Welcome to SME’s AM influencer series, dedicated to the passionate professionals who volunteer with SME to connect the digital thread of Additive Manufacturing - within traditional Manufacturing.
My name is Adam Penna, your host. Leading customer engagement for our SME Additive Manufacturing community.
My guest today is Andrew Snow, senior vice president of EOS North America. EOS provides responsible manufacturing solutions via industrial 3D technology to manufacturers around the world, connecting high quality production efficiency with its pioneering innovation and sustainable practices. The independent company formed in 1989 will shape the future of manufacturing, powered by its platform driven digital value network of machines and holistic portfolio services, materials, and processes. EOS is deeply committed to fulfilling its customers' needs and acting responsibly for our planet. Andy himself is a results-oriented sales and marketing executive with over 30 years of international experience. A strategic thinker with proven ability to drive additive manufacturing solutions that enable service providers and OEMs to efficiently develop and deliver their high-quality products. Recognized as a dynamic leader and an energetic manager, and I know that for a fact, with extensive knowledge in industrial 3D printing technologies, powder bed fusion technologies, including a background in plastic injection molding.
What was your first experience with additive manufacturing?
So my first experience was back in the mid-1990s. I cut my teeth in sales and business development in the aerospace industry, and I was looking for a little change, and I applied to a position, to a company, little known as DTM corporation which if you are a dinosaur in this industry like myself and you, you’d know that they were one of the co-inventors along with EOS of selective laser centering. I was hired as a district sales manager for the east coast, and that’s where I got my start in additive manufacturing.
When you first started working with these machines, what were some of the applications that jumped out to you?
I mean the early applications were strictly prototyping, and really designing for additive manufacturing, which proved at that time to be quite a challenge for a lot of organizations. When I look back 20 years ago, the landscape has really significantly changed from just a number of companies that were driving the industry, such as 3D systems, DTM, Stratasys, EOS, from the European perspective. But if I look at it now, what the landscape looks like and what’s changed, currently there are more than 150 companies now represented in the space. You know 3D printing and manufacturers for polymer, desktop machines, metal ceramic machines, skies the limit. And now they’re, unlike two decades ago, there are software vendors addressing all sorts of aspects of caps, simulation, workflow, security, applications, so that’s a huge change. Also, what’s really changed is the material supply chain. Before there was just a handful of material OEMs supplying, now there’s all sorts of vendors providing different polymers, different composites. Metal is taking off, as we all know, in the industry. One other thing that really supports additive manufacturing is the digital supply chain of post processing systems, bringing it all together. It’s been an unbelievable journey, from what I’ve learned from the very beginning, to what it is today.
What were some of the early hurdles you had to get over for additive manufacturing back in those days?
Well as you know we’re trying to complement traditional manufacturing, which impedes innovation to a degree, and sustainability, and the supply chain to some extent. You really had to bring the AM representation of a paradigm shift in design, and manufacturing, and distribution. I mean you always have to make that comparison between traditional and additive. From a design perspective, with additive you can get into complex designs and geometries can be more efficient, whereas in traditional it’s a little bit more restrictive, so there’s always an issue there. And then you always have the message of sustainability. It’s more of a circular economy when it comes to additive manufacturing and sustainability vs traditional. It’s a little bit of innovation with a lot of waste. And then certainly we’re always promoting the ability to have distributed manufacturing, rather than centralized and industrialized manufacturing in one spot, where you can be more distributive. These were always the early hurdles of trying to deliver that message of the value proposition of additive manufacturing. You always have that compared to the traditional paradigm.
What would your advice be to the manufacturers who would like to learn more about implementing or adopting AM?
Well, I’ve always been an advocate of try before you buy. We have a rather broad network of service providers and contract manufacturers that have adopted or have been early adopters of additive manufacturing, here in North America and abroad. And I would always suggest that if people are interested in it, to work with one of our partners in the industry and learn from them on how they can best adopt it and maybe use it to its best ability for enhancing their operational flexibility possibly, or speed to market, and that would be my first advice, rather than just kind of jumping in. But to learn together cooperatively with our network partners out there. And then if they see the value proposition for their business model in their application, then they can start chatting with EOS or other manufacturers out there to be able to bring it in house.
What role do you think AM has in the broader manufacturing industry?
It plays in as a complimentary technology. It’s not going to ever displace traditional manufacturing; it's going to be a compliment. You know honestly what I would consider the ecosystem of additive manufacturing is it grows, and compliments traditional manufacturing. I think what’s going to happen is, the customers that are requiring it in their applications is going to continue to grow customized machinery. I really think that’s an area where you’re actually creating platforms specifically for customer applications. It’s not one platform meets everybody’s needs so I certainly see how that will shape things as well. And we’ll continue to grow in areas of partnerships, because a lot of what’s driving the industry is the government. Government applications that then get cascaded down into the commercial sector, and you see a lot of these things come from various universities and consortiums within those universities and organizations like the American Makes, organizations like Texas A&M, Secure America, you know these are where a lot of the future developments are taking place within these operations, and they have close alignment with government agencies and support from them. I think this is an area that we need to keep a close eye on in terms of the various manufacturing engineers, the applied sciences that come out of there, and the research and training applications and the outreach that they have are really going to drive this industry further. And quite honestly, SME plays a huge part in that too, and what’s important from my relationship with SME, and specifically RAPID + TCT and what they bring to the table is SME’s ability to build networks. And to provide the industry the tools to help grow the younger generation through various trainings, AM certifications, keeping people informed on news and industry trends, things of that nature. And obviously hosting important events like RAPID. And for us at EOS, RAPID represents one of our premiere trade shows here in the manufacturing industry.
