Skip to content

AM Community Conversation with Brennon White, Additive Design & Manufacturing Product Applications Engineer at General Motors

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 Brennon White, an additive manufacturing applications engineer working on interior applications for the General Motors additive design and manufacturing group. The group focus is on advanced additive manufacturing technologies with applications from manufacturing to equipment, to accelerate product development, and low volume production implementation.

Brennon is responsible for developing GM’s additive manufacturing educational infrastructure, and supporting development of the additive manufacturing industrialization process.

He also supports organizations like SME, where he has been a technical advisor and a session chair, for the business and economics track, since 2013.

Brennon has 24 years of experience in automotive interior product design, and advanced development. He holds 18+ patents, and has taken product from innovation through production launch. This gives him a view of the entire automotive manufacturing ecosystem.

His passion for the last decade has been to use this knowledge to advance and adopt the field of additive manufacturing to support automotive needs. 

What was your first experience with Additive Manufacturing? 

I’d say you know I was a tier 1 supplier to GM before I was at GM, so back then, it was probably 1997, I saw my first FDM machine making a small part at one of my suppliers, and I thought that was pretty cool and had used it ongoing quite a bit for probably the better part of a couple of decades actually from there. But I really got serious about additive in 2011 when I saw my first metal printer part, and realized that additive had grown up a little bit and was something to take seriously now. 

I had been in and out of R & D and actual manufacturing my entire career, so back in 2011 I was fortunate enough to get back into R & D, and the company I was with was generous, they basically said, ‘Find something to make us money.’ So I started building pipelines of information on new technologies and that’s where I ran across it. I got so passionate about it, for the next four years that company allowed me to really explore the realm of additive manufacturing. All sorts and forms of it so we could start using it for all sorts of things like manufacturing aids and product development. But literally they even allowed me to fly to Europe to interact with professors at Okan University so that I could really understand things like metal printing and other areas that we were investigating on the tooling side as well. 

I would say the majority of what I saw early on was more prototype for product development, you know celebrating our product development curves. I really didn’t see good use of the tooling side of it until we started to push it more towards manufacturing aids, ergonomic assist devices. Instead of a big heavy metal part I can make a pretty tough polymer part and reduce all the weight and still get the same functionality out of it. At not only a fraction of the cost, but a fraction of the time. It was like a three-fold winner. And so that was where I started using it and seeing it more readily used back in the early 2010s. And we also started seeing in 2005 or so, our company had already been engaging and using it for conformal cooling inserts for injection mold tools. We actually had one application in that space where we were having not only quality problems, but really slow fill time on our injection mold, and by using the conformal inserts we actually took a two-minute cycle time down to 30 seconds and got rid of all of our quality issues. You know that speaks to the opportunity to take something that’s going to cost a tremendous amount for a larger tool, shrink the tool and the press size down so now you’ve got not only the speed to get the parts out and done right, but also reduce your economics on it as well. That’s continuing to today, you know GM is seeing good use of it in spaces like high pressure die cast tools and things like that. Where we’re using the same type of technology, but to really increase the durability of those really expensive tools. High pressure die cast tools can cost in the millions, so it’s a big space where you can really take good advantage of technology. 

What is the impact of AM to the broad manufacturing industry as a whole?

