Star Trek Replicators? How Additive Manufacturing is Changing the Industry

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We’re a lot closer to having a bona fide Star Trek replicator than you might think.


Sure, we’re not to the point where you can just press a button and a part — or maybe a steak and some Romulan ale — will materialize out of nowhere. However, additive manufacturing has finally matured to such a degree that 3D printing is feasible for manufacturing applications.


Blake Teipel, Cofounder and CEO at Essentium, shares how additive manufacturing is bringing agility and adaptability to manufacturers and product developers.


We discuss:

- What additive manufacturing is

- Building a team vs finding partners

- Electromagnetic energy and electrically conductive plastics


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The technology is right for prime timebecause in large part, we've been able to solve this really classic multidecade, long problem around making thretty printed parts strong in alldirections. You are listening to over the air iot connected devices and thejourney brought to you by vary in each episode. We have sharpunfiltered conversations with executives about their iot journeys,the mistakes they made the lessons they learned and what they wish they'd knownwhen they started welcome back to over the air. I oftconnected devices in the journey. My name is ryan prosser, ceo very andtoday rejoined by blake typo, co, founder and ceo of centium. We're goingto be talking about three d printing versus additive manufacturing. What youneed to know and amusing air quotes is additive manufacturing real this time,blake, thanks for being on the show man right, it's great to speak with you,yeah, i'm looking forward to our conversation thanks for having on so ibet god so we're recording this in july, two thousand and twenty one the worldis moving fast. You know maybe a few months from now. It will not be this,but i think a lot of people are saying i've heard of thridrandi g, i'm not asfamiliar with the additive manufacturing. What's the distinctionand what is a person need to now? I'm sure you educate people on this. Allthe time follow up. Question is going to be like: where do you guys fit inthe attitude manufacturing landscape but a bit of education? First yeah,that's awesome, rind! So the way i try to draw a distinction and there is adistinction and it's both useful and it's also just dumb, and so sometimes ieven use the toe to the two terms interchangeably, but i'll. Try the tomy best to again draw that distinction for folks in a way that makes sense sothrid printing is a technology that pretty much everybody has seen in theworld. Now you sort of imagine that you know you've got a little a littledesktop machine or some printer and...

...you're building a part, and you getthis little widget or it's a toy or it's a yoda head or an eiffel tower oror some little device. That is fun or it's a chache, usually thred printingis useful to sort of get people interested in engineering or get peopleinterested in the stem disciplines, and so it's used a lot in educationalcontexts, but additive manufacturing is a extension. Is it's an extension ofthitting into a manufacturing context where basically making the part is onlypart of the journey and in fact i would argue one of the least important partsof the journey you go from a design to the prepared file to the printing ofthe part. That's like the third or maybe one of the middle steps. Then youpull a part off the machine and you do post processing of the part to clean itup. Then you actually are inspecting the part to see hey. Was this producedproperly and then you're, usually storing data around that part like howmany instances were printed, how many good instances out of the total batch?What was your yield? And then you are tracking, of course, the economics, thelife cycle and the costs for each of those steps, and so the ted printingpart is a middle part of the additive manufacturing process. Now the goodnews is that additive manufacturing is very similar to actual manufacturingright. If we think about the built environment in which we all live, wehave planes, trains, cars, computers, shoes, apparel phones, tablets, alexaet cetera. These are all devices produced on supply chains in factoriesin an actual manufacturing context, and so, when i think about the moment intime in which we find ourselves now, the thing that gets me excited and outof out of be every day is the fact that rd printing has matured to the pointwhere it is now finally ready to be relevant industrially in amanufacturing context, and so for that reason i'm super jazzed about how tomanufacturing and what that means for supply chains, factories and eventuallyconsumer parts everywhere, so before...

