, I think, is really why isn't it making a bigger dent in production? What was very eye-opening for me when I first got into the industry about five years ago was we would talk to customers about production moving to thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of pieces per year. The conversation at that point really starts to revolve around cost. The designs are set; the time to market is still a value; but the overall value that additive can deliver in production starts to wane when I know what I want, and I can start building out a production schedule. Then it starts to come down to cost. That's where there's still a gap between traditional manufacturing technologies and some of these technologies. There probably always will be a gap. But when the gap is sufficiently large, you'll have customers saying things like, "I can get this part with metal injection molding for $1.50 per piece. I can't afford to pay $75 per piece with additive." I'm glad to say the industry is not at $75 per piece today. There are a lot of technologies out there that are able to do it a lot more cost competitively, cost competitively enough that we're getting to the point where some of these other values like time to market, even in scale production, might be enough to get the production customers to pay a little bit more. My answer would be cost structure is one of the biggest holdbacks. When you look at our mission in life, 3DEO'S mission, which we'd started with a differentiated patented metal 3D printing technology. Working with production customers we quickly realized that the printer is just one piece of the total cost structure. That's why when you look at our company today, we're branding the manufacturing cloud. We have an end-to-end platform that controls the entire cost structure, from raw powder coming in to finish parts going out, so that we can be as cost-competitive on the final piece price as we can to compete against traditional manufacturing.
Richard Seugling [00:35:52] One of the things that I've seen is that there is some psychological I'll say doubt for lack of a better word, things like am I going to get full density out of my additive manufactured metal part? Are my material properties going to behave the way I expect? I think a lot of that over the last I'd say 5, 10 years has really become less and less of an issue. I think you're going to see more of it. But as Matt and Jay have alluded to, the price point and the marketing of what you're going to do and what type of part you're going to make is really going to be important and is important going forward. But I think this will change. As I mentioned with the new technologies looking ahead into the future, the tailored materials, the tailored structures for specific applications, that's where the market, I think, is going to take it and then take it to more traditional production. I don't think it'll be production like we've seen before. I think it'll be a new version of it. I think Matt and Jay are probably leading some of the future of that. What's that going to look like beyond today?
Jay Dinsmore [00:36:54] Yeah. To touch on what Matt and Rich just said, what's holding our industry back, fear is definitely a big one. If I'm a product manager at a company, and I'm used to doing things a certain way, and this is proven, and it may not be the best way to do it because additive can do it better, the fear factor of it. You're putting your name on something and pushing a product out into the marketplace. That thing has to perform for however long that the lifecycle of that product is. I think part of it is definitely fear. People are afraid. They go, "Ah, is this 3D printing stuff really real? Can it last? Is it going to be strong enough? Is it going to hold up?" Tell you guys a funny story. My neighbor retired recently from Boeing satellite division. I would get in arguments with him. "Nah, nah, that 3D printing stuff, you have to machine that stuff." I'm like, "Paul, I'm doing it every day for my customers — this customer, this customer." He still could not get past the mindset that 3D printing and additive is here to stay. We're doing this. Things are going into space. They work, and it's proven. Old mentality a little bit I think is part of it; fear is part of it. Then, also, some of the marketing efforts and things out there in years past, where maybe a company did invest in a lot of technology with 3D printing, and they end up putting a technology in there which is the wrong one, spend a lot of money. Channel partner. They push in an FDM printer, or PolyJet, or whatever it is, and it's definitely not the right tool for their tool chest. Then they figure out that hey, this doesn't work. Then they just go, "Ah, forget it. Let's go back to how we were doing it before." Now you have the executive level very upset going, "We just dropped $5 million to bring in all this stuff, and it doesn't work. It's not meeting our needs. Forget this 3D printing stuff." I think that has been part of the reason what's held our industry back. We should be, in my opinion, a lot further along down the road than we are today.
Gregg Profozich [00:38:55] Okay. How should I decide when additive is right for my application? Rich, why don't you start us off?
Richard Seugling [00:39:00] I think you got to look at your market, either what you're doing, your current customer base or your future customer base, and say, "Given the technologies that are available to me and the price point, what I have to invest in it, does it make sense?" As we mentioned earlier — I think Matt mentioned — bringing in some technology from a company who does it on a regular basis might be the easiest way to say whether this is really going to work for me or not. Test the waters, and then make a strategic investment where you want to go with it long-term.