Honestly it has four decades now accelerated the product development cycle and we see more and more of that coming along, and as the technologies evolved, we see more of it being able to be used in real functional parts instead of just fit and finish type components. So that’s a big space where we expect to increase the usage of that to accelerate and shorten our timelines. To solve problems. We have a little learning lab at GM where our engineers can learn how to use what I would call the more consumer style printers. And they can get out there and kick a part out pretty quickly, and it allows them to do very rapid problem solving, where they can get something solved in days instead of weeks or months. So that’s a big piece of it. That’s kind of something that’s always been there, but needs to continue to progress as we teach people at GM how to use it properly. But honestly there are two spaces where I think it needs to expand and we’re doing a lot to try and push that. Number one is in manufacturing aids. I talked about being able to support that, and manufacturing aids don’t all necessarily need to be printed, they can be partially printed and partially off-the-shelf components like handles, guide pins, and things like that. There’s this hybrid process you use to get a really durable and highly accurate part. But it goes beyond that, because you know in the manufacturing space being able to use it for mutilation guards and material handling, tonnage, and robot programming assistance, end effectors. There are so many different areas that manufacturing plants, while they’re using it, could use it a lot more. And that’s one of the things that we’re trying to teach also to our supply bases saying hey what about using this technology instead of going back to the other technology that takes you weeks and months to produce, where you can get a part out in maybe a couple of days, or even a day. So that’s a big space. And then the final space is really where I think a meat and potato opportunity is, is in the pre-production. So when you’re going to develop that part and see how it fits together, there’s a functional integration of having physical parts put together that, as much as you try to do in virtual arenas, you don’t necessarily get the full understanding until you’ve actually got the parts together because maybe you didn’t understand that while you thought the part could load this way, it actually has to rotate a rock a little bit in order for that to get fit in there right. And that’s the real power of additive right? How can we get those first-offs to really get a quick evaluation? That’s a big space of not just trying to see if the part looks the way you think it is, but actually functionally assembling it and making it happen. Using newer technologies like MJF where you’ve got more robust snaps for polymer parts is really critical for that functional capability. Even some of the carbon technology can get you there as well. But then when it comes to doing a launch, sometimes you need to produce any place from 10-200 vehicle sets, and being able to use that technology to fill that void instead of having to buy a prototype tool, that’s a really big bang for your buck. Because what happens is that you get those learnings faster. And instead of buying an injection mold tool that’s maybe a quick aluminum tool, that takes not only 6-10 weeks to kick out, but you can also do a part, run it through the evaluations, find a problem, and do another iteration, all in the time that you’re waiting for a tool to be developed. So that’s a big space of opportunity. And then there's the low volume production side of it. If you’ve got a very low volume product, and everybody thinks automotive is high volume, you know additive is no good for you, except in the product development space. But honestly every trim we make we try to customize to a certain level. So that might get down into the hundreds to thousands of units for very special trim levels. So that’s a big space where you can use additive to your advantage rather than buying tools you can go straight to a printer part. So that’s really where I see it being used in the automotive sector, but I see the automotive sector usage of it being able to be applied to other industries too. So hopefully that was helpful to whoever’s in a different sector. Maybe they can take some inkling or something out of that. 

Speaking on opening up the AIC, we had plans for it in 2019, but of course COVID blew everything up. But at the same time when that happened, we realized the opportunity to really use the technology to accelerate support of the medical industries. We actually got machines in April or so, and I think by May we were up and running helping to produce masks, and ear string relief for those as well as face shields and things like that. We started off running in that space, and within a couple of months everything kind of leveled out and we had actual injection mold tools. You know again that was kind of that bridge scenario where you’ve got a design but you need to get it pumped out while you’re waiting for a higher production solution. Once we got the tools ready for that to help the medical industry, then we started switching over. Another piece of that was when we supported making the ventilator systems, we actually used that technology and that facility to help develop a lot of holding fixtures and assembly aids for that particular technology. We had the manufacturing side up and running in weeks being able to produce those products. It was a real powerhouse on what we could do and the rapid response capabilities. And then like I said once we got the tools up and running for those and that kind of became self-sustaining, then we started to switch over into the product development cycle. It’s been very helpful because it helped us appreciate what the right applications were to use on it with the technologies we had, as well as continue to push for the newer technologies. So that our view is kind of to understand the whole scope of that technology center is not necessarily to be a place that pumps parts out, while that’s needed so we can appreciate what the processes need for development and for robustness, it’s really about industrializing the technology. Our goal is to bring in new equipment, evaluate what the technology can do, develop standards around the technology and kind of push the industry along, where we see shortfalls, and then cycle through again. We keep rotating through that. Right now, we’ve got polymers, we’ve got powder bed fusion type of technology, multi jet fusion. We’ve got a lot of FDM machines that are able to make those types of manufacturing devices pretty good. And then we’ve got a couple metal machines that are showing us both how we can execute on the tooling side, as well as accelerate some of our product development stuff. And we’re also using it for some of our motorsports. Anybody who’s been following the racing circuits is seeing some of the things that we’ve had a minor indent helping motorsports with, with applications that were pretty helpful. We have one really specific one that was like a ventilation air box that really kept our driver comfortably cool the entire race. And if you’ve ever been around a race car you can appreciate how much they sweat. So that could’ve been the entire opportunity for them to win the race, just being in the right frame of mind and physical condition to manage the racing conditions. Lots of opportunity. 

Do you have any advice for manufacturers that would like to learn about implementing or adopting AM? 