...i've, a thousand following questions,but talk about like where you guys fit inthat landscape. So you know, centium is focused on which slice of that worldyeah, so our products today, our center laser focus parts that used to beinjection, molded or even are currently injection, molded or their machine outof plastic, and there are many different types of parts that are, youknow produced in this sort of classical sense. These are examples again of them,subtractive, manufacturing or traditional manufacturing and so for aninjection molded part, if you think about you, know like your air, pods oryou're again many different devices that you have on your desk, like yourmouse for your computer. These are all composed of plastic parts that areinjection, molded and so injection molding is a very common manufacturingtechnique. It's useful for producing millions of parts that are all exactlythe same, and so where added manufacturing comes in is let's say iwould like to produce ten thousand parts that are different from the nextten thousand parts, which are different from the ten thousand parts in thebadge that follows, after that injection molding struggles, a lot toquickly turn over or change designs between those different types ofbatches, and so we're added a manufacturing really takes root andwere, as sentis focused is. How do we engage with manufacturing clients andcontexts that are sort of midrange midrange volumes? And how do we reallyincrease the agility with which these customers can so change designs or beadaptive or agile or pivotal in a product mix? You know the cnc millingpart is also very common for, in particular like jigs and fixtures, andtools that are used inside of factories every day all over the world, and thesefixture devices are usually used to support or guide, or you know, hold inplace the part that's being machined and used by the consumer at the end ofthe day. So even those parts themselves- the fixtures, for example, or the jigs-those really should be printed and in...

...fact, with the centium, a d and others.You know you get three d printed chicks and fix turing or additivelymanufactured jigs and fixture, and then your factories can be more responsive,they can cut their costs and they can. You know, change, designs and respondto consumer sentiment as it changes it. Never correct me if i'm wrong, i didn'thear you mention it, but i remember talking about it in our pre interview,you guys have kind of a bent in the direction of ero right, like you guys, are doingquite a bit of work with things that fly. Is that how i over simplified that to like? Isthat broadly correct? It is broadly correct, and so you know getting partin the pun, but part of our business. That's really taken off recently. Isour eros pace? Business dido right? So you know aerospace is an example of anindustrial vertical that has really actually been using additivelymanufactured solutions for a while, and so we are serving multiple aerospaceclients in the sort of civilian side of the house or the commercial aviationsector, but then also now in the government side, and so, as many peopleknow, in sort of aerospace, most of the costs for a delivered solution. Again,that's something that flies the delivered solution. Most of those costsare actually out in the sustainment part of the life cycle, the average ageof airplanes that are flying for the department of defense, the unitedstates, that's twenty eight years old. Most of us don't have houses or carsthat are that are that old and yet america is flying on old airplanesright and so in order to sustain those aircraft. You need specialty tools, youmean specialty fixtures. You need specialty solutions that are availableat the point of service to turn around airplanes quickly and get those planesback in the air flying again and that's what we're doing with with with a lotof clients now in the aviation side of the business. So what are the thingsthat very that we focus on? A lot is helping big industrial or, i guess,like medium sized industrial companies,...

...that they make a product they've made aproduct for a very long time. You know maybe like embedding intelligence intothat product, isn't their strong suit. It seems to me that aviation is a veryspecialty market that you guys have landed on. We see people that aretrying to figure out what they should build and we're often asking them whatinformed your decision to select this as the correct path forward. How didyou know like what informed for you all that aviation was an interesting pathor the path or an area where you wanted to specialize heavily and that's agreat question. You know for us run honestly. We actually responded to somemarket poll during the pandemic. I mean a lot of clients on the commercialmanufacturing side, were either shut down entirely or shut down, partly forthe better part of a year trying to figure out number one. Is there anongoing market for the stuff we're building and the stuff we're making, sothe factory might be shut down for that reason or when the factories startstarting to open up again? How do we bring our employees back safely thatscale and how do we do employee health and safety? For you know, people acrossour enterprise? Well, the government had to answer those same questions, butthe government never shut down, because the government can't you know, can'tshut down at least not for any length of time and continue to you know, keepthe nation moving forward. So, during the pandemic, we were able to respondto the need that we saw for the investments in aerospace, sustainmentsolutions at scale and with lower costs, lower cost profiles, and that's whereadditive really really wins is you know changing the cost curve for asustainment and in particular an aerospace estate, and so there werejust number of opportunities and we focused on delivering our core businesssolutions. That's you know high speed, three printing, a lot of materials. Youknow software solutions for the production of printed parts, and wejust said okay, how can we bring this ecosystem to bear for the air spacecommunity re large and during two thousand and twenty there were numerousopportunities to actually do that. So...

