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.
Our guest is joining us from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, Todd Grimm.
He is the additive manufacturing consultant and writer, and presenter with 30 years in the industry, and 25 years as an SME advisor. And he’s a big part of this year’s RAPID + TCT, with a panel I’m looking forward to on the breakthrough of manufacturing within AM. Todd, welcome.
What was your first experience with additive manufacturing like?
A lot of my persona, what I do on stage and in writing, I call it enthusiastic realism. I hate hype and a lot of that is carved out of me getting into the industry with the service bureau back in 1990, and my first impactful thing that was transacted, that was hyped up, was 3D systems had an ad in 1991 advertising overnight prototypes. At a time that we could spend a whole day just slicing files, on these little 286 computers. Well, everyone started calling us expecting overnight prototypes, and I’d say no it’s going to be a week or 10 days. These potential clients would get upset with me, and that kind of kicked off this whole role that I’ve done for myself: being a little boy that says the emperor has no clothes. And not to hurt anyone, but to make sure that the average Joe the average Jane out there doesn’t swallow a statement, lock, stock, and barrel, without questioning it. Which may or may not be true in their situation or circumstance. So yeah, the early days really carved my personality. Way back then, 1991,1992, me, others in the industry, other service bureaus, we were making the statement that injection molding you better watch your back, cause we’re coming for all your business. We threatened them in 1991, 1992, but luckily, I rapidly realized how foolhardy that was. What we actually did is poke the sleeping bear. And it woke up and said, ‘Oh these guys are coming after us?’ And things improved. And what was kind of a stayed process in injection molding, likewise CNC machining had the same thing, but we kind of woke them up and they said, ‘Okay there’s a competitive threat, we better get on our game.’ And now we see faster ways of tool making, we see fast cutter speeds, high speed milling starts to come about. What we did is juvenile idiocy. We made that bold proclamation, and here we are 30 years later nowhere near doing that, and I firmly believe this disruptive kind of thought process is insane. It’s going to be about marrying the two, an additive and a traditional, and figuring out how they dovetail, but more importantly discovering what the crossovers are so that the company and manufacturer can decide what’s best to use in what circumstance. But right there, that’s a huge ask. It’s a lot to ask for anyone to come to grips with additive. And this is why an event like RAPID + TCT is so important. With this, additive on the surface looks like any other traditional manufacturing process, workflow kind of things and yes it adds material instead of subtracts. And there is a lot of synergy, and a line up with things, but it’s the differences that will get you. So we’ve got some differences that require new thoughts, new processes, new controls, new initiatives, that if you don’t account for those, you may find that you can’t get the justification and the value proposition isn’t there. Or if you don’t account for those, you may find yourself heading down towards an initiative, and hitting a roadblock, and now it’s like oh wish I had known that. It’s a big ask. You have to take what you know, and then just determine what you need to understand in order to execute properly before you even pull the trigger. And how many companies really have the resources to invest that amount of time to get that amount of expertise just to make the decision. Coming back to RAPID + TCT, it’s an event where you go and you walk through the show floor, you attend the conference session, and you absorb information to help you along that path, that journey, to making the right decision.
I often say, the traditional manufacturing companies out there, and I say that that can come across as negative context, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m just trying to create buckets: additive vs traditional. So if I’ve got a widget, and all I’m looking for is the exact same widget but better, faster, cheaper, the odds are about 90-10 that additive isn’t going to work for you, because it can’t necessarily deliver what you already have, it's going to deliver something different. You have to seek out those differences, and then determine whether you can live with those, those that aren’t positive, and how you leverage the benefits. But yeah, it’s laughable and we’ve all seen it. Someone comes to you with an obviously sand-casted part that’s had some finished machining on it and is a big block of metal, and says, ‘How much and how long to make this in additive?’ And you look at it and say that’s not an additive part. Are you willing to invest in redesigning that part to improve performance or other characteristics to make additive a great solution?’ And the status quo starts to take over. I hate status quo that’s I think our biggest enemy, where you’ve got a momentum thing where, ‘You mean I’ve got to invest time and energy to redesign it just to make additive work? Heck with that, I’ve got other things to do.’ Back onto the old way of doing things. We’ve got so many doors that can close on a manufacturing initiative if you don’t have the proper insights and proper guidance. Which isn’t easy to get either. It’s not available generally speaking on the web, it’s somewhat available through virtual conferencing and other things we’ve been doing through the pandemic, but in this level of depth. I get frustrated. You know our attention span as human beings is short. If I’m doing a panel discussion for an event, usually there’s a 20- or 30-minute time limit on that, and that’s nothing. 20 or 30 minutes just evaporates. And you leave so much good meat on the bone that’s never discussed. But we have to recognize that people aren’t going to sit there for more than 30 minutes to listen to find those additional tidbits. What I’m coming back to, is getting back to face to face, an event like RAPID + TCT, now you’re immersed. And it’s more likely you’re going through assimilation, osmosis, just being in the vicinity to absorb some of these tidbits, to at least cause you to say, ‘You know what, never thought about that as a question I need to have answered.’ Face to face I’m excited to get back to face to face, excited to see that RAPID is happening in 2021, and as we’re recording right now, we’re a month and a day out from the doors opening.