Honestly there are a lot of different elements that need to be engaged. First you need to learn a little bit about it, and I know people might be in a quandary about how to start learning. And I think you were going to ask me how we started adopting it, and that is a big piece of it. Start with websites to kind of appreciate what’s out there. Websites like TCT, SME, America Makes, those types of things are going to kind of give you an understanding as to what type of elements or spectrums in technologies and material sets are out there. But if you really want to get serious about it, you need to put together a team that will be able to focus on it. Because until you do that, you don’t really appreciate what the scope is. When we put our team together a little over three years ago, what we realized is that we really didn’t know all the right applications, where we could really benefit the company with. And as we started to explore that, it became very apparent on which particular things we needed to standardize and make a standard practice using additive instead of some of the other directions. But in order to do that even, you need to teach yourself. Our group went through an extensive amount of learning to understand not only what the technology was and the materials were, the equipment was, who the players were, but what were the shortfalls and where could you use it properly, and what needed to develop to work. Without that team specifically focused on it, you’re not going to get very far. So being able to drive that type of a team to do all those elements was really what made the difference for our side of things. But even beyond that, once you get into trying to understand what that technology is, you really need to standardize things. It’s one thing to understand what the technology can do, it’s a whole other thing to put the infrastructure behind it, where you not only understand how to provide a product that is maybe a pre-production level, but how do you get it into a production launch. That’s an entirely different infrastructure. It’s a huge undertaking. There are all sorts of things like production part approval processes, or PPAP for those familiar with it, the validation requirements and all those other things. You have to come up with an understanding as to, here’s the application, here are the requirements to fulfill that application, how do I line up additive to that. Most product engineers are focused on doing the development work and up their product. Even today I still struggle with my engineers at GM, even though we’ve taught a lot of them, even the people I’ve taught very specifically that additive manufacturing is not SLA, they still come back and ask for an SLA part. Because we probably had like the number two SLA machine. We’ve been doing it for years. For them, they became very comfortable with that term. So, to them, 3D printing is SLA. Until you get a team that’s focused on it and can kind of understand that and be kind of a Sherpa for those that are out there in the product development cycle, you’re not going to get very far. Because everybody is focused on developing product for your industry, they don’t understand that additive needs a little bit of encouragement to hit the requirements that are necessary. We don’t have all of the materials available for production capable sorts of assets, so you kind of have to play around with the materials and design for additive, and there’s a whole big element that is required. And if you don’t have a team around it, you’re not going to get very far. 

Speaking on GM’s goal to improve agility, speed, and production, the question is how do you get standard processes, how do you get more robust equipment? That’s a discussion back with the OEM’s. Some of the processes and technologies actually have, you know OEE is a good way to kind of evaluate technology, which basically it comes down to three key areas. One is quality, one is availability, and the other is performance. We need the equipment to be robust and have a good up time. We need the product to come out with decent dimensional capabilities and consistency. Then we need there to be a significant reduction in scrap. Let’s take the polymer space for instance. Depending on the material set and the process that you’re using, it can have anything from a 20% refresh rate requirement all the way up to 100% refresh rate. Which means you can’t reuse the same material you used to begin with. I always get a little bit of a chuckle when somebody says, ‘Oh it’s environmentally friendly.’ Well, I struggle to see that story. And I’m always open to somebody opening my eyes on it, but when you’re having to refresh that much material, there’s a lot of it that ends up in a recycling bin or a landfill. Because of that, there’s wasted energy transporting and managing that material set. Even on the metal side. Let’s say you’re printing a metal part, you can use a good majority of that powder, but there are support structures that you need to hold those parts to the bed and eliminate heat. Because of that, you have wasted time to remove the support structures - while the support structures could be recycled, you’re wasting energy by even having to print them to begin with. Energy and time. Focusing on that space is something we’re really trying to push. But then opening envelopes around, well the print envelope if you will, is a big piece. Look around your vehicle, on the inside of your vehicle, there’s not a lot of parts that fit the size of a softball, right? The struggle that we always have is, when we make prototype parts for evaluations, a lot of times we’ll bottle the parts together - wasted labor, and wasted time and design to split the parts up. We’re always pushing, and you’re going to see a big push at RAPID I think this year around this, which is how do we get print envelopes that fit our parts? And the manufacturer is always concerned about, ‘If I build a big machine, who’s going to buy it?’ We will first of all, but our supply base will buy it as well. It may cost a little bit more to make that machine, but if the machine gives us more throughput, and more capability, it’s not just about a bigger part. If I’ve got a bigger machine, I can make so many more parts. And throughput is the bane of additive, because it’s a batch process most of the time, instead of a conveyor style throughput process. All of those things, when we look at investments, those are the things that we’re looking at. Robustness, repeatability, consistency, product that meets our application needs, machines that can provide parts that meet our application needs, and material sets. I see that being a big space where we’ll have to do a lot of work in the next five to ten years, to get things that are more aligned with functional performance requirements. 