...we grew our business. We're veryfortunate. I mean a lot of businesses struggle in two thousand and twenty andare still struggling now, as we're trying to figure out is that hangoverwaning? Is the hangover still there what's going on? Are we still masking?No, maybe we should again, who knows it's still a confusing time you know,but at the end of the day the government was was was buying printersand needing to keep america flying, and so they turn to us to help help be partof that solution. So that's what that's, what you know mandated us as a business,to focus to build the right thing right to build the right solution at theright time for the right customer. The good news is that additivemanufacturing is inherently flexible right. It's an inherently flexibletechnology. It's designed not to be a star trek replicator, where you sort ofpush button, get part and it's magic, and maybe i'll have a stake, and someyou know a martini as well. No, it's like it's a it could be useful in amanufacturing context like a mill or a lathe or an injection molding machine,but it has much more flexibility than all of those types of production assets,which means it's a good time to be adopting additive in manufacture. Youknow you mentioned government. I wasn't anticipating to ask this question, buti think of aviation, and i think of like the intersection of like theprivate sector and the government sector government puts a lot of thingsup in the sky. What has the dod position that then forthe d? Have they been out front in this? You know: have they have they beenquick to adopt autai quick to dismiss at it? If you know what is thelandscape been on? That side of the house, first, o o say, does depend. Itdepends a little bit on the branch of service if you're thinking about thedod depends on other agencies like thema or dhs, which are, i think, largely not yet using edititative manufacturing at all, but there are tons of use cases where aditimanufacturing would be relevant for,...

...for example, thema. We can certainlyget to that if you're interested, but you know when it comes to the dod. Ireally would give a shout out to the folks at affords and the air force affworks is basically figuring out, not only how to build upon the historicalteams- and i use the word teams here. There are many teams who are engaged inqualification of flight enabled and flight critical parts that are threttyprinted right, they're produced on an additive manufacturing, ecosystem andthey're, again they're flying right, like you mentioned, and so the airforce has been doing this for a long time. There are people at the air force,research labs and at the life cycle management center, for example, andthen now there's a brand new program office that was stood up actually alsokind of during the pandemic, really called the rapids. The statement,office and they're focused on quick turn of air craft getting getting a seaircraft turn around and back back on, you know into the sky as quickly aspossible, so the air forces. I would, i would certainly argue there there there.You know users of additive. They really knowwhat they're doing they know how to use out of manufacturing in a variety ofvalue added contexts, and i'm happy to say that there are other branches, likeyou know, the army and navy and the rain core they're also exposed toadditive, and i think we're starting to see similar acceleration in these otherbranches as well kind of drafting off of the wake a little bit that the airforce has sort of created by you know, taking and maintaining and creating aleadership position in additive manufacturing technologies. It'sinteresting. I mean the armies got tens of thousands if not more vehicles,right, land based vehicles right, and so it will certainly be the case thatkeeping you know old, humpies running for a long time, which seems to besomething they're interested in, would be easier and lower cost using out amanufacturing for tooling and for parts in many cases, driveway parts on humb-and you don't have to then worry about the humby. You know falling out of thesky necessarily, so i think there's a lot of opportunity there on the armyside in particular, i...

