Today on the AM Influencer Series, I am pleased to welcome our guest, Alexandre Donnadieu, managing director of North America for 3YOURMIND.
3YOURMIND is automation software to prepare additive manufacturing part selection, ordering, and production workflows for Industry 4.0
What was your first experience with additive manufacturing like?
I didn’t start as a user of additive manufacturing, but before joining 3YOURMIND and being in additive manufacturing I use to be a consultant, a strategy and transformation consultant, mainly doing stuff with COO’s a big enterprise for national firms, helping them define their industrial strategies with high competence in digital transformation. Coming from the other view of the value chain, tackling a lot of supply chain topics through the eyes of additive manufacturing being one solution to have in the value chain. To be honest the first time I actually saw things running with additive manufacturing was jewelry, if I’m not mistaken it was with Chanel, who started to do some prototype for the jewelry, and they had a quite impressive model. But I think it was, the first impression that something as fine as luxury could be produced by a printer, was quite impressive for me, and then as a consultant knowing more about that technology, but especially how it fits to the value chain was very attractive to me.
You need this first rush, where you’re just starting to figure out the potential of the things, you know, everybody will tell you all the options that it offers, even if you’re not operating the printer, what could I do next with that is just crazy. And when you remember, by the way at the time, I think it was back in 2013 or 2014, and then there was this huge hype of additive manufacturing where everybody thought we could do anything with it. And the trend went up, a lot of investments were done, every CEO and COO of big companies wanted to have this included in their manufacturing roadmap. But then 2016, 2017 arrived, and more companies went to the game and just realized it was not that easy to upgrade to additive manufacturing, it’s not going to be the thing that everybody could have at home and click and get the part being ready for repairing their washing machine or what not. And that was an interesting part or so of measuring additive manufacturing I believe.
So many things stick from that time. For example, it happens so often when someone doesn’t know exactly what additive manufacturing does, because they’re not from the industry and so on, that say, ‘Hey, I heard that you can print a gun,’ I always hear that. No that’s not the primary thing you do with additive manufacturing, there’s so many other things you can do, but there is kind of like a gap, and I think we’ll touch on that with this discussion, between the image of additive manufacturing on the outside of the additive manufacturing world, and what is the reality of 3D printing.
What do you see is the impact that additive manufacturing is having inside of manufacturing?
Well because it is inside, and you have to remember that it’s not outside and sometimes indeed it looks like it. I think that’s a big question, but first of all manufacturing has kind of changed, and is evolving, with or without additive manufacturing. Big trends are really happening in what we call the world of advent manufacturing. And here, we need to find the right push, identify the right push of additive manufacturing, where additive manufacturing could be enhancing the existing value of the chain of advent manufacturing. There is, as far as I remember, the breakdown of big tendencies of manufacturing into three big archetypes, so to speak, for smart manufacturing, one is large scale production, another one is smart automated plants, so this is what we talk about most of the time with additive manufacturing, and the last is highly customizable customer-centric plants, so where you have a lot of adaptivity and flexibility, that’s kind of like the three big trends of additive manufacturing I would say in general. I think it fits pretty well these types of archetypes. Additive manufacturing will for sure have two of these trends which is the smart automated plants, and everything ready to highly adaptable, customer-centric factories, and that’s where I see additive manufacturing helping the most. To be honest, if we talk just about automation, there is a saying that by 2025, the customer will be the first human to touch more than 20% of the product, that’s the smart automated plants, it’s not only for manufacturing by the way, but also for agriculture, more and more. So that trend, when you think about a factory or a contract manufacturer, with all 3D printers that’s kind of like this automation that can be the most advanced in additive manufacturing. And automation, even in most advanced industries like, let’s say Germany, there’s still like more than 50% potential of automation in the main manufacturing business, in Germany for example. There’s still a high potential, a high need for automation in different sectors. And for everything ready to customization - when we talk about the highly adaptable customer-centric plant, additive manufacturing is clearly a technology that can help to shorten the innovation cycles, throughout all the production cycles to meet the needs of the customer. So not only the requirements, but also the behavior when using parts of that produced will be with AM, and I know that with 3YOURMIND, when we create digital thread we can give some feedback clues about the product, or the print of the part, and race the data for the next part to be produced in a better way, so being able to have this flexibility in the production process, collecting the data directly from the customer, is also a very high potential for adapting to the need of the customer throughout the time and usage of the project.