How has your experience been with the SME event, RAPID +TCT? And what are you looking forward to? 

I got to tell you, RAPID is one of the shows I look forward to every year. My favorite part of it is actually the show floor. The abstracts and all the other things are great for you to learn and appreciate what’s up and coming. But if I can’t get to that show floor, I can’t see what the manufacturers have redeveloped in the last couple of years or last year. And then to keep the relationships growing between us and our supply base, that’s pretty critical. What we find is that it’s really a global collaboration space. You get a chance to meet with the suppliers that are maybe from Germany or Asia, and really get a good understanding as to where they’re at. And then they can actually get a good understanding as to what you’re doing and what you need. Alongside the abstracts, and the show, and the show floor, you can get training, that’s a big piece of it. But then that whole getting together thing is so important. And with the pandemic last year it really killed that. There are meetings that have to take place with multiple suppliers, and to be able to do those on an ad hoc basis at your home facility when everybody is going about, it’s not very efficient. But you go to RAPID and everybody is in one place at one time, and you can have multiple meetings very frequently around specific topics or specific areas to get set up. I’m going to say, don’t try to get a meeting with GM because we probably already have a lot of meetings set up with our supply base already. But I would suggest you guys look into, ‘How do you do that? How do you meet with the big players and the manufacturing sector or the material suppliers to really understand what your needs are and where it needs to go?’ I think the big piece is that we’re starting to get more serious about organizations and conferences like SME. It’s a good forum for us to actually, as an industry, to come out and say look we need this. And you’re going to see that on the show floor at the U.S. car presentation that’s going to be at the back end of the conference. We have experts from both GM, Ford, and the U.S. Cars Arena, to really push on the actual OEM manufacturers of the equipment. To say look great that we got here, but enough of the building materials that meet your process capabilities, let’s start working on materials that actually meet our performance requirements. Let’s start working on machines that are more robust and capable. Hot swap capabilities. If a machine goes down, I want to be able to swap parts out of it really quickly, instead of taking everything down and destroying what I’ve got in the build. If there’s a way for me to do a quick conversion, those are the types of things that we’re looking for. You’re going to see a lot of discussion around that, and push from all the OEMs in the automotive industry. 

What role do you see SME playing in the Additive Manufacturing space? 

I see the continuation of that global collaboration set up. And trying to kind of knit together suppliers and users. But you know there’s other things that could be explored a bit too. For those who don’t understand the word SDO, it's the Standards Development Organization. And one thing I’ve found over the last decade, is everybody has been maturing in the additive space to try and figure out standards. Everybody seems to have their own direction that they’re running in and things that they want to focus on, but there doesn’t seem to be something very good at knitting together. And I know America Makes has tried a little bit, and I’m sure there are other organizations that I haven’t been able to keep tabs on that are working in that space, but SME can actually get in there and help a little bit to try and knit things together. Just so there’s no duplication of efforts because I think that’s a big waste of time. It’s very expensive to develop standards and testing requirements. I’ll be honest with you, one of the biggest impediments to material usage is qualification. It costs so much money to qualify material to run. And the problem that we’ve got is that every company is qualifying their own material to their own standards. To be able to get that kind of solidified, and I know U.S. Car is trying to work on that a little bit, but coming up with a globally recognized standard like an ASDM or something like that, is very helpful and is something that can drive a lot of efficiencies within us being able to adopt material usage of standard materials. In the auto industry, this is how it typically works: a materials manufacturer comes up with a new material, they understand what the requirements are to get it certified for usage in manufacturing. The materials manufacturer does the certification of it, they do all the testing, all of the qualification. They come to the OEMs or whoever wants to use it, with an actual package that has the material cards for FEA and things like that, and what the struggle is with the additive industry, is that the manufacturer is controlling the supply chain, and they keep the materials guy on one side and the OEMs on the other side. That is not sustainable. And we need materials manufacturers to own up to this, and honestly the machine OEMs need to recognize that they’re restricting their own capacity to hit capability and production, cause they’re not allowing that normal flow of things to happen. If we can actually get to the point where the materials manufacturers can have more of an ownership on that standards certification, that’s actually one of the things that opens the door. If somebody comes to me with material cards and with standard perimeter sets as a pedigree to meet that material card, now I have more confidence that I can actually meet something that is a manufacturable part. Until we get to that space, getting into that low volume production sphere, it’s very arduous to get through all the certifications and qualifications around the process that are required for us to say yeah, it’s ready for production. 