I have a thought that I want to offer as a bit of helpful guidance. At RAPID + TCT on the show floor, in conferences, you’re going to run into a lot of people that are either self-proclaimed experts or others proclaim their experts, it’s very easy to self-proclaim. And there’s a lot of people out there that I just want to smack my forehead and go ohhhhh. And this isn’t self-serving by any means, because I don’t know everything. First off, no one knows everything about additive, including all the technologies, all the applications, all the steps in the process, how to implement, how to control. It’s a beast. Additive, in that context of all those elements, is more like saying additive is the number of things you need to know and master, it’s akin to all metalworking technologies. It’s not akin to CNC milling. Milling, routing, drilling, pouring, EDM work, laser cutting, water jetting - it’s much more like that. So just imagine, as someone stepping into it, to really get your hands around it and know what tool to use and how to use it, we’re asking them to have at least a decent appreciation for the pros and cons of everything from laser, to water, to a cutter hitting a part, so it’s tough. But back to the expert’s thing, highly recommend if you’re getting information from somebody, ask their background. Don’t put them on the spot and make them look like an idiot, but say Adam you just said this, and I can see where that’s true, but in the real world where have you been involved with putting that into practice. Because the really dangerous thing, and I talked about this coming up with where we wanted this conversation to go, people will tend to come up with an answer if they’re considered as an expert, whether they have the answer or not. Because it’s almost a sense of shame. And I used to have that problem, you know, ‘Todd what about acme corporations' new metal additive machine?’ And if I didn’t have the answer or know it in depth, I’d feel that I was letting somebody down, I wasn’t doing my job, I wasn’t a good consultant. And over time I’m like you know what it’s ludicrous to even try to do all of that, you’re going to be so thin you know? You’re going to have this little thin layer of information with no depth to it. Why bother? So now I’m more than comfortable, have been for the last 15 years, you ask me about something, I’ll say I don't know anything about it, other than the headline that I read. Why do you find it interesting? And look to you to convince me that it’s now worth my time to go research them. You know just get a sense of where they’re coming from, and why you should take what they’re saying as truth. Get context on things. So that’s true at all events but it’ll be true at RAPID + TCT. On the show floor, meeting other attendees for the conference, you’re going to run into a lot of people’s great information, but just, where are you coming from dude? And clarify too, because I think the worst offender is the self-proclaimed or perceived expert who has 5 years of experience in additive, and what that means is they’ve worked with a $3,500 desktop machine doing extrusion. Now they’re telling you they know everything about it. That’s a very different beast than the more expensive industrially-oriented tools. So that person now wants to act like they know everything and they tell you something, it may be way off-base. Because they’re coming from a base-line that’s much different.
What impacts has AM had on the broad manufacturing industry as a whole?