...have so many questions about thegovernment side of the business, including you know, the extent to which,in your experience there, their drive is towards additional capabilities orcost savings, but we're going to save that for the next time you come on theshow. Okay, i want the answer to be cost savings, i'm afraid that it willnot be, but i want to talk about a gotea. Is both it's capability, a safei can. I can tell you that, and the cost save sid just quickly is abouthelping the government. L be relieved to the largest degree that it can befrom vender, lock right, you sort of have you know a lot of the primes whichhave done built great businesses for themselves and for the government andthey own a lot of the tech data that is used to you know produce a? U thirty,five, for example, or an f sixteen or whatever it is, or see one thirty,cargo playing or whatever, but the company owns the tech data. Thegovernment bides, the part government buys the airplane, but the governmentcan't use the data because the date is still owned by the company. Now inreality, the question- and i think it's a good question mate- we could explorein a future session, but who should on the data? I would argue, the tax payersshould have a seat at the table because we funded the development of that asset.You know, but the company, but but i'm also, i operate a company, so i have toalso think about how to preserve my intellectual property that goes intothe creation of that data in the first place. So it's a nuance position, butthe government is certainly looking to control their costs reign in thesustainment costs, while increasing capabilities and they're turning toadditive. For all of those reasons, i'm okay would not. You arenot you're forbidden from responding to this statement, but i will just saythat, if a if the taxpayer did have a more meaningful seat at the table, itwould, it would be a fundamental shift and not necessarily in a good way inthat government procurement process, because i think a lot of people put upwith the headache of the process...

...because they know they're going tomerge with ip and and so better for better for worse, it is the process andchange the process. You got to live with the the ups and downs i'm tellingwe have you back on the show we're going to talk about that. I m not onokay. I won't respond a lot to step i want to talk about. I want to go backwhat seems like twenty minutes ago to we're talking about product market fitwe're talking about you guys deciding to go pretty hardcore after aviation.You know what it what it team composition, look like as you're.Looking at here's the path forward, regardless of like where we land onproduct barkett, not everybody nails it exactly. You know we're going to needthis core team in place. How are you guys thinking about here are the thingswe need to be great at regardless of our path forward, and here are someareas where let's go find some great partners, because we're not exactlysure if that skill set is going to be super, critical or tangential or whatyeah. So we had some great leadership windshere in my movie i mean, i guess i mean me, and we also has to particularlypainful and unpleasant. You know learning experiences with regard to toteam right i mean people are people and it's amazing to work with people andit's terrible to work with people all at the same time. Right and you do yourbest. You can as a leader, to try to balance the needs of the organizationwith the needs of the people to comprise that organization, and that'sjust that's just the beautiful and terrible dynamic dance of leadership.But you know for us: we had to put in place early on multi faceted, multidomain, capable people. We need a lot of generalists right. We were anearlier stage. Company i mean our company now is eight years old, sowe're you know we're still on our high growth stage to be sure, but we're notlike an early stage start up anymore, but in the early days we had to focuson okay. Who can i get on the team? That knows a lot about a lot and thenyou know i don't have time for...

...documentation. I don't have time, foryou know, recording every little knit of everything that you need on acertain solution and then, when one or more of those people leave you you areyou see a lot of talent and on a lot of knowledge, walk out the door. So we hadthat happen on a corner, stone project. You know, adianthum. We had to relearnhow to how to you know, use electromagneticenergy elegantly inside of a tred printer, which is it's just notsomething that most people ever know. Let alone have to relearn twice, so that wasexpensive, but we got there. I got there again so so staying on the topicof challenges you know, so we talk a lot on this show about what i call thewrong side of impossible, and you know a phrase that i'm particularly fond ofis being different, doesn't make you the best, but to be the best you dohave to be different and oftentimes in technology, land being different meansthat you've solved a technical challenge that others have not eitherbecause they haven't attempted, or they didn't understand the value solving it.Can you talk about the wrong side of impossible, for you guys like what aresome technical things you needed to solve sounds like in this case, maybeneeded solve twice that you know were thanks for that. What that we in thanks for being on theshow like so you, what are a couple of thingsstarted as the wrong side of impossible? You guys needed to figure it out inorder to kind of prove out your your value prop. Well, we had to prove how to makethridi parts as strong in all in all directions and which might sound like astrange thing to say, but if you get an injection molded part, usually theinjection molded part is very close to the same strength. It has the samestrength properties in i, the three...