The aerospace industry has been pushing standards development for decades. The difference is now you’ve got somebody that might consume a little more material stepping up to the plate. So automotive manufacturing, when it gets down to it, when we start kicking off our applications, this is when they will consume a lot more material set. When you come to us with the equipment and material set and it works, we’re going to be advocates for that technology, that machine, that material set. If you really want to get machine sales, and material sales pushed through, stepping up and working with the OEMs will be very helpful for you in the automotive sector because that’s really going to help accelerate the adoption. Not only from the OEMs, but also our tier one’s, tier two’s, a lot of times they don’t move until we say move. Getting into the stream of things at the right space so that you can actually get it accelerated. And we’re here for that discussion, we’re always here to help push on that. And again, I think RAPID will be a really big space where you’ll see a lot of that discussion and effort pushed forward. 

How would you describe the AM community? 

Honestly, it’s one of the things I love about additive manufacturing. This community is so open, it’s an innovative society if you will. You know it’s fast-paced, very open collaboration, and it’s kind of a get it done mentality. That’s what I thrive on. If we have an idea and an opportunity, partners are a phone call away to get things executed. And it’s good that a lot of these suppliers and machine manufacturers understand that a couple of free parts here and there to exemplify the actual capability of the technology, it’s got to be in the budget. I know it’s a sales budget and what not, but for us to be able to say yeah, we’re going to take you seriously, a lot of the time we actually have to see physical parts and maybe even break some stuff. So that has been a huge piece of it, being able to explore new parts. And honestly, again, the show floor is where you’re going to see a lot of this stuff. Which is why it’s really great to get into one place where you get all the suppliers showing their wares. But again, as somebody that’s coming to the show, it’s a sales floor, don’t kid yourself. You need to be very conscientious about what you’re seeing, and ask critical questions. Perfect example: I have executives that are like, ‘Oh I want to see the actual printed part. And we’re like no, no, everything you’ve seen has been bead blasted, and coated, something like that. You know that gets into the post-processing side of it which the additive industry really needs to step up to. I could go on for a half an hour on post-processing requirements. It is literally one of my biggest banes in applying the technology. But yeah, in the entire community, being able to work together and show examples, and say hey I’ve got a problem with this it’s not meeting this requirement, what can you do to get there, often times there’s somebody on the other end of the phone that says, ‘I know how to get there, and we can do it this way.’ The innovation that is spurned from that kind of communication is enormous. 

What is your advice for attracting younger generations/new workforce into AM? 

Well, I’ve got to tell you, we’ve actually just recently hired a spate of young engineers that are fabulous people. They’re sharp, they’re quick learners. The one thing that I find very interesting in this space is that about 50% of them or probably even a little bit more of the people that we just hired, had come through our group as an engineering rotation segment. We’ve got a program where you go through four different rotations and you figure out where you want to land, and literally everyone that has been through our group has come back to our group because it’s so exciting, the technology. And they really see the opportunity and the space, and they know they’ll get patents eventually through it, so that as an engineer you’re always kind of intrigued by, ‘How do I get validation around my engineering prowess?’ So that’s an opportunity. But how do you get them to get initiated into it? You know those outreach programs that you do to high schools and even grade schools, is very key for them to just be aware of the technology. But I want to step into that discussion a little bit because one of the problems that I see is when people do that, I’m always afraid that they’re kicking in ‘the commercial product’ right? They’ve got a small $2,000 FDM printer or something like that that they’re showing kids. But we need to show kids the real value in additive. Where we can bring them manufactured parts that are going into final products. We need to show them what the equipment is, what it can do. To that end, our AIC facility, it’s more of an internal tool for us. But we walk people through that facility, hey this is what the technology is, this is how the machines operate, this is what the capabilities are, and these are the parts that you can get out of it, and oh by the way this one has been post-processed in this manner to reach that result. But I think when we talk about this to the grade schools and the younger schools, we need to show them case studies as well as the shiny bobbly parts right? A perfect example is this piece I have here, a little shameless plug for our additive group, so I think everybody has probably seen this. If you’re buying a black wing Cadillac, which is now coming to the show rooms, that thing is 3D printed. We literally don’t make a lot of those in a year, so it’s a perfect application for it. It’s a fully viable part, and it exemplifies a lot of the elements that you can explore in the additive space from a finishing standpoint to a manufacturing standpoint, and a design element. So how do we get them to see that it’s not just about making toys, but for making real product? And it’s also for accelerating development of products. If we can help them understand that hey maybe this is the old adage in the auto industry, you know it took five years and now it’s maybe three years of a product development cycle. If we can show them how it actually supports reducing that time to accelerate that opportunity, that’s a big piece of it I think to them saying, ‘Oh it’s not just for making my little characters or my little toys, now I can actually go out and make tools out of this I can go out and make actual end use parts out of it. Those are the types of things that once we start helping them understand what the value is in it, I think they’ll actually recognize it. Because until then, what I see a lot of engineers doing is looking at additive manufacturing like it is some kind of an anomaly. Like ‘Oh well that’s a nice thing to play with but I need real stuff.’ No, you can get real stuff out of additive you just have to know how to do it, and where to go. 