Our approach is that the Manufacturing Acquisition System is just one piece of the overall vision for creating digital thread. I think moving forward, more and more manufacturing companies or industrial companies will need to have a software system that will bring different pieces together. Not only what’s happening on the shop floor, but also on the qualification of the part, even the identification of the use cases. So, our approach is more like having a thread that entails not only MES, but also function IT’s we find in our ARP system, and product life cycle management to have first of all the customers to identify the best use case towards the right data, the right place, collect that data throughout the whole cycle of production of course, up to the machine connectivity and print money train. But, although it looks a little bit ambitious to tie this together, I think it’s the only way forward if we really want to help big customers. We work with the USDOD, Department of Defense, and help design that type of digital workflow. Their environment is so complex that we need to tie all this together. There are so many personas and players throughout the AM value chain, you need to have the experts in technology, the experts in materials, the experts in certification, the designers, the business owners all together, working that type of environment to make sense out of AM, so just one piece is not enough. We tie this together with one digital thread, and for us, it’s not just about how we do manage the machines, but most importantly for us is how do we help our customers design and produce better parts, because this is the end of the game, producing, identifying, qualifying and producing better parts with additive manufacturing.
What would your advice be for different manufacturers getting involved with or implementing and adopting AM?
It’s funny, because this question is about how do we advise, how do we also convince traditional manufacturing users to get into AM? It’s not an easy thing, because I have a different mixed experience with that. I remember back in the day, I think three years ago, I went to an automotive show, and started to speak to a gentlemen from a French company, a big auto manufacturing one, about additive manufacturing, and this guy was actually a designer from some company I don’t remember exactly, but it was so funny because when I started to talk to him about what he thinks about AM, if he’s using AM or not, I felt like I was a Jehovah's Witness. ‘Get away with your beliefs, it doesn’t exist, additive manufacturing will never work for what I do,’ and so forth, and it was so funny to see that because on the other end, we knew that so many use cases were covering that type of product, in general the learning for that is that we have to help first, before giving any advice on how to adopt, we need to help the people to understand we’re additive manufacturing as an add-on to manufacturing, kind of where does it apply within value chain, so we have to help them identify the best use cases first, and identify the potential of additive manufacturing. I often say also, for that, they shouldn’t talk to printer vendors first. If they want to get into additive manufacturing don’t talk to the printer vendors. Of course their technologies are very thorough and so on, but I think it was a little bit of a mistake of the industry early on is like, a printer vendor knocks at the door, and then you open and say hey what technology do you have, okay so you buy the technology and you test the technology, but we didn’t have enough a holistic business model based approach to identify what would be the best technology, so for me, the best advice I would say is basically first of all building a competency center, within the organization with combining technology owners, designers, natural scientist and so on working together, and first of all business owners as well which is very important as well as supply chain managers, for example with creating this competency center that would work on potential use cases, finding how additive manufacturing can help your current processes in product. The way you design products on one end, but also considering everything related to maintenance, tooling, repair, these things that are about maintaining your operation up to speed but also the aftermarket of spare parts. Even though a lot of people are still skeptical about the market, especially in automotive, I believe that, and we already have some proof, that there is a lot of potential in aftermarkets to identify which parts have to be stored physically and which parts could be stored digitally and produced on demand AM.
Have you seen that interest pick up from clients you work with out there as far as looking at their inventory?
Big time actually. So before the pandemic a lot of people would say, because there was the PPE protective equipment use cases and so on, to fix the value chain with additive manufacturing, it was very enticing, very exciting for everybody, and beckoning, but soon enough for a lot of application, injection modeling picked up so if you look at the risk during the pandemic was to think that AM is just a solution for fixing a situation that is broken during the supply chain crisis. Some of the effects of the high-profile manufacturing during the pandemic was that, but still some savvy users looked at the technology more in depth and said okay now we have to shift our supply chain from a cost-base decision-making supply chain to a risk-based or flexibility-based supply chain model. We operate a big installation; we have a lot of parts being replenished and shipped from many different suppliers in many different countries. We need to have a better grasp over our operations. And this happened in some industries, for example, big time in the defense industry, starting a very big project with the defense industry who screened several thousand of parts, creating a digital inventory for them, and we worked with three armies in France, in Germany, in the U.S., so the defense industry has really seen the benefits and started shifting into more supply chain driven additive manufacturing. Then also in transportation a lot we saw as well. We have a case for example of a French company that is basically using our software to screen thousands and thousands of parts, then processing the life-cycle of this part throughout our software. This industry has really discovered the potential of flexivizing the supply chain, relocating production a lot, for some states like Michigan that are now re-industrializing part of their capacities, thanks to additive manufacturing. In a nutshell there is a little bit of a hype during the pandemic that is kind of mirage about what additive manufacturing kind of replaced, injection modeling for example, medical, there was already a trend in medical that was going there, but, in other industries, many have figured out that additive manufacturing actually has a tremendous way to help them create more distributable manufacturing models with better flexibility in supply chains.