The industry is too broad for its own good, and we’ve got nothing to focus on. That question right there is just huge, it's expansive. But how can I boil it down to some high-level things that generically can be applied across the board. First off, even going back to the 30 years and reiterating that point, it’s spurring people to rethink what they’re doing, and how they can do it better. And it’s spurring new thoughts and ideas, you know the whole industry 4.0 concept, distributing manufacturing concept, they’re intriguing and there’s obvious benefits when that’s pulled off. But you know additive plays a deep role in that. I think at the highest level it’s the conversations that have the potential to change mindsets to do things differently or better. But again, it’s a big ask of most human beings. An easy one that popped into my head is mass customization, but honestly, I hate that term. Personalization instead is okay, but is there really a value proposition, cause I’m old school. I’ll give you an example. I’m short, I’m only 5’4’’. I cannot buy dress shirts and dress pants off the rack and have them fit. With dress shirts, do I ever bother to spend an extra $15 and an hour of my time to get the sleeve length adjusted? No. Now what’s my solution? I could go buy a custom shirt; it’s personalized to me. I don’t. Why? Because I’m cheap. I spend $100 or $150 on a custom-made shirt, which also I got to go through the effort of getting measured and all that and then picking it up and making sure of the fit. So there, where does personalization really have value? And there are some markets for it. But mass customization I think leads people to a bit of a fantasy. Because if we look at it, how many products really need to be customized for each buyer. In my mind, wouldn’t it be a better solution for most things we buy, anything in the context of the buyer, if it interfaces with the body, yeah customization is needed. So, headgear, oral work, hearing aid even, yeah, I get that. But everything else, isn’t it a better solution to use additive to come up with a broader set of skews on a given product. So instead of giving you two flavors, small and large, instead of going all the way out to mass customization, which is a logistical nightmare, what about going extra small, small, somewhat medium, medium, large, extra-large, XXL, and all the way out. So now instead of two options you’ve have ten, leveraging the power of additive with its ability to do smaller batches and change those batches anytime without any cost. I’m sorry now I’m really getting off on opinions, but I’ve cringed on that, and I even used the term industry 4.0, I cringe on that, because my first gig was in the CAD/CAM space. Technical sales for Unigraphics which was McDonnall Douglas product, then Unigraphics which is now Siemens NX. And at that time the big pitch was computer integrated manufacturing, all things tied together digitally for a smooth workflow. And I was a part of that hype too as a salesperson. But what ended up happening, it became obvious, that it was a marketing term to re-energize thoughts and conversations to drive people to look at different products. And moments of it came true, but in those promised two years from now back in the late 80s, it never came to fruition. I’m concerned on a concept like industry 4.0, how much of that is that a marketing driven thing or high paid consultants who want you to be convinced if you’re not industry 4.0 you’re going to die tomorrow so I can get a half a million-dollar consulting contract. I’m not saying that’s all true, but I’m just very wary that it is something that’s viable and achievable in a relatively reasonable frame of time. I’m not saying it’s not, but it’s also a hard path. I had a panel I moderated just last week, and we’re talking about digital security, and one of the panelists is like for us, and they’re defense oriented, all bets are off there’s no way in hell we’re doing industry 4.0, because we haven’t figured out how to protect that digital thread throughout the entire workflow so that bad things don’t happen. I’m coming across as negative, but I justify it in being pragmatic so that people ask the right questions and don’t assume. Certainly, if you’re going to RAPID + TCT don’t assume that additive is the solution you need. Instead, enter into it with an attitude of discovery. Where could I use it, why should I use it, and then finding, discovering some of the solutions that would fit your needs.
The headlines that go out there or the fantasies that are put out there. I got asked to speak at a trade association annual gathering for HVAC, heating, cooling, ventilation. The reason I was there, is the members thought their repair business was going to be gutted because someone would roll up with a van, and 3D print the part that they needed, and install it. Manufacturing in a box was the concept they were being fed and they were really believing it, and it was my goal to say guys you’re really safe. And here’s why: you’ve got to develop enough of a quiz goal mind to question what you’re hearing to discern what the truth is. But the truth is always related to your specific business circumstances. What kind of part you’re producing, what are your business threats, what are your business opportunities, where are your weaknesses, and additive may play there, it may not play there? It all depends. And this panel that I’m doing, it’s what you need to know in an initiative to get into manufacturing using AM. And that’s all predicated on, there’s some key stumbling blocks. And if you don’t understand, and have fully qualified what you really need, you can shoot yourself in the foot. And one of those classic engineers using a block callout for tolerances. Plus, or minus .005 across the board. You do that on an additive manufacturing part, you’re not going to have a cost justifiable application in most cases. It requires an understanding of where do I really need plus or minus five? Can I get around that? And then identifying those areas that do demand it and saying okay that’s my spec. Which may force you into a secondary machining operation. I think additive manufacturing is a workflow mentality, and is much better aligned with the metal casting industry than it is the machining industry. Because there, if you get investment cast part or sand cast part, you’re designing an as cast part and an as machine part, allowing for machine stock because you know darn well that you’re going to have to hit it with a grinder or a cutter on let’s say two remaining surfaces on a flange to get them flat and really sealing. The mindset of it’s a multi-step process to get what I want; I think really feeds into where additive plays. Actually, like additive is an alternative to investment cast or sand cast parts, for the uninitiated versus an alternative to a machine part. Cause the expectations align. You know machine part, I think it’s really easy to fall into the mindset of what you’ve always seen, which is I can produce a finished part of my CNC. It was designed for that.
