Whether developing more streamlined designs for lightweighting and embedding sensors or electronics, additive manufacturing can be a significant enabler to EVs, UAVs, and more. Join leaders from aerospace and automotive to discuss the possibilities.
– Hello, everyone and thank you so much for joining us today for this opening keynote at the AM Industry Summit, bringing together the aerospace and automotive industries. I’m Lauralyn McDaniel with ASME, and will be your moderator for today’s exciting discussion. We’d like to kick off with an interesting topic both the aerospace and automotive industries are facing, and that’s the electrification, mobility, and autonomy that both aerospace and automotive are facing, and the possible roles of additive manufacturing. I’d like to welcome our two panelists for this discussion. First, we have John B. Rogers, Jr (Jay) with LM Industries. Hi, Jay, thank you so much for joining us. Could you do a little introduction of yourself, please?
– Happily. Thank you, Lauralyn and the AM Industry Summit team. It’s great to be here. I co-founded Local Motors, and we set out with the idea of reducing the tooling cost in making vehicles. And currently today we have achieved the making of vehicles in a tool-less manufacturing environment, using a hybrid additive subtractive manufacturing method with polymer composites. And it’s been quite a journey and it has been so gratifying to be at the stage where we’re in production using this method. So that’s what I’m here to share my experience with, and to listen to questions, and to learn.
– Terrific, thank you so much for joining us and sharing some of your experience. Our second panelist is Dr. Amy Elliot with Oak Ridge National Lab. Amy has worked with many industries, including aerospace. Amy, thank you so much for joining us. Could you tell the audience a little bit about your experience?
– Hi, yeah, I research 3D printing, specifically in metals and ceramics. I use mostly inkjet based technologies, however, familiar with lots of other manufacturing technologies out there, and so that’s part of my job is to learn about the technologies and to educate industries and consult them on proper uses of 3D printing.
– Terrific. Well, we’ve got a couple of additive experts, manufacturing people to help us understand and discuss this area. So let’s talk a little bit first about some of the challenges in manufacturing for EVs, autonomous vehicles, what are some of the overall challenges that we face, and Jay, why don’t we start with you?
– Sure, in an old adage, I suppose or just a phrase is when you’re making major changes that could be potentially disruptive, you know, first they will laugh at you and then later on they will derive you, and then be angry at you, and then someday accept. I think that when we think about the concept of additive manufacturing largely or additive powered manufacturing, that we have been through a 40 year cycle of a lot of research where people have scratched their heads as to what are the industrial applications? And we have known for a long time with the industrial applications in expensive metals and inexpensive prototyping areas have first penciled out as a reason to do additive manufacturing for those industries and for those types of modalities. As you move to making vehicles, whether they be in the air on the ground, it goes back to that head-scratcher, which is how industrial is the method? How fast is it? How reliable is it? How does it meet with your ESG sustainability goals? And is it something that we can model and understand it, a process that we can put into a factory? So those are some of the big challenges when you’re making it and making things, and of course the end result, I think, almost logically has to be a different design system too, because it’s using a different method with different material properties. And so all of those things spring to mind as some of the first challenges for going direct to part, if you will, direct digital.
– Absolutely. I can see how that would be critical. So Amy, what are some of the overall manufacturing challenges, production challenges you’ve seen for EVs or anything of these?
– Yeah, so getting out of the phase factoring into a mass production load, I think Jay touched on this is, is a challenge, right? This technology is actually fairly new and it’s competing against these mass manufacturing technologies like stamping, and casting and, you know, injection molding, and so the real challenge is to find where do we get on first? What are those low-hanging pieces of fruit that we can pick first? What are the applications, what are the parts and pieces of vehicles that make the most sense to make with additive manufacturing. And then as the technology evolves, you know, what’s the path forward? And then challenges for electric vehicles, you know, these are rare earth materials we’re dealing with, with batteries and, you know, motor components, you know, these are pretty technical systems. And so finding the path forward in making those, I think that is a challenge, but there’s a real opportunity there.