How do you see AM evolving in the next few years? 

Well definitely in the next two to six years, I see continued consolidation. We’ve got some big players with pocketbooks that are allowing them to absorb all sorts of industries. You know players that are currently out there. And actually, some of them are doing a really good job at creating a very sustainable infrastructure and business plan. I see that continuing. The real key though is to expand the education and the usage around getting it into the manufacturing plants, you know the manufacturing units and tools, helping solve problems. The more we can get that done, the more people are going to start realizing they can take their own fate into their own hands, if you will. So instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a tool that breaks all of the time, maybe you can make a part that still doesn't break any less often, but it costs you less, and you can get it in a day or two versus weeks. That’s a critical thing to help your business accelerate. That’s actually a big piece of what we need to push on the manufacturing plants as well, is to help them not only understand that yeah, it’s not just a toy, but it can really increase your plant efficiency. But expanding it to that low volume production, becoming bridge components. I had one the other day where we just started investigating, can I actually make the first couple hundred units off of this while I’ve got a new tool that’s late? You know those are spaces that are going to expand. Obviously, we’re going to continue to get improved economics because machines are always going to get faster, materials are going to get cheaper, and maybe the finishing processes will become a little bit more automated, we’re seeing a lot of that. We see advantages there, and then there’s just new processes and printing formats that are coming out on a regular basis, new material sets, copper is one that is really starting to flourish. In three to ten years, I see that major transition needing to happen. More robust equipment, better economics, better throughput, maybe better finishes. But there’s a trade-off, right? How much do I print the finish in, versus post-process the finish in? It’s kind of an asymptotic curve that you need to kind of work through. With the help of the OEMs and the manufacturers of the equipment, we can kind of get to an understanding as to what the optimized view of that really is. And then larger machines, and materials that meet our application needs, those are the big pieces I see in the next three to ten years being able to flush out. And maybe some of the processes are currently capable of making, let’s say a polymer part, doesn’t necessarily match up to an injection molding part, so a lot of times we’ll have to use design for additive to accommodate the differences. But do we start finding new processes in the next ten years that actually close that gap, eliminate porosity, and find more robust end usable parts from material processing that gets you to that better state like an injection mold part. Lots of things to think about, but those are my big views for the short-term and long-term, where things are going. 

Anything else you’d like to share while we have you here today? 

I think the last piece about it, especially for anyone that wants to dig into additive for a production capable source or solution, you really need to build a huge infrastructure around it, more than what you would anticipate. You don’t recognize how big your manufacturing infrastructure looks until you’ve actually tried to launch a part. So again, having a team to kind of walk you through some of those early renditions is critical. We had a part that really wasn’t a huge cost save, that we took through the process just to make sure we could find out where all the hurdles were along the process. And it was valuable because it helped us understand that yes suppliers need program management, and yes there needs to be a commercial infrastructure put together to be able to facilitate using some of the people that aren’t necessarily in your supply base today, and then that whole manufacturing infrastructure, right? What is the value chain of production look like and what are those finishing processes required to get you to your finished part? An AM part does not start in the same place that other parts, a cast part or an injection mold part or stamp part start. They often need more post-processing. So do not forget post-processing. It can be any place from a 5% hit to a 95% hit on your parts, so that is a big critical piece and something to ask when you’re on the floor, like how do I get this to this state? They’re going to have to answer that question for you. But the other things in getting to production would be your quality supply chain, and your validation, and design for additive developments, costing, all of things have to be thought of. And again, build a team that can create those tools and create the infrastructure and create the relationships. You’re not going to be able to really get a good penetration into an actual production solution set.

Be Our Guest

Attend RAPID + TCT as a guest of one of our featured exhibitors and partners.