First off, if you plan to attend RAPID + TCT, hats off to you. Kudos, I’m glad you’re going to be there. If you’re on the fence I highly encourage you to register today to get there. Now for those that do attend, high level advice for you, back to that discovery use it as a discovery platform. What solutions are out there, what problems can I solve that maybe you don’t even have top of mind. Enter with eyes wide open, and an open mindset to absorb as much as you can, and develop a list of prospective solutions which you investigate in detail thoroughly after the event. But I suggest you enter it with eyes wide open, be willing to absorb anything coming from any direction whether you think that it applies or not. But at the same time, I highly recommend that you pin down what it is you’re trying to do, and what your key requirements are. What is the application, what is the part size, what are the characteristics of those parts including material, tolerance, and all that, to allow you to ask questions aligned to what you’re trying to address? Because if you step up into a booth, you’re looking at a middle additive machine and you don’t have that framework, now we can go broad again and the answers that you’re getting from the person representing in the booth may or may not apply to your part. Is it a thick beefy part, does it have thin walls, small details, etc. Even the tolerance thing. You look at spec sheets and a lot of them will have you know kind of a plus or minus 5 statements for the first x number of inches. If you ask, what tolerances can you hold and you don’t specify the context that you’re asking, you can get an answer back, we know generally we know plus or minus 5. Well as additive manufacturing practitioners, we know that something like tolerance and the ability to hold a spec, could very well be dependent on the part size. And there’s something different versus traditional manufacturing. You think of feature characteristics and accessibility with a cutter if you’re milling, for example, to define what’s possible and a tolerance thing. And this isn’t new news, I’m just using this as an example. You’ve got to understand what you’re trying to achieve before you step on the floor. But with additive, it’s not as straightforward. How big is your part? How thick are your walls? What material are we using? Even if you change material on the same platform, you can get different profiles out of what’s possible with tolerance. So RAPID + TCT is a great place to go to gather this information, at least to get you started with what’s possible, and who the potential solution suppliers could be, because there’s just so much information that’s required to execute soundly and with a high probability of success.
What advice would you give to a manufacturer out there who’s starting to adopt AM?
I continue to scare people that are just stepping into it. Additive is different. I think the strongest business case is when you’re delivering something that’s currently not practical, maybe even impossible, as a deliverable. It’s unique. Your choice is now binary. Either we do additive and have a possibility of succeeding in this front, or we do nothing and we get the same results we’ve always had. Now binary is a lot easier to justify. So how much value is in that. But what it means is that you have to have a deeper appreciation for your own business, because what I’m asking you to do is come up with possible gains that are outside of the norm. Now your head down, a manufacturing engineer, you’re probably thinking terms and context of things you’ve always been pressed to achieve, but now I’m asking you to look for things that aren’t even possible that you probably don’t even spend any time thinking about or pondering because it wasn’t possibly in the past. And we don’t talk enough about inventory. You know logistics and inventory, I use that cause it has been talked about, but it never sticks as a high-level topic. You know maybe gets floated in with logistics, but if you look at traditional manufacturing, for the most part you’re looking at economic order quantities which forces you to place orders of x number of pieces to get the best price, and then those x pieces go on the shelf. Now what is the true cost of having that on the shelf? You’re tying up capital, you have to insure it, you’ve got spoilage, which is theft, breakage, losing it, you’ve got floor space. So right there, doing additive in more of an on-demand batch operation, you could deliver all of these benefits. But how many people really ponder that as a benefit that goes beyond what traditional can do. And many do, don’t get me wrong, but many just fail to even see the opportunity. And that’s where the better justifications are, when you’re doing something, you can’t possibly do. I had one client a decade ago doing a plant tour, and he shows me a warehousing area, and it's a high-value specialty item. But he probably proclaimed that they were going