– Absolutely, I can see how that would work. So, as we talked about, we’ve been very focused on, you know, some of the things with additive manufacturing, some of the challenges, but what are some of the ways you can see it is helping with EVs and AVs, or can potentially support a streamlined process for production of vehicles? Amy, I’m going to come back to you because I picked up on the rare earth. I understand some of the work that’s going on at Oak Ridge that might impact this whole area.
– Yeah, we’ve found that in different processes, additive manufacturing can actually help us save material. Not only in the manufacturing process, we can use that material more efficiently. So for rare earth, that’s important. We don’t want to be wasting a lot of material as we’re making parts, but then also in the design, you know, can we use less rare earths in the design because we’re using additive manufacturing, we have much more control over the design, we can do much more advanced designs that potentially save us material. So yeah, that’s a big factor, I think, to be considered, not only for like batteries, but also motor design, can we make them more efficient with additive manufacturing, make them smaller, power electronics, huge, huge energy consumer, that transfer of energy is not trivial. Can we use additive manufacturing to make those components more efficient? Yeah, so lots of opportunities there.
– And Jay, what are some of the ways that Local Motors that you’re seeing that AM can help your entire production process?
– So I think one of the things you’re seeing right away is the ability to be able to scale the type of product, or look at the scale of the type of product that you’re making. And Amy was just speaking about some of the components in a vehicle that are really ripe or in a vehicle system that are really right for the method of additive manufacturing. We work on the structure of the vehicle, and so that’s the component that we’re talking about, and for us, therefore, we’ve got a lot of size and therefore a lot of material. And so what we have seen is that the tooling is very expensive, typically several hundred million dollars to do all the tooling and design it, make it, and then refurbish it for making a vehicle system. So that is probably the first area of focus that we see the improvement in that the large scale hybrid additive and subtractive and assembly system that we use reduces the cost of tooling effectively to zero. If you’re not thinking about the machine costs, like a press compared to a printing machine, the tooling cost drops to zero. And that’s the stark difference in using these kinds of methods.
– Well, Jay, let me pick up on that because anyone who’s worked in additive for any amount of time knows that additive is not always the answer. So how do you use additive with other technologies? What are some of the things you do? You mentioned the hybrid processes, what other technologies do you use together with additive for the best result?
– Saying that to a hammer everything is a nail is a very important thing to think about when you’re thinking about your method for manufacturing, and really your precepts, your hypothesis can be set out. And for us, the hypothesis was, can we reduce the cost of tooling? Can we increase the time or decrease the time it takes to do development of a whole system? And so for us, we didn’t know at the beginning whether additive or a hybrid system would work for what we were doing, we had a hypothesis. And so we went after it, we needed to come down on several metrics, we needed to come down on time to design, time to actually manufacture. And so in so doing, additive showed itself to be fast enough for what we wanted to do, but it didn’t provide the surface resolution that we needed at the speed that we needed to produce. So integrating a hybrid subtractive into the process really allowed us to be able to increase our speed and be selective about where we achieved the surface refinements that we needed. So sort of do it when you need it and not where you don’t. Other systems that we deleted would be things like coatings and paints, largely. You could come back to them and you can add certain coatings for strengthening, or protection, or other things like that, but what you know in the polymer category of making an additive subtractive structure is that you have something that is naturally corrosion free. And so this is really a system that we were able to delete, all the dipping, and electroplating, and painting, and other things like that. So some systems like hybrid subtractive, we had to add, and other systems like coding or post-processing, we were able to delete.
– So following up on that, we’ve had a couple of questions come in from the audience, Jay, particularly on what kind of additive process you use and whether you’re using both polymers and metals or any other materials, can you share with us what you have at LM?