How have you seen things develop with RAPID + TCT over the years with the SME event?
Well like I said it’s very important for us to participate in because it is one of our pillar events. And as I just mentioned, I think having the ability to network with not just your customers, or people that are interested in the technology, but collaborate also with partners in the ecosystem. Also catch up with competitive intel as well. I think RAPID really provides that platform that allows us to collaborate and network and build on networks that we have already established. I think SME is a real educational foundation for additive and promoting additive. I like the collaboration that they have with other like organizations, like I believe that there’s some collaboration with the association with advanced manufacturing. But there’s close collaboration there and now obviously they’re merging with TCT and have more of a global reach with those folks, which is great.
Is there anything specifically you’re looking forward to this year at RAPID + TCT? Or you can give us a preview of what EOS will be doing this year.
We’ll be highlighting at RAPID this year as the M300 new platform, the metal laser printing platform that we have. So that will be the centerpiece of our booth this year. So largely we’ll be kicking that off and promoting that as our next generation laser fusion platform. Looking forward to that and looking forward to educating the community on our next generation technology.
What would you say defines the additive manufacturing community?
I would say innovative thinkers defines it. People who are risk takers, people that are highly visionary defines additive manufacturing. People that recognize the shift in design manufacturing and distribution, and what their value proposition is associated with that. That’s what defines it. The flexibility of the use of additive manufacturing in parallel with the support of traditional manufacturing. As you know Adam, they go hand and hand. Additive manufacturing can’t survive or be productive without the use of traditional processes to complement the technology. People that have that vision of being able to work with and integrate into the supply chain, the technology, especially for the distributive manufacturing model. And the need, even though it’s not a high value production process, but certainly it’s great for those one-offs or low volume applications. And people can see that they can save money along those lines and speed to market, and be a little bit more productive on those low volume applications.
What are those key applications you’ve seen in additive that are exciting to people?
When I start thinking about some of the benefits of it, and what additive manufacturing can actually bring, it can facilitate lightweight designs. This is, as we all know, the population in the rocketry industry seems to be taking off with additive manufacturing. And quite honestly light-weighting is a real key to that, because as we all know with the majority of the rockets if you take weight off of it or weight out of the airplane the economy of scale goes way up, the carbon footprint goes way down, so there’s a real area there that I see as being a huge benefit to a variety of designs when you get into light weighting and quite honestly it could also be in vehicle designs. Not just launch vehicles but also automotive, light weighting in automotive, and how that can apply to even the electric car industry. You always want to pull weight out of it but maintain the mechanical integrity of that particular design. And we always know that’s the case in certainly the orthopedic area of implants. Whether they can get the osseointegration with the lattice work where they both can grow in. I mean the ceiling keeps on going up.
What advice would you give to the next generation coming into additive manufacturing?
Other than the wow factor of additive manufacturing that attracts the younger generation, the younger generation is being taught how to design for additive manufacturing. The universities across the United States and some of the different educational institutions are now offering courses to design for additive manufacturing. What we’re seeing is a shift where there are restrictions in traditional manufacturing on how you can design a part. With additive, there are no restrictions. And with the younger generation they’re thinking out of the box automatically. They aren’t looking at design rules, they’re just using the tools that they have in CAD just to design almost like freelancing, or freeform design, to allow them to be able to come up with products. And then knowing that it can be printed rather than have the restrictions of traditional manufacturing. The freedom of creation is what is going to attract the younger generation to additive manufacturing, I think.
How do you see additive manufacturing evolving in the next few years?
You know I really have to look back at the ecosystem of AM. And I had mentioned earlier in this interview that there has been such a shift over the years from two decades ago where it was just a few companies that I mentioned. Like DTM that I stand out in and now with EOS. But just the variety of different organizations will support the ecosystem of additive manufacturing and the digital thread. As I mentioned the simulation, the workflow, the different applications associated with different CAD packages that are supporting the increase of different varieties of material that are being developed on different platforms. It’s just going to continue to grow in this direction. Back two decades you’re trying to sell a piece of equipment to a company that doesn’t even have CAD. So now you’re at the point where there’s so many different options from vendors out there that can support the digital thread, and I think that’s what the real future is. That investment there. Also, I think the important thing is the partnerships that you have to establish to be with the different government agencies, the consortiums, the universities, all these different research and technology outreach organizations is going to be really important to grow various applications that I think are into the future. As I believe the next generation applications for additive manufacturing is going to be in hypersonics. It starts at having those partnerships with various government agencies and industrial partners in different consortiums like the America Makes and obviously the one that we most recently joined is with Texas A&M University and Secure America and their work that they’re doing in hypersonics. This is an area that’s really going to jump start the next level of additive manufacturing in the next few years for sure.