to be blowing the wall out and adding an additional 10,000 or 25,000 square feet of warehousing. And we kept talking and they had everything because damage could not occur to these parts, including abrasions and scratches, everything was in a Tupperware tote. And I happened to say can I open a few of those? And they said sure and I did, and I looked in and they were using like a 9inx12in Tupperware tote with a part that was 3in. But they couldn’t put a second part in there, because if they banged together, it would cause damage. And I said you know here’s something off the wall. What about using your mid-range extrusion machine for additive, what about using that to make custom holders, so now you can put two parts in one, or other strategies like that. And that would prevent you from having to blow out that wall, spend millions on facility modifications, wouldn’t that be a better solution? It’s that kind of stuff that I really challenge people to see. But at a very high level, attacking time, cost, and quality, and everything else stays the same, that’s a loser’s game, it’s rare that you’re going to win. Especially with the kicker of risk aversion. Let’s say I can give you reasonable benefit and time delivery, reasonable benefit and unit cost, and I give you the performance that you want, all of those are incremental gains. But now we have the outlier out there of risk aversion, so doing something new. What’s the likelihood that someone in the decision-making chain is a little more risk averse than others, and says, ‘You know what, for that marginal gain, it’s not worth trying something new.’ So I really encourage people to look for the big, bold winners. And I’ll give you an example. I've used this many times: hearing aids, having been disrupted by the additive manufacturing technology. Now it’s very specific, it’s in the ear hearing aids, and making the shells. Now I could tell you for a fact, additive manufacturing does not reduce the cost and does not reduce the time over what they were doing back in 1992. It’s actually more expensive. Now I don’t know relative to today versus 92, but when it first started being deployed, that was a fact. I’ll leave you with that question: Why in the heck would hearing aid manufacturers convert to a digital additive manufacturing workflow if it would cost more and take just as long? The market I’m talking about, they were custom in their hearing aid shellsNow the old way of doing it, they had the audiologist press clay basically, a material in your ear, pull that out and now you have a negative of what your ear canal is. Then they got all those in a batch, put them on a hard substrate standing straight up, and they vacuum formed over them. Then they used a resin, with a known curing rate, they poured the liquid resin in each cavity, and oscillated for 2.5 minutes. Then they poured out the rest, and had a hearing aid shell. That’s how quick and cheap it was. The benefit was that when they went through that traditional process, there’s a bit more manual adjustment. A technician manually affected the hearing aid shell. The number one reason you return a hearing aid or are disappointed with it is poor fit. Too loose or too tight, it causes problems. The digital workflow, using scanning and stereolithography. I think of most, they found that it was a more accurate representation of each individual client’s ear canal because they took out that manual intervention. Return rates on hearing aids plummeted by about 40% back in the 90s, and it plummeted down to something like 10%. Now look at the financial impact on that. You’ve got that big delta on returns, that means you’ve got more capacity in your chrome operations so you can make more profit with the same people. It means you’ve got the same facility you don’t have to enlarge it. And you’ve got less cost to do replacements. So those are the kind of big wins I really challenge people to find, but it is a big ask. I suggest brainstorming with some people. I make widgets, and I talk with Adam. Or I talk with someone at the RAPID + TCT show. I make widgets, and here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I think some of my issues are, and just open conversation. Using your network as you already mentioned, and you might find that somebody has an idea like this one now the hearing aid market, where it’s like you could really change your business in a totally different way. And that could even be expanding your target markets. Going upscale, going downscale, because you don’t have that heavy capital investment just to ramp up manufacturing. It could even be just a great way to say you know what, I want to try. Not a true pilot but I want to get product out there and see what the demand is, beyond a simple test case. You’ve got the investment, yes, but the investment is a lot less significant. So maybe it’s a way that you come up with new markets by region, or new product types. Thinking differently is the key.