What are you looking forward to at RAPID + TCT this year?
First of all, we’ll be there. I was at the last edition two years ago in Detroit, it was awesome. Actually, for me it’s a change in America. A big event is more like a conference, RAPID is really the tradeshow where you have the most interaction with a very broad audience and sometimes people that are not just in manufacturing, with a very good confidence track. Usually, I learn a lot during RAPID. It’s always extremely busy. I’m not sure how it’ll be this year, I’m pretty positive it’ll be a lot of people coming, not as much as before because of the pandemic, not sure but we’ve seen other events before I think it’s picking up, so I’m really positive that it’ll be a good show.
What role do you see SME playing in the additive manufacturing space?
SME is to me, and this is the way I’m understanding the organization that really is more than additive manufacturing - additive manufacturing is just a part of the picture. SME is seeing how to promote, and events, manufacturing as a whole, within global supply chains, with different companies. I see SME as really being a push to promote this link I was talking about between manufacturing and additive manufacturing the best way, with a really well-structured executive board, with the right competency to bring all of this together. Because I believe additive manufacturing has a risk of tribalization somehow because in the way it’s structured but also in the knowledge itself, kind of like creating some sort of effect of tribal knowledge because a lot of owners of additive manufacturing are sometimes, less and less, but isolated from the additive manufacturing value chain as a whole. There are super experts, they do some events mainly together, it’s really specialists and we would benefit on capitalizing more systematically in a more standardized way on the learnings we have, transmitting this information, educating people outside of additive manufacturing, but leveraging universities as well, because I think SME is also doing that. Doing events with universities, doing events for recruiting people in the industry, so working with young people coming in and educating them. Also doing information and awareness to enterprises that are considering additive manufacturing, with that position of knowing manufacturing as a whole value chain as SME has. I think that’s a great push forward for our industry.
What do you think really defines the AM community?
Like I said, first of all I think it’s an industry of very, very advanced experts, and when you go to an event and know pretty much everyone from the industry, in the U.S you come across a lot of the same people. It’s still a quite small industry, might even be less than 2%, but you see first of all a lot of different generations. It’s kind of a generational melting pot in additive manufacturing I would say. You have people that started in the 80s to use the first printers, to really bring the technology where it is right now. And you have all of the new generations that are attracted to the mix between the hardware and the software, and it’s interesting to see that in the organization, even big enterprises, the owners of additive manufacturing are often very young people. It’s this mix that makes a feeling of family with really experienced professionals that own very deep processes, and new people coming in and wanting to push the community further. And it’s a mix of people that want to discover, like explorers somehow, innovate and really want to create new things with additive manufacturing, real creators, based on what we say to the community of makers. I also believe in some sense to be there in this industry, we need to also sometimes be a little bit reckless, but have some sort of magnificent recklessness, like one of the first explorers of the Americas. Being out there and trying to push things forward, because the road ahead of us is as clear as other industries of course. We are in this very innovative field, and so I feel like we also need to be a little bit cocky to get there. But yeah, it’s one of the most exciting communities I’ve seen in the industry in general in manufacturing.
Mainly we need to make a little self-creativity, and that’s for me one of the main motivations to get here is really to create something. To be honest, it’s a little bit of a feeling of being a part of history, but also on the other end sometimes when you knock at the door, like I said before, it feels like you’re a little bit like a Jehovah's Witness. But it’s also on us to find the right use cases and the right plug to convince the broader range of manufacturing users that additive manufacturing has huge potential for the future.
What’s your advice for attracting that young generation into the workforce for additive manufacturing?