– Sure, and I think also, maybe this opens up a conversation around ceramics and metals that Amy is well-placed to answer. We started with the structure. And so that meant that if you would think in automotive terms, it used to be called the body and white married to the panels in the vehicle, married to any other substructures that were used for absorption of crash energy or increase in performance of the vehicle. It also includes certain things like seating positions, or structures, or other things like that that are in the vehicle, and dashboards, and other things that get added into a vehicle as a sub system afterwards. So we’ve agglomerated all of those. And at the beginning, we didn’t know whether we would be able to use multiple materials or not, but we were focused on part count reduction and the decrease of cycle time and the decrease of making, and then the decrease of development time. So we started and you’re following costs and you’re following performance of materials, and so fiber reinforced polymers work very well. Just to get down to that in a sort of a quick answer, as many of you know, the advantage of a polymer is that you have a glass transition state that allows the material to be able to be formed into what looks like a solid and behaves in many cases like a solid before it finishes moving through and cooling, and moving through that glass transition state. So you have three states that don’t exist in the same way for many of the other metals, and ceramics, and other items like that, that allows you a lot of flexibility in making something. And so for us, polymers are great. Where the polymers come from is definitely something that is also opened up by using polymers, the ability to use a sustainably derived polymers, those that are either recyclable or those that are compostable, those that are bio derived, the nylon families that have the opportunity now for us to be plant-based nylons. These are exciting areas that are opened up by using polymers. The fiber allows you in a sense to turn a knob that is a more refined knob than you typically can do with metals. And so that’s why we’ve dove in very carefully with that, however, in doing so it means that dissimilar materials or multi materials are really something that we need in the vehicle, because not everything should be made of the same polymer, and the way in which a lot of polymer additive science works is it’s not well-healed towards switching on the fly. So maybe I’ll pause there for a moment and say, that’s why we use them, and then maybe, well continue on.
– Absolutely. Let’s go to Amy. I know that Oak Ridge has quite an extensive amount of technologies they work with, both in the research and working with industry partners. So Amy, could you share with us some of the other technologies you’ve seen used with additive manufacturing, and then as part of that, also tell us kind of the processes and materials you’re working with.
– Oh, yeah. That’s a very big question. So we have probably five of the seven, maybe four of the seven different additive technologies. So that comes in the form of, you know, small scale metal powder bed, we call it small, even though, you know, these are very large machines, but you know, laser, melting, electron beam melting, binder jetting, you know, these smaller, you know, football size and smaller pieces of metal that we make. We have hybrid manufacturing, so taking a directed energy deposition technology, which is spraying powder into a weld beam, or a laser, or fitting a wire into well beam or laser inside of a CNC machine, so that as your part is made and still mounted to the machine, you can go and subtract surfaces that you want a different finish on. So to Jay’s point, being selective about that and strategic. We also have large scale polymers, like the technology that Jay uses, and the large scale metals as well, which is different types of welding technology. Usually wire fed, sometimes powder fed, but on a very large scale. So instead of having, you know, an X, Y, Z cartesian pantry, we have robotic arms that give us a little bit more flexibility in the welding process. And let’s see, what else do we have? We call ourselves kind of like the Disneyland of 3D printing, because we have one of everything, big and small, but those are the main systems that we focus on as well. But we do a lot of work in metals and polymers, and then we’re working in high-temperature materials and ceramics as well with some, you know, each of these systems have their own specialty. But yeah, so we have a large variety of technologies.
– Wow, yeah, I definitely have heard Oakride called the Disneyland, a theme park for engineers, you know, always exciting stuff. I would definitely get lost in the facility, checking everything out, Jay, I’m gonna go back to something you said on design and, you know, for more than 10 years, I’ve heard this design for additive sort of situation, but have you found that design is always an issue? Where does design play when you’re using additive manufacturing for your work?
