The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode 89 · 8 months ago

The Digital Warehouse: A Look Inside Additive Manufacturing w/ Melanie Lang


Additive manufacturing technologies are rapidly disrupting the old practices.

The adoption rate is increasing, leading to exciting advancements in performance, GTM, and repair applications.

Melanie Lang is the Co-Founder and CEO of FormAlloy and the Women in 3D Printing San Diego Ambassador, and she serves on the Executive Committee of America Makes.

Join us as we discuss:

- The flexible tech behind directed energy deposition

- The right and wrong time for additive manufacturing

- Determining the right toolbox for your needs

- How 3D printing is the fourth transportation modality

- Her advice for manufacturing leaders  

Check out these resources mentioned during the episode:

- Lou Rassey and Fast Radius 

Subscribe to The Manufacturing Executive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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You can view add of manufacturing almost as a digital warehouse, if you will. Wear as long as you have the build files available to you, you can build what you need on site. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a cofounder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerrilla. Seventy six today we're living in an on demand world. you run out of cake cups, so you click a button in your Amazon APP and it shows up the next morning. You feel like binge watching season three of succession. See a pull open HBO Max on Your Smart TV and the next thing you know it's two am. You need parts in your manufacturing operation, well, there's on demand for that now too. It wasn't too long ago when additive manufacturing was a shiny new technology, maybe just used for prototyping, but times have changed and quickly. My guests today will dive into what's possible today in additive manufacturing and how it might affect your world. Let me introduce Sir Melanie Lange, cofounder and CEO of Form Alloy, is motivated by developing a disruptive technology that delivers the future of additive manufacturing, creating high value components with superior performance. Form Alley Technologies Inc is a provider of award winning directed energy deposition systems and services to a wide range of industries. Melanie holds a BS and aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois and an MS in systems, architecture and engineering from the University of Southern California. In addition to her role at form alloy,...

Melandie currently serves on the America Makes Executive Committee as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Navy League San Diego and is a women in d printing ambassador. Melanie. Welcome to the show. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me well, Melanie. Let's just start with a very open ended question here. What's happening today in the world of additive manufacturing. That has you excited? Well, I'm really excited to see adoption rates increasing, not only for our technology but really across the board. I think people are getting a little bit more comfortable with the additive manufacturing technologies and they're finding ways to incorporate them into their existing products to either make them perform at a higher level or to be able to make changes and get things to market more quickly. Yeah, it seems like it was just a really interesting space to be in right now. I first time I talked to somebody about additive was probably, I don't know, five or six years ago, and it seemed like we were kind of right at this threshold of moving from being almost, you know, something for prototyping to something for actual manufacturing applications. And have it really been in the heart of it at all with any of them clients or anything since, and so I'm just really curious to see you kind of where it goes. Yeah, absolutely, I mean that's that's really what we're seeing. We're seeing people using it now for production components and just getting things back in the service more quickly because you can use it for repair applications as well. So now you have, you know, real world parts that are in end you systems that are either made or repaired with added manufacturer. No me. I know that one of your specialties in added of manufacturing is ded, short for directed energy deposition. Can you tell us what DD's all about and how it's used? Sure. So, with directed energy deposition you typically have some type of power source or energy source and then a seed stock, and our case for utilizing metal powder, and we use a laser for our energy source.

We blow the powder to fickly out of a coaxial nozzle and a powder colman is formed and then we use the laser to create a melt pool onto the substrate and that powder cone is then blown into that substrate and then parts build up layer by layer. So you're basically blowing the powder where you need it and hitting it with the laser energy to create a melt pool. So with that you can add add material to existing parts, you can do multiple materials, you can do repair or you can just do single builds, but it's a pretty flexible technology in terms of design space. Very cool. I'm going to come back around in a little bit to have you maybe talk about some applications and examples and an additive. But, you know, to touch us something that you said when we were talking a few weeks ago or a while back, planning this conversation, you said to me that a lot of the challenges and business aren't really about the technology at their core. They're example you gave is getting hunks of metal to the right place at the right time. Just talk about what you mean by that a little bit. Yeah, I mean one of the great cases of added manufacturing is that you can build things on demand, so you don't have to have a super complex supply chain or repair process if you don't really need it. You can sort of build stuff, you know, locally when you need it or repair things locally when you need it. So, from a technology standpoint you can have, you know, these these very complex systems and they can do amazing things. But traditionally you might have been limited by what you can do because you're worried about being able to support that equipment and getting those hunks of metal to the right place at the right time. With added technology you can sort of simplify the the entire you know, supply chain and support tail by just having something there when... need it and being able to even build it locally in many cases. Can you talk a little bit about examples of situations when when is additive right and ones it not? Yeah, I mean there's there's a lot of cases when it's right, but there's also a lot of cases when it's wrong. So I think some of the right cases for additive are when you have parts that are built in somewhat lower volume or potentially with very expensive or challenging to get materials, in the case of ded if you want to have some type of multi material solution, there's really no way to do that with traditional manufacturing in a single step and then, of course, being able to just add material where there could be a you know, area of where or damage, you can add material to it. So those are all really good use cases for additive and then also some specifically for ded I. If you are making something traditionally and you are making very large quantities and they're not staying the same and the supply chain is not complex, basically you place, you know, huge orders for these these components and you sort of get them regularly and you don't have any supply chain issues. You know that where it might that's where it might be a harder case for additive manufacturing, because additive manufacturing is not always cheaper, especially if you already have the tooling in place for the traditional processes. So if it's just a you know, a cost stating thing, that's not always the best reason. Sometimes it can be, you know, if you're building a component and you're only going to build maybe a few or maybe just a couple hundred and then the designs going to change. You know, the tooling could be million bucks just for the tooling. On that case that might be another good use case for additive in your time working in this space, what have you seen change? Like a curse if you would have answered that question differently five plus years ago versus now, like what's evolved? What's changed? I think what's evolved is there's more trust being built with additive...