I’m going to go way back for two more stories to stress this think differently. I got into additive manufacturing with the service bureau in 1990, and our materials were brittle, they weren’t good for much more than models. We’re having a hard time selling to mechanical engineers because they don’t even have the strength to assemble pieces without the threat of breaking. Forget functional testing. The service bureau I was with was the third in the world to be founded. We got one SLA 250 and we don’t have a market. We have a lot of interest but we’re not selling. Someone, I can’t remember who it was it wasn’t me, said ‘You know what, we have to go for the industrial designers.’ And we started doing that, and the industrial design community was absolutely gob smacked as my friends in the U.K. would say over the potential of this, but they never bought under the current mindset. Cause what they were doing, their deliverable was it looks just like the real thing mockup, that only had the external surfaces represented. Primarily for the goal of putting it in the middle of the conference room table for people to ooh and ahh over. They didn’t at that time think about a rapid iteration cycle as being the true benefit. And it wasn’t until they did that it took off in that community. Trying to do the same thing but differently, it failed miserably. The other one is even being careful of falling into what you think are requirements, and this comes from circa 2000 automotive manufacturer, big name rolling out a new vehicle. They had a limited number of vehicles going on dealer lots for the big launch. Well, they ran into a problem with delivery of a component. Happened to be a plastic polymer component. Believe it or not, back in 2000 technically everything was okay to put this on the vehicles. And my service bureau, we’re just ecstatic, because this is going to be a big order, this is going to be great for us. And I got to the last question for them placing the order, and I said how many would you like? Without even thinking he said ‘5,000.’ I said I can’t help you. He said ‘Why?’ I said the time to make 5,000 pieces is going to be astronomical, the cost is going to be astronomical, you won’t buy those. And then I had the brashness to ask him over the phone, why the hell do you need 5,000 pieces? He stopped for a second, mulled that over and said, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ Two days later he got back, I said what do you need? He said, ‘200 pieces to start, 100 pieces each in the next two months.’ I said great, where in the hell did 5,000 pieces come from? He giggled and said, ‘Well for plastic parts, someone did an economic order justification for injection molding that came out to be parts in this kind of category, you never buy less than 5,000 pieces because the additional pennies for each piece, it didn’t matter if you throw them away or not.’ I said well just for giggles, how many of those 5,000 pieces do you guys usually just throw away? He said, ‘More than half.’ So anyways, it’s dangerous to fall into what you think you need, without questioning it.
I just got the program guide for RAPID + TCT in the mail yesterday. If you didn’t get one, reach out and see if you can get one, it is jam packed with activities, but I saw nothing in here referencing 30 years.
So how has your experience been at RAPID + TCT all of those years?
Oh positive. And it’s been a pleasure to help serve the community. Help it grow and move on. But you know 25 years, if we look at it in the context of a marriage, there’s rocky spots you know? Disagreements, difference of opinion, but overall, it’s been a pleasure. It is a labor of love; it takes a lot of time. The last couple of years, many of the last years, it’s been an advisory role for the conference side of things. So that’s identifying where the topics that need to be discussed, pairing that down and then saying who’s the best suited to speak to that topic and vetting speakers on that to come up with a final agenda. And when the conference closes and you hear people with positive feedback on the content and the speakers and all that, it’s kind of a psychic paycheck, it feels good. That’s why I do it. It’s been fun working with them, but certainly challenges along the way. We all grow and move forward.
One bit of warning. For those who have registered or are planning to register if you’re thinking of just one person, don’t. Here’s my prediction: since we’ve had COVID going on, lockdown-ish situations for the past year and a half, a lot of pent-up interest in getting to a live event. But equally on the supplier side of things, a lot of pent-up interest to get a new product in front of you, so l expect RAPID + TCT to be somewhat overwhelming with new stuff. It’s going to be fun, but also kind of the good with the bad. It might be so much that it overwhelms you, so that’s why I’m saying bring two people, divide and conquer. Because what do we have, 280ish booths? And just doing the math, I have to walk through all those booths for the projects that I’m doing for RAPID + TCT, and I’m like if I stopped at every booth for ten minutes, that’s 50 some hours and that doesn't even do it justice. The show floor isn’t open for 50 hours. Let’s say you only have an interest in half the booths, and you give them 10 minutes to really digest what they have. That’s still 23-24 hours, which would be every moment that the show floor is open. That means you can’t sit in any of the conference sessions, which by the way what do we have, 3 key notes? And 11 expert panels that are free to everyone. If you registered for the event you get to partake in those. Then you have the paying component which is the conference with breakout sessions. But if it’s just you you’re not going to see everything on the show floor you need to see, and you’re not going to be able to sit in on all the panels you want to see. I highly recommend 2, 3, 4 people depending on the size of your organization to divide and conquer. Cause I can’t guarantee it, but I think it’s going to be almost deafening with the amount of new stuff that’s being touted on the show floor.