– Well, I hope design is always an issue. I think that it should be questioned as part of the precept of manufacturing anything. And so when you change your manufacturing method, you must consider the design of the system that you’re going after and whether it is going to be made in any way, shape, or form the same way. So DfAM, or designed for additive, or designed for hybrid manufacturing is front and center in doing this. And so that means that you need to understand the full life cycle of the thing, the part you’re making. and design for that. And that life cycle starts with your suppliers. And then it goes all the way down through the part until it’s returned to the earth. And so when you think about that, there’s an opportunity to get closer to what Bill McDonough has called cradle-to-cradle manufacturing and designing for that is I think a goal that we hold in very high esteem. And so that’s why I say until we’re really designing cradle-to-cradle products, I don’t think we’re done with our efforts in the process methodology. And so for us, it’s critical and it is turned out to be something where it’s easy to turn away from, it’s very simple to return to other processes of design, and whether those software driven processes are dividing items into parts, working in sheet metal type of apparatuses, assuming that there will be multiple belt and suspenders fastening, and adhesives, these things can be and should be in many ways, designed out in order to work with additives. And so yes, DfAM is central.
– Absolutely. So Amy, I am sure you’ve done a lot of work with the design area. So what role does that play as you work towards research and supporting your industry and collaborators?
– Oh, yeah. Design is a major, major thing that we discuss, a big part of the education that we learn and we convey, I’ve written a small book about design for additive manufacturing, and it just, you know, you can go as deep as you want. So, I mean, not only is there, you know, are there kind of these generic, you know, big rules about design additive, but they are actually specific to each process. So you know, there’s seven different additive processes, so each one has its own set of design rules, you know, and we bump into new new rules every day as we’re trying to push the design envelope. So yeah, it’s a major factor, and you know, anyone wanting to get into additive really does need to do their homework in design rules for additive and understanding how the process works, ’cause that’s really the foundation of why we have these design rules. So yeah, design is definitely key in utilizing additive. If you’re not designing for, then you’re probably not leveraging the technology or you might be designing it so that it can’t be made.
– If I could add onto that, you know, we often think about designing the part and designing the system, but then there are other rules that we begun to discover that maybe you can think about them as almost natural rules, which are agile design principles. We’ve seen the development of software for a period of time where you have agile design principles, things like designing for a minimum viable product, other items like that, that’s possible in DfAM, and so there are these guiding principles or values that come out in agile hardware. And one of the ones I love just to, you know, give you an example of one that’s evolved is the idea of responsible iteration toward greater safety. So a lot of times people will assume that the software adage of, if it’s perfect, it’s late can’t apply in hardware because you need it to be perfect because hardware often has the ability to be implicated in failures that can hurt people. I think the opportunity to do responsible iteration toward greater safety is something where you can be more agile using additive. And that’s a value of agile hardware that hasn’t existed until we really went deep and designed for additive manufacturing.
– So let’s pick up on that a little bit that, you know, safety is always an issue for any transportation vehicle, any autonomous vehicle, are there unique characteristics when you’re looking to EVs, or unmanned air vehicles, or other mobility kind of technologies that AM is uniquely suited to help support those areas? And the other technologies may not be a good fit. So I guess I’m trying to get at what are some of the unique things about AM and the electrification or autonomy that you have found that makes that this a good match. And Jay you’re nodding, so I’m going to go to you first.
– Okay, and we’ve also had a couple of questions that have come in on the subject of, you know, what are some of the properties of the polymer materials that you use that can be good. I hold out great hope for the ability to be able to implicate other systems in these materials. So it’s not just about a survivability, or crash energy absorption, or recyclability, I think also the performance of materials for diming sound and for doing a thermal absorption for the ability to be able to, I think we hold out hope for the ability to have pressure trophic materials that can get stiffer as they get impinged. I think that these are all great things that we can see in polymers. There are other things such as obvious ones like viral defense and bacterial defense that can be easily dropped into these materials, metal markers, other things like that. And so we found that that polymer science in EVs, because you’re bringing a vehicle when now it’s much quieter because you don’t have the rumble of an internal combustion engine, and you have a need for lightness, you also want to expose all the extra space you now have in the vehicle because you don’t have an internal combustion engine and all of its supporting systems inside it. These things make for a need for, let’s say quietness. And when you’re using additive, you’re deleting interface areas where you’ve typically had fasteners and adhesives that can squeak at those interfaces, and so this is a really nice feature. You also have the ability to control temperature in the vehicle using these types of materials, and so they can feel quite warm or cool when you’re in them. I think that seating and an HVAC in a vehicle is something that most don’t know, you’re not cooling the entire cabin, but you are cooling something which makes you feel cool while you’re in the vehicle, that’s your seat, that’s your hands, that’s your face, your neck. And so additive gives you the opportunity to be able to pipe air to those places, it gives you the ability to have certain thermal conductivity in materials, which allow you to be cooler in those areas. These are all things that I think we’ve seen for EVs make additive a really good process to use.