Matt Sand [00:39:28] There has to be a really good reason to use additive. If it's not time to market, then it should be new design possibilities. There's a shortlist of reasons why you would want to use additive. I'd say that the weakest cases that I see is when someone wants to do 3D printing just to do 3D printing. It's probably not a good idea. If you can solve the problem traditionally and you don't have a strong reason to do it with additive, then that's probably the way to go. But if you see the value that additive can bring to the table in terms of design, or speed, or lowering product development risk for a variety of reasons, or competitive advantage with new types of products, then I would say probably hold off for now and wait for that right opportunity to really dive in.
Jay Dinsmore [00:40:21] I agree with you, Matt. What works, works and what doesn't, doesn't. I think additive, in most cases, works very well for a lot of things. Most companies can adopt additive, whether they're doing it internally or externally. There's going to be value add there with compressing the product development cycle. Does it work for production? Once you get into it... If you back into it the right way, and ask a lot of those questions, and rule out the things that don't make sense... There's nothing more that drives me crazy. We have customers that want to come throw money at us for doing certain things. I'm like, "This is silly, you guys. Why are we doing that?" "That's just what the boss wants." They want 3D printing. Everybody wants 3D printing now. But to be honest, a lot of this stuff doesn't make sense, as Matt said.
Gregg Profozich [00:41:05] Let's think about an additive action plan. If I'm a manufacturer, what are the things I would consider as I think about taking the additive journey?
Richard Seugling [00:41:13] I think one of the things — and Jay just touched on it — is do we need it or not? Does it make sense? Is it profitable? Does it give me a competitive advantage? In my case, it's often a capability that I don't have now. You need to start with that. Then you could go into what types of technologies do I need; what's the infrastructure required? The other thing that we didn't talk about too much is the people. One of the things that you really need to think about is who am I going to get to run these things? What level of, whether it's education or technology, do I need? Do I need a journeyman machinist? Do I need a Ph.D. engineer? Do I need all those things? Then look at it from a market standpoint and say, "This is where I need to go and what I'm going to do with it."
Gregg Profozich [00:41:55] Jay, your thoughts?
Jay Dinsmore [00:41:56] Look at all bases of what the requirements are. If you're going to bring it in-house, an action plan would look like make sure that you really do your homework and pick the right technology for what you're going to use it for. If you're using concept models only, R&D, engineering prototype stuff, a lot of the technologies work. If you're trying to do end-use medical parts, you're going to rule out a lot of different materials and technologies right upfront. But the infrastructure of what... All the requirements are a little bit different depending on where you're located. Each states have different laws of what you can do and can't do. Think about the pre and the post. Rich just said it: the people, and the technology, the software, and the computing power, and all these things that you need on the pre side. And there's some expertise needed. I always talk about the easy button of 3D printing. That's what, unfortunately, a lot of people think is, "Oh, I just get this thing; I plug it in; I look at it and hit a button, and out comes these beautiful parts that are finished and ready to rock." That's not 3D printing. The easy button of 3D printing does not exist in most cases. Think about the post-processing, as well, what happens after the print, because you need people to do that work. A lot of that work is not fun, and it's messy, and it's gooey, and it's powder. You got to have on the right PPE gear when you're doing it. There's a lot of other factors involved. Do your due diligence and have a very comprehensive action plan of what it takes to get an infrastructure in. Or you may say, "You know what? I don't want to mess with all that stuff. I just want to work with a provider for now," until you get to a point. But don't discount all of those things, and pay attention that you're going to have to cross all those things at some point when you bring it in internally.
Matt Sand [00:43:42] Projects like this really take an internal champion. If you're an executive and you want the engineering team to start working more with additive, consider trying to appoint or find someone who could be the internal champion for 3D printing within your company. Then I think easy ways to get started — give that champion a $500 budget, which sounds like nothing, but you can actually buy a pretty sweet FDM machine for below $500 today, and have that evangelist start making parts and iterating on parts internally for the other engineers and designers. I think what you'll see pretty quickly is a lot of heads nodding, a lot of creative juices flowing, like Jay was saying, and a lot of excitement, momentum building internally.