...manufacturing processes. It's still it's still in progress. I wouldn't say that we've sort of reached the point now where people are willing to accept components that have been manufactured additively similarly to how they would have accepted components that are made traditionally, but I think that we are certainly moving in the right direction. And that's been a change where there are some more standards now, there are more certification plans and examples where parts have been accepted that have been made additively versus traditionally, but we still have a ways to go there. Sure. You mentioned to me previously that, like with traditional manufacturing methods, you may in some cases take a hybrid approach where, you know, additive is just another tool in your tool box. Can you elaborate on what you meant by that? Yeah, absolutely. I think with added manufacturing, just like with traditional it's not a one size fits all. You know, typically as a company you're not going to say will everything we do here, we are just going to have a machine, or everything that we're doing is just going to be cast. It might be some parts are are cast and then machine and other parts are just machined, or you know whatever other processes you have. And I think it's very similar to add of manufacturing is you're typically not just going to pick one technology for an entire family of parts. Think you're going to have to look at the specific application and then define which technology is best suited for that application and which have the most sort of things in common. That would lead you to one technology over another and then from a hybrid perspective, absolutely it could be that the best case for particular application is that part is made in a powder bed type of system and then those into a DD process like we do, maybe to complete the part or to add a different material to the part or to build up at a much faster build rate, because... don't necessarily need the complexity that you were maybe achieving with a powder bed type of system. So I think when people open up sort of their their minds to it might not be just a single added of technology and might be best to employ multiple add of technologies. Oh yeah, and by the way, combining those also with traditional manufacturing. Then you can really start thinking about how can we optimize this part and make it perform the way that we want by employing a multi material a real solution, you know, with with different steps along the way. So you know that that's one way to look at it. I think there's also some applications where you don't necessarily need that. If you're doing a simple repair application, you might just need dad and that might be the single step process that you need. You know you're going to add material back to something nearnet shape is sufficient for your application. So you not aren't even necessarily going to need to finish that part. But I think it's important to look at the application and the requirements and then decide what type of approach that you're going to use, whether it be, you know, hybrid and with traditional and additive or, you know, hybrid in terms of, you know, two different additive technologies together, or some type of additive and subtractive technology. So there's a lot of options, just like you said, and additive and each type of additive technology is just another tool and your toolbox mel only. I came across an article a few years back that was written by low Rassi at fast radius, which is a additive manufacturing company they know, based on the Chicago area, and he described dprinting or additive as the fourth modality where, and he'd looked at it in terms of modes of transportation. There was water and then there was ground and then there was air and now there are digital files, and I thought that was such an interesting perspective at you know, now for certain parts or smaller components or, like you said, repairs. Maybe now we're just talking about transferring a file digitally that could be in your hands instantaneous lie as opposed to, you know,...

...waiting for something to ship and stalking inventory, and I was just kind of curious your take on a concept like that. Yeah, I mean absolutely. I mean you can view out of manufacturing almost as a, you know, a digital warehouse, if you will. Wear as long as you have the the build files available to you, you can build what you need on site, you know, when you need it. You don't necessarily have to keep, you know, multiple components and stock. You're just going to build them when they're needed. So I think that entire concept of how do we digitize our components and sort of digitize our supply chain and then all you need to do, like you said, is is have this digital fire transfer and you can, you know, build a part on site. So, you know, I don't think that we're there yet as an industry. I certainly think that we are on that path and we can get there, but I don't think that we're quite there yet. Really. Sometimes a concrete example helps, you know, take a concept and make it a little more tangible for our listeners. Are there examples from existing or past customers of applications that you'd like to touch on yeah, yeah, I'd be happy to. I think one of the industries that has really done a good job of helping move added it forward and really adopting the technology has been aerospace. So you know, for example, that's that's a good use case because there's not typically very large volume of components that are produced. There's, you know, several or maybe you know a couple hundred that are produced and then the design might change or it might change to a slightly different model. So for things like rocket nozzle components, you know, that's a great application for direct energy deposition because you can build the parts very large. Again, with this technology you're blowing the powder where you need it, so you don't need to have a, you know, a huge bet of powder. So that really enables these these very large you know, a freeform type builds. You have five acts as motion, so you can do some really complex geometries without the need to build in any...