– Terrific. A lot of different ways it can be used. So, Amy, what are you seeing as the good matches for additive manufacturing with the vehicles that you’ve worked on?
– I think the biggest thing is just the ability to customize, which Jay can talk way more about this than I can, but you know, how many vehicles do they have to make to make money after they’ve invested all that money on their tooling, you know, with the approach of additive, you can just completely ignore the tooling cost because the same machine can make a different car without any special setup. I mean, it’s all about your design and knowing what you’re doing on that end. But yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing is, you know, getting what you want and in a timely manner as well, because you don’t have to invest all that time up front on tooling.
– And Amy, this takes us right into a question from the audience on magnets for motors on whether you can 3D print magnets for motors? And you’ve mentioned rare earth materials a few times, and so have you seen anyone printing magnets or is that the best to create the magnets, is with additive manufacturing, what do you think?
– Yeah, so we actually got an R&D 100 a couple of years ago to print some magnets. We’re still in the very early stages of this, but we see big potential here, especially when you talk about, you know, tailoring your magnetic field with selective placement, the material, using additive manufacturing. You know, again, we’re still in the very beginnings of it, but I think that we’re scaling up, we’re working on a bigger magnets, different processes, and I think there’s going to be something big coming out soon, I think. Maybe not soon, but there will be something I think coming out in printing magnetics in the future.
– If I could add to that a little bit, I mean, you know, the subject is magnets for motors, and it’s fascinating. I think power storage systems also I get a nod here, there have been things like metal air batteries that have been out for a while and surface area has been a real challenge. And the ability to print metals for surface area makes it really exciting. And if you need to swap or clean various reactive materials, this means that you can think about now technologies that were bypassed because they didn’t provide the charge rates, if you want to think about it that or the recharge rates. Now you could have something where you’re using additive to be able to work on aluminum blades for a metal air battery. I think that those are fascinating, it’s not the actual power delivery device of a magnet or an IPM, but it is definitely part of the powertrain solution and additive has real legs in those areas.
– Absolutely, I can see how that would work. Just quick memo for our audience, we have about 15 minutes left for our discussion. If you have questions, please use the chat text within the session and we’ll address as many questions as possible. So I want to go back a little bit and we’ve talked about round it a little bit, but the idea of sustainability. Now, when we’re talking about electric vehicles, absolutely sustainability is a driver, but additive manufacturing also plays a role. So Amy, if you could just speak to a moment about what role does sustainability play in the work that Oak Ridge is doing with additive manufacturing?
– Yeah, absolutely. I think that Jay had some good points on this, but we definitely look into, you know, the materials and the recyclability, the placement of the materials, how you know, we can use them or more efficiently, obviously. And then there’s a lot of the polymers that we use that are bio derived that can break down easily over time. So if we are making something large and it’s going to end up, you know, it’s going to have an end of life, right, we want to make sure that end of life is friendly to the environment.
– And Jay, you’ve talked about it a bit, anything else you want to discuss or share on the idea of sustainability and some of the things you’re doing with or outside of additive manufacturing towards that goal?