...major directions like x, y and z. Right.So when you build a three printed part, you have usually an x y plane and thenusually the park is grown or built in the z direction, so the shape isdefined enough and an x and y, but the height of the park is usually definedand z. Well, usually, the z direction is very weak because it's a little bitlike a deck of playing cards right, you have the playing cards and they're,like you, know fifty two cards in the deck, and so, if you, if you grab thecards in your hand and you pull on them in the direction of the playing cardsthemselves, then they're very strong. But if you just lift one card off thetop of the deck like you're cutting the deck, you just cut the deck, it'seffortless to cut the deck, because there's no real strength in thatdirection. The cards are not connected, one to the other, and so we had tosolve that for the d printing and we did we created thratin ed parts thatwere as strong in all directions, which means their isotropic. So you sort ofhave x, y and z, strength properties that do not different if that are notdifferent from each other, which means then, as an engineer, you can actuallydesign for additive, which is like this next phase of a beautiful wonder, morewonderful, miraculous future, where you're designing to use additivemanufacturing as your manufacturing process of choice. But until that timepeople have to trust the technology, learn the technology, trust thetechnology, and so i would posit that the technology is right for prime timebecause in large part we've been able to solve this really classic. You knowmulti decade, long problem around making threatinin parts strong in alldirections. So we solve that and we call that flash fews technology that'llbe widely part of orico system here shortly. So flash few is one of theways that you put it to me previously was proving that you can heat upplastic parts on slow printers, and can you explain that what that means yeah?So when you build when you build three printed parts historically, you sort ofhave this point source of heat, and it's usually like the nazal, like theheated nozzle you can in about like a...

...hot glue, gun right. The hot blue gunhas this hot nozzle and it's melting plastic and you're moving the nozzlearound and you're printing apart. So the part in the plastic are hot rightwhen it's leaving the nozzle, that's a point source of heat with flash fews.What we did is we basically created a halo. You can think about like a halothat goes around the nozzle and it creates a diffused energy field, and soyou can you think of it like a shower head of just raining down energy. It'sraining down, electro my medic energy, and we started out with microwaves. Westarted, then we moved into rf, so sort of in the the mega herds, frequencyband and then now we're in the killer, herds, megared, sort of hybrid bandarea, and so we're reining energy down on the printed part. Well, you have tocouple that energy to something or it's just wasted energy. So we couple theenergy to electrically conductive plastics, so our plastics themselvesare electrically conducted. So we kind of did two impossible things. We kindof figured out how to rain down energy on to a ray printed part as theirthirty printed part is being built, and then we also figured out a couple:electromagnetic energy to plastic, which is normally inert to electro.Memetic energy doesn't really head up and you put a plastic in in a microwavelike a plastic fork, you i mean plasta form, make it a little warm, but it'snot going to melt you're, not going to mount the pasta for and a microwaveright. So so we figured out how to make plasticelectrically conductive. Those are two multi domain problems in involvingnanotechnology and material science and chemistry and chemical engineering and software engineering and beer. You know a lot of hard work, sowe got to so you know one of the things that we see. A lot is like i said this,this wrong side of impossible. You know hard problems. Ten, there oftentimesheart problems that are the correct problems, equals valuable problemssolved.

What's next, for you guys like what'sthe next big, valuable, interesting, hard thing, you're going after thatthat you can tell us about, i understand, there's probably you knowsome things on the multi year horizon can't talk about today. But what are wegoing to see out of a centium in you know, next weeks to months weeks to months, you'll see you knowadditional types of printers, so we're, certainly you know continuing to movequickly down the pitch at a fastest paces, as we can on more and betterrobots. You know i mean the the printer is important in the printer is notimportant. You have to have a great printer, so you can process thematerial and leave behind a good part. So you need to really focus on on therobotic side of it. The automation side, the servo loop serve up control closelike motor feedback in the machine. The firm were all you have to focus onthose machines you really do, but, and so you always need to sort of evolveand continue to make your machines. You know better, and in our case that meansmaking sure that you get great parts off the printer, the first time andevery time, not just the parts of the printer really really fast, which arealready really really good at. But we want to make our parts themselvesbetter and in terms of that first time, print success and the part surfacefinished in the aesthetics and all these things that are also important tothe actual success of the part, so we'll be rolling out a number ofhardware solutions and software solutions as well aimed at the userexperience aimed at that part quality and the part you know, presentationitself. So that's going to be a key area focus for us in the very near term,also more materials, you know as centium is. Actually i talk a lot aboutthe machine. The reality is that we are in materials to first company, so i'm arecovering material, scientist myself and the end of the day you sort ofthink about well materials are kind of the thing that matters the most,because it's what you're left within your hand, you put a knife on, in yourhand, is composed of materials. The iphone is not composed of the mills andthe lades and the machines that made the fount the materials in the phone or,what's that behind right, so we have a...