Gregg Profozich [00:44:31] It's really about the human side, the organizational acceptance piece. If there's a printer to play with, if you will, to experiment with, and to do things with, we start thinking about it, as you mentioned. Get the creative juices flowing, build some excitement and some understanding of it, get people interested in learning more on their own type of thing. Then you build a culture that is embracing the technology and looking for the niche of how this technology using these materials can apply to specific problems we as a company are trying to solve.
Richard Seugling [00:45:00] Having that little benchtop thing or some example to work off of is really important, especially for new people coming in. It gives them something to get excited about. Once you get that excitement rolling, it'll go, and you'll be in good shape.
Matt Sand [00:45:13] Try to have multiple people involved, too, not just the single. Walked into many a customer through the years where, "Oh, Bob used to run that machine, and now it's sitting off in the corner, and it's got an inch of dust on the top of it." It drives me nuts, because I see a perfectly good working machine that the person that was the champion or was doing a lot of the work moved on or left. Try to have more than one person. Have a handful of people involved in the organization that understand it, learn it, know how to run it, can champion it. That would be my add.
Gregg Profozich [00:45:48] Last question before we close up. In your opinion, what is the future of additive manufacturing?
Jay Dinsmore [00:45:54] The future of additive, for me, is doing things that we're not doing now that are in works, from the crazy stuff... We're talking about 3D. Let's talk about 4D printing, where you're designing into the model and printing something that's going to change over time. That's implantables in the human body. As your body changes, and grows, and ages, that thing is changing with you. Printing actual organs and tissues. You lose an eye in a car accident, it's no problem. We're going to print you a new eyeball. Things like that that sound way off the map, but the future of additive is bright. Another thing I would say is if you look at the pie of traditional manufacturing, it's a big pie, trillions of dollars. Right now if I were to draw on the wall behind me, here our industry is a little sliver of that. The future of additive is bright in all areas, in all sectors of business throughout the world. It's really exciting where we're at today and where we'll be in the near future.
Matt Sand [00:47:00] We actually just spent a lot of time rebranding our vision for the future of manufacturing. We call our future, which is just one piece of this exciting future, the manufacturing cloud. When it comes to product development today, it is really painful. There's a ton of friction, and there's a ton of risk. When you look at disrupting product launch and scale, which, in essence, is what we're trying to do with the manufacturing cloud, you look at eliminating both the risk and the friction associated with it. The idea of before your creativity is constrained by how you make the part, now we have, as we talked about here, unleashed creativity to design whatever you want to design. We talked about how it takes months to get iterations traditionally. With additive you can get iterations in days and weeks, where you're not paying upfront; you pay as you go. It eliminates that risk. Then you scale seamlessly into production. I think it's very akin to what servers and the server industry was before Amazon AWS. In the past when you wanted to set up a website or have some kind of computing power, you had to buy a bunch of servers, set up a server farm, hire the engineers. It was a lot of friction, and it was very expensive. Then Amazon's AWS came along, and they said, "Well, you can rent time on our servers because we got 85% of our time open." You just click a few buttons; you put in a credit card, and immediately you have a server if you want it. You have 1,000 servers if you want it if you need that much computing power. It's just a seamless scale into computing. That's really what we're trying to do with the future of manufacturing, where it's a seamless scale from you have an idea for a product, and you can move that product from first design into production very quickly. I think a lot of the digital technologies that are impacting manufacturing, both from a hardware and from a software side, need to converge. That's really what we're working on doing right now at 3DEO.
Richard Seugling [00:49:14] I'll echo what both Jay and Matt said. It's exciting. From a manufacturing standpoint, it is a new paradigm. It's a paradigm shift both from the software... I'll say a virtual design space. But as I mentioned earlier, the newer technologies, the tailored material properties, the custom one-off — I'm going to manufacture a watch that I want. I'm going to click a button, and it's going to pop out — that holy grail of manufacturing-type activities I think are going to be the wave of the future. Along with that are going to be the next generation, whether it be an optic, whether it be a part in a specific application with tailored material properties, tailored structure that right now the only way that you can envision getting it is through an additive technology. I'm excited to see what that future is going to be. It's advancing rapidly. I think it's going to be an exciting time for manufacturing over the next 10-plus years.