What would you say defines the AM community?
Openness. Because we’re still struggling to penetrate deeply in all applications and all industries, that vibe from the early days of we can’t do this alone and succeed, is still there. I believe, now I’ve never been in the machine tool world, but I’ve been told as a contrasting, that with additive you’re a lot more likely to get insight from somebody that may even be a competitor. So, a willingness to share. Going to RAPID + TCT, set your mindset that way. Expect that people will be willing to share because odds are that’s what’s going to happen. If you go into it with any other mindset, expecting people not to share, you’re not going to engage, you're not going to ask the deeper questions. I think people are shocked with that openness in additive, and now I’d say most people attending RAPID + TCT at least have some exposure to it, so what I’m telling you can probably decide for yourself whether that’s true or not. But I think that’s a defining element of additive, is the openness in the community.
How do you see AM evolving?
Incrementally. I’m not a big believer in revolutions and disruption. Now it can happen in isolated cases or specific niches. Hearing aids was disruptive, but not all hearing aids and not all auditory tools used to assist people to hear better. It can happen, but don't expect it across the board and generally speaking. I think the expectation is best used as one of good, it’s still dynamic. But incremental gain in mastery as we progress towards the future, so instead of straight up hockey stick, it’s going to be sloping line, where every day every week every year we gain more information, we gain more technology, we gain more understanding, and that information is shared back out to the community. It allows us to penetrate deeper and deeper. In an incremental fashion instead of an overnight flip the switch and the world changed. And it’s hard to look out really, really far, but what I’m aware of regarding the technology, I think that long term expectations should be one of additive augments, it doesn’t displace. And look at it as a solution of where do I need it? How do I integrate it into my mindsets, my workflows, and all that? So, it becomes a viable tool to fill the gaps where other technologies falter, fail, or fall short. So that’s my expectation. Many people now are familiar with Gartner’s hype cycle, well this slope of enlightenment is exactly that and their hype cycle has applies to any emerging technology. You go through a hype bubble then the trough of disillusionment where overpromised under delivered, people get disappointed. Then you dig yourself out and you continue up the slope of enlightenment, for which is all about let’s say practical research to solve real problems, developing the insights and information needed, which then can be disseminated. Improving technology, improving materials, improving software, improving workflow, but also having that be more publicly available instead of squirreled away. Because we’re still open, but when it comes to expensive experiences, we still see it’s my data not yours, intellectual property kind of thing, competitive advantage. If an aerospace company has done full qualification of you name the material for a specific process, it’s highly unlikely that information is going to be handed out to the public. We still have squirreling away. But with this slope of enlightenment, according to Gartner, there’s more opportunity for those kinds of data sets to be more generally available. So maybe it gets rolled into a standard, and part of the standards you have to have that understanding, and now that’s available to anyone who requires the standard, that kind of thing. More information available, a deeper information flow will grow day in and day out, time over time. Additive is here to stay, without a doubt in my mind. For all applications, prototypes for production, legacy parts and all of that. It’s not going to go away. It’s a matter of our industry, additive industry, and the potential users of it, really coming to grips with when it makes the most sense. You look at a new technology that comes out and ask them where it applies and frequently, and in all technologies, it happens, they take a poke at where they think the wind is going to be or the benefits, or who’s going to consume it, but oftentimes it’s wrong. They’re not ingrained in it, so they don’t have a true sense of the dynamics of the market, and it’s not until it’s been deployed, they discover, ‘Ah that’s the big win, and that’s where we apply it.’ So that still goes on today and I think additive is still in that kind of environment where, it’s not this black and white or this grotesque, but you know throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Even the top vendors I think you really see it with, their identification of the target markets they want to serve. For years it was anybody and everyone, and then we started to see a lot of we’re going after aerospace and defense, we’re going after healthcare, and the other ones will vary by company what they’re good at. I think focus is needed, but it’s tough to focus on the early days because you don’t quite know even what the target looks like. So, a little bit of discovery to find what the target looks like, then hone it into that solution. And as we advance to the slope of enlightenment, that will also improve. A clarity on what we’re trying to do, and what value proposition we provide.