...number of materials that were rollingout. We're really excited about high strength, high speed, high temperaturematerials, so just pushing the envelope for more and better solutions to bebrought to bear on the design problems in additive. So, okay, now we'rezooming out to a higher altitude. Moving to a close here, you've been inthe space for a while. You guys are kind of at the cross roads of some coolareas. In tech, especially, you know specifically additive in aviation, ithink that's not aware of anybody else at that at that particular cross roadswho, who out there in it land. You know what other company aside from yours.Are you looking at and thinking man? These guys are doing some cool thingsnobody's talking about him could be consumer could be industrial could bewhatever you know who out there should. Should the audience be be known aboutbe thinking about yeah. I think what one of the thingsalso i'm glad you brought that up rind, because one of the things that we arealso going to focus on with some partners in this is where you reallyneed great partners would be certainly on the software and the digital side ofthe business, making sure that you're managing the digital experience and theconnected machine experience to the best degree that you can, and so therewill need to be solutions around the capability set for network, enabled thenetwork connected machines. Also, the security set cyber security out of themachines themselves operate in a trust with environment.That's vitally important. We can't see you know ourselves allowing ourcustomers to get hacked. You know and that's you know. Cyber securityprofiles are a major concern, and so i would you know us, give a shout out toone of our partners in the space. You know. Materialize is a software companythat we've been working with they're out of bell gone and they make reallygreat software. Also there's a company here in the united states calleddendrite, that is out of the seattle...

...area and they're working with m hp aswell on the universal built manager, and so you see this movement forward insoftware in the out of manufacturing landscape, and this is crucial for thenext generation of design. The reason why i say it's crucial is because youcan now actually manufacture things on the machine that are really difficultto design in software, so you have like. We actually now need software to cometo the party more completely to enable next generation design. I mean i was adesigner in my past and you could design stuff in cab. That was notmanufacturable, but now it's actually much more difficult to design.Something that you cannot actually make using out in manufacturing, so thesoftware tools have to evolve. I would argue to re flip that paradise again,because otherwise, if you think about it, where does the next generation ofcreativity come from when you have to design an ideate and create itdigitally? First, whatever the it is before you can create the hit for thefirst time in the in the built world, so software s got to catch up. I wouldsay awesome last question for you blake, sofor folks out there listening like in what you have to say, how can i canfolks keep up with you yeah so definitely head on over to a centimoand we, you know we update a blog postings and our digital and our videocontent. All the time we've got. A presence on linked in we've got apresence on twitter, and so you know take a look there and you know we'dlove to we'd love to stay in touch. We would love that with o the conversationaround how to build. You know for the future and how to advance manufacturingglobally. That's that's what we think about every day: cool, well, blake,thanks for being on the show today. Folks, that's all we've got for thisparticular episode of ota. If you'd like to be a guest on the show, you canemail us at podcast at very possible...

...and if you're out there listening frommaterialized or dendry love to have you otherwise feel free. To give us a shout,my name is ryan prosser blake. I appreciate you being on the show.Thanks for listening, everybody will see you on the internet. You shouldn't have to worry about iotprojects dragging on or unreliable vendors. You've got enough on yourplate. The right team of engineers and project managers can change a pivotalmoment for your business into your competitive edge. Various close knitcrew of ambitious problem, solvers, continuous improvers and curiousbuilders know how to turn your ideas into a reality on time and up to yourstandards, with a focus on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunity willhelp you build an iot solution that you can hang your hat on. Let's bring youour iot idea to life, learn more at very possible com. You've beenlistening to over the air iot connected devices and the journey, if you enjoyto day's episode, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcastplayer and give us a rating, have a question or an idea for a futureepisode. Send it to podcast at very possible com. See you next time. I.

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