...kind of support structure. So, like I said, you know, rocket nozzle components, you know, along those line, any type of heat exchanger components where there's some type of internal channel, and then those cases then you can even look at multi material solution so you might need to use some type of copper alloy for thermal properties, but you may also need somehow to combine it with the strength of like a nickel super alloy. So you'll find things that are, you know, rocket nozzle components or heat exchange your components that are made with some combination of copper alloys and nickel super alloys to have the good thermal properties combined with the strength. So that we do quite a bit of work in the aerospace industry also in the consumer good industries. And I won't give any super specific examples here because our customers are really using this technology to, you know, sort of create really new unique things. But in general, if you think of components that can be made inexpensively with maybe a an inexpensive material like like some type of steel, but they want certain parts of that component to be really high performing, you know, we can take these parts that were made traditionally and we can add material just where they're needed to be, you know, extra hard or corrosion resistant or even create a nice acoustic property when they're used. So there's a lot of different examples there where you don't necessarily have to make the entire you know, part out of an additive technology, you can just add material to, you know, where you want some type of high performance to happen. And then the the last thing that I'll say is, you know, tooling. I mean, I think tooling sort of the lowhanging fruit and has been very widely adopted and well adopted for additive but again, if you have tooling that is worn in a particular area, you don't have to remanufacture that entire tool. You can just build up, you know, the face where where you need it. So like, for, you know, molden dye industry, you know it's a great tool for repairing or maybe making design changes to that tooling. So you...

...know, those are those are just a few examples, but it's pretty exciting. And then there's a lot of good use cases and examples, you know, on the online as well. If you if you google some use cases of add of manufacturing and then whatever you're interested in, whether it be, you know, aerospace or automotive or in biotech, it's been used a lot of really, really cool ways and it might spur your thoughts on, you know, how you might use it. Those are all great examples. Thanks for sharing me. Only for any manufacturing leaders who are intrigued by additive but maybe they're not sure how it fits into their world or where to get started in terms of learning about it. What advice can you leave them with? Well, there are several courses that you can take through different universities, just sort of like added manufacturing one, hundred and one, which will go through different technologies and how they're typically used. But I would also say if there's a technology that that you sort of read about you that you think might be a good fit, reach out to those companies or those service providers and they will help educate you if their technology is good for your application or not and maybe even help you point you in the right direction if it's not. So I know I'm happy to do that. I do that in a regular basis. Pretty much daily we get new applications in saying hey, can you guys make this, can you make it out of this material, and we're always happy to give feedback on yes, that's a good use case for what we do, or we could build that, but that might be better student for this other technology. And I think, you know, most people in the industry are at least somewhat burst on the other technologies that are available in the ecosystem. So just you know, you have to start somewhere. So do a little bit of Internet research and sort of understand what the overall ecosystem looks like. Once you sort of narrow down what you think it might be, reach out to some of those technology providers or OEM's that make that technology and and, you know, let the experts you know help you with the application... development. Good Advice. No, on these. There anything I did not ask you that you'd like to head on before we put a wrap on this? If anybody's interested in direct energy deposition technology, either from a technology side or how it is used in research and development or if you have a specific application, please feel free to go to our website. It's www dotcom alloycom. You can submit an inquiry and we can get back to you and follow up. But also, if it's something that that you're interested in that and that you love, pursue it. Don't be afraid. Most people that are additive today and practitioners today, they didn't start in additive manufacturing. You know, now there's there's a entire you know, college curriculum that are based on added manufacturing. But you know, when I was going to school and when many others that are in the industry now, there wasn't a discipline specific to additive. So at some point we all sort of made our our turn and redirected ourselves into am so don't be afraid. It's never too late to start. And many of us did not start an additive and and at some point we made a little detour and very happy that that I did. That for sure. That's great. So form alloycom. Go check out Melanie Organization. Melanie, people want to get in touch with you. What's the best place to find you? So they can go to that website or they can send an email to info at for malloycom. Perfect. Well, Melanie, great conversation to really appreciate you doing this. Hey, thanks so much for having me. You Bet. As for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the manufacturing the executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for be tob manufacturers at gorilla. Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening, until next time.

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