To be honest, I think younger generations are attracted to additive manufacturing. The question might be more, how do we make sure they have the right tools to enter the field and to grow the field? How do we capitalize on the knowledge of the experienced generation of additive manufacturers to really help universities? There is for example Ohio State University that has an amazing program for additive manufacturing, but there are a lot of universities in the U.S. We have us in the industry to help these guys, these women and men in the university to train newcomers, give them the right tools and understand what the state of the art of additive manufacturing is. Collaborate with them, we do that with universities, we give them our technology to understand how to create, how to learn from the way they print to improve their parts, and learn how to identify new use cases, and so on. I think it’s more of a question of giving them the right tools, because they will be excited to join I think. The front end of additive manufacturing is exciting, the hype is still there, but maybe there’s something, one group of publishers still need to attract a bit more, is getting more to young women I would say. Because I believe manufacturing in general is still an industry that needs to attract women talents that have more diversity because it’s still a very male-driven environment, and moving forward I think that’s one bit of an attractiveness topic to tackle as well. But I’m positive that actually additive manufacturing is attracting the relevant young and smart people needed for growing the industry.
Manufacturing as a whole, has the question, where does a young engineer go after graduating? Finance or manufacturing? When you think about it, maybe there are too many engineers going into finance. But in general, I think there is that attractive question of getting the right engineer, the right talent, going into making things, making products, which is something very, very valuable for our communities. There’s an ongoing scheme, and also competing with other fields, like finance. We need financial people, but maybe we have too many. Or lawyers?
Going forward, how do you see AM evolving in the next few years?
I’d like to say that making a prediction is very complicated, especially about the future. It’s hard to say, I think there are a lot of trends we have to consider. There are a lot of trends I would say that shape a little bit of what we could see for the future of additive manufacturing, but that’s also some obstacle that I think need to be able to come to, how this trend is being realized. But in terms of microtrend, and this is also kind of like my background and what I’m working with 3YOURMIND, I see one important trend which is based on Moore’s Law. Basically, the technology calls advancement double every year, two years, or three years, which makes innovation basically exponential. It appears that most of the new technology followed that trend, and especially when it comes to competition powers for example. If you look at the exponential trend of digital in general, we need to consider the trend of data usage, computational powers into account into how the manufacturing world will move forward. Of course, we have to consider digitization and a better use of data, and if you use Moore’s Law, which is an exponential growth of let’s say computational power, it means that today in 2021 we know probably 6% of what the power of digital will be in 2026. We have to take that into account when we want to talk about the future. Here we definitely put in manufacturing use, and really leverage the power of data. Digital will play a huge role in automation, and in that we’ll see more and more companies getting into their own private cause and using and leveraging this technology and creating workflows with one platform being able to entail well-defined data schemas. That’s where we’re going, I think. More digital to operationalize additive manufacturing, and leverage the potential of the technology. An example of that by the way, we’ll see more of this type of case not only for manufacturers of new parts but also in spare parts, because recently ASTON, the French company, has released an announcement that they reduced by 95% lead time for getting spare parts thanks to additive manufacturing, so we are starting to work with them on that as well. Create that thread to get spare parts on the mend and really reduce the time creating the inventory, and a way to get that part done quite easily. Another example, I think SHELL has probably digitized between 5-10% of the inventory in some business unit that creates this inventory, so we’ll see more and more of this type of on-demand digital-based production models. Software is moving a lot towards this direction. There are new tires coming into help that, probably looking at technology that really can help leverage that and maybe challenge a little bit other places and they’re creating an interesting technology with HP, so there will be a lot of change and new actions in digital that will have to be followed. In terms of the hardware, one of the things I like to see more and more of these days is the power and the hope there is in binder jetting. More and more companies are investing in binder jetting, things being created, start-ups, based on the use of binder jetting, metal or polymers, and here I see some hope also to cross the chasm of productivity. In general, there is another trend that I think we need to talk about for the future, is kind of a more open value chain in additive manufacturing, because even though we talk about this really friendly community of AM and so on, it’s still very separated in terms of technology. You have the material, you have the technology, you have the operator’s machines, and so far, technology is quite closed, material is quite closed, and it could be a hurdle for users. And sometimes some software is closed. This is not a sense of history in any industry, it has to be more open than that. I think it will go with the maturity of technology, it will go with the use case, and it will be pushed by the end users, but we’ll see I believe more and more of this open value chain, and more interoperability. Basically, that would be the trend I would see as some of the most important. We could talk about other models, but like I said at least before getting there we will have some challenges to solve that will first of all be building better standards in the industry and finding ways to really advocate for the best business cases for AM. Starting not with implementing technology before finding the right application and the right business case, working on maturing development to have better properties and also better cost, and of course getting ready for education. Educating not only newcomers but existing players of the manufacturing world.
Anything else to add while we have you here today?
I hope to come to Austin soon and see you in person, and at RAPID + TCT!