Gregg Profozich [00:50:13] It sounds like a really bright future, and a lot of cool things are going to come into play in the next couple of years. It's going to be a different world. Let's do a quick summary. We've talked about a lot of things today, a lot of great information. Starting off with the whole idea of additive is traditional subtractive manufacturing. You start with a block of material and then machine away or work it down, sculpt away until you get your finished product. With additive you start with a 3D design and add material only where appropriate and end up with a finished part that way. There are some very interesting things that allows for in terms of what's manufacturable. We talked about solving the unsolvable and building the impossible. The complex geometries that 20, 30 years ago were not possible to make traditionally at a reasonable cost. Anything's possible to make, but sometimes they require an infinite budget. But with additive, you can do complexity quickly. We can get to designs and prototypes much faster. You can do multiple designs and prototypes without the cost of tooling. Engineering changes are much simpler to implement. You turn off the printer; you send a new file; you turn the printer back on; and it keeps working, doing the new part now. It doesn't require tooling changes. It doesn't require lead time. Doing customized product or low volume product runs where hard tooling would be cost-prohibitive. Traditional manufacturing is not going away, but additive is definitely going to have a place and an increasingly larger share of what's produced out there. We also talked about design iterations and complexity in the prototyping. Then that ties in with the generative design ideas and the topology optimization that we talked about. Plugging in materials and parameters and allowing the computer to solve for what's the design, and what's the performance, what's the shape need to be, how much material where. That definitely leads to a lot of other opportunities in the space. Changing paradigm, a change in mindset. A lot of innovation and new products are possible, but first we have to change the way we think about solving the problem of manufacturing. Do we design for manufacturing, or do we design for use and utility? The barriers to entry that we talked about a little bit: cost structure, fear, belief in what's possible and what's not possible with additive, and then that whole bad taste in the mouth phenomenon of it was sold a bill of goods, and it didn't exactly work, and something now we're gun shy about looking at in the future. These are things that we'll have to look at very carefully when thinking about taking the first steps on an additive journey. I think the three of you were talking a lot about a crawl, walk, run approach. Test the waters. You can get into additive. You don't have to buy a printer. You can use a service bureau. You can use somebody else's equipment. You can just send a file and have your parts printed. Then when it makes sense, when you've proven out the model, when you've built sufficient internal capability, when you've built in a sufficiently strong and steady market, then you can look at cost justifying investments in equipment yourself. One of the biggest parts I think we talked about towards the end — and I think it's a great point — is the organizational acceptance and culture part of it, the need and the importance, if you're going to go down an additive journey, of establishing that internal champion and then having that champion understand their job is to use the printer, to build an affinity group, people who are interested in the technology, are interested in the cool and the latest build, and, "Hey, could you do this?" and, "Hey, could you do that?" When you start to get those creative juices flowing, you start to take off those guardrails on the way we had to think as we were trained how to design for manufacturing. "Well, I don't have to exactly think that way anymore. I can think more about using utility. Now I can design things a little differently. I can be creative in ways I couldn't before because it was cost-prohibitive using subtractive." The future's bright. New technologies are coming; new advances are coming. We're not quite there where we can put in parameters and have the whole software take care of the whole design and manufacturing process, but that date is getting closer. These are things that we definitely need as a small manufacturer to be aware of and to figure out how they're going to impact an individual business. Did I miss anything in that summary, gentlemen?
Jay Dinsmore [00:53:56] It sounded pretty good.
Matt Sand [00:53:57] I think you nailed it, Gregg.
Gregg Profozich [00:53:59] Well, I thank you all very much. Matt, Richard, and Jay, it was great to have you here today. Thank you for joining me and for sharing your perspectives, insights, and expertise with me and with our listeners.
Richard Seugling [00:54:08] Gregg, nice to meet you.
Matt Sand [00:54:09] Thank you, Gregg, and thanks for everything CMTC does. It's a great mission, and we're proud to be a part of it.
Gregg Profozich [00:54:15] Thank you so much for that. To our listeners, thank you for joining us today for this conversation with Jay Dinsmore, Richard Seugling, and Matt Sand in discussing Is Additive Manufacturing The Right Addition To Your Operation. Thank you so much. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit www.cmtc.com/shiftinggears.
CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC's mission is to serve as a trusted advisor, providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California's manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC please visit www.cmtc.com. For more information about the MEP National Network, or to find your local MEP center visit www.nist.gov/mep.