– Sure. I’ll start with the fact that corporations all often thinking that sort of three legs of the stool for sustainability about people, the planet, the profit. And so I think that if you’re thinking about people, one of the things that sustainability of additive offers is it offers really good high paying jobs. And those jobs are interesting. The need right now for humans to do both the technician side of it, and then also the design side of it, and the supply chain side of it is making a real garden of interesting jobs for polymer scientists, fractured dynamicist, material scientists, other more broadly, so that’s exciting. I think also it creates a lot of downstream jobs that are really interesting because of the unit of one reconfiguration and upgrade that happens. So the people aspect of sustainability is really answered very well by additive. And it stands in contrast to some of the systems that additive is making, which is like robotics, which are taking people’s jobs out of the equation. And so I think that that is exciting. I think for the planet, we talk about that the most in sustainability. And so certainly being able to design these materials so that they can be deconstructed, reconstructed, recycled, and upcycled, and then down cycled back to the earth. There is an enormous amount, not just of promise, but of actual material work that can work in that directions. We’ve done a lot of studies looking at the performance of materials over the number of times that they’re recycled, that’s a necessary part of studying polymer performance for an industrial commercial product. And then I think in terms of profit, what’s really exciting is that we’ve passed over the Rubicon now, which is your return on invested capital for what goes into a system, when you compare machine, and tool, and number of vehicles you can make versus, and survivability and longevity of those vehicles, and then machine, no tool, part you can make and survivability and longevity, there’s greater profit and doing it with additive. And I know that’s such a stark comment for people to understand because they don’t see it because they don’t own a factory. We passed that mark about a year and a half ago. And so people, planet, profit, there is a great deal of sustainability in running a factory that runs additive when you compare it to similar systems, vehicle systems like stamping metal, there is Lawrence Livermore calculations somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40% energy reduction to manufacture a vehicle inside the walls of the factory. So, and upstream, comparing the creation of metal, against aluminum, for example, versus comparing the creation of a polymer, I think we come out better on that also, but just looking in the walls of the factory, you have some real sustainability benefits from a planet perspective.
– Wow, and of course, yes, people are always a critical part ways of thinking, of culture, everything to achieve those goals. True with additive, true for sustainability, true for so much of what we do. I want to jump to one of our audience questions, and I have seen some discussions on sensors for autonomous vehicles, for EVs, and even some of those embedded sensors and materials, some smart materials, that sort of thing. So the question is, what are the sensor input needs for autonomy or EVs? You know, whether it’s the operation of a vehicle, we can talk about the machines in the moment, but what are some of the unique sensor needs that you’ve seen for autonomous or electric vehicles? And Amy, do you want to speak to that first?
– Yeah, obviously there’s a lot of vision systems, machine learning, you know, just image processing that actually has quite a bit of overlap with additive manufacturing. We use the same kind of machine learning and neural net training to teach our systems to manufacture better, to be more reliable. So there’s crossover there. In terms of the sensor inputs, there’s, you know, a lot of opportunity for utilizing, you know, IOT, these low cost sensors that can take very low level data or low level outputs from the system vibration sounds, thermals, that kind of thing, and then tie them into a bigger processor that can actually kind of maybe tell you something useful with that information. And so all those things I think are going to be impactful for both additive and then as well as the autonomy and autonomous mobile systems.
– So Jay, for the vehicles and the work that you’re doing, what are some of the unique sensor input needs that you’re using and you’re manufacturing?
– Well, I mean, on the manufacturing side, we’ve profited a lot from things like digital image correlation. It tends to be a really good way to be able to look at polymer composite non-destructively and understand how it’s going to perform when it’s being cycled. And so, you know, in that way, you’re looking at a randomly scattered pattern through two stereoscopic cameras, and you’re comparing the movement of that system before the part is destroyed to understand how a material will perform. So those kinds of sensors are quite helpful. Those are visual camera systems. And then I think for us on the vehicle, Amy’s mentioned several, you know, we have a traditional layup of inertial measurement units and accelerometers and encoders, those are the ones that are sort of around the vehicle that you don’t see that tell you where the vehicle is going to be. Then you have the ability to put in really cool, very low cost sensors, like strain gauges, and other things like that that allow you to be able to measure the performance of the material as it’s living its life. So that means that the sort of bones of the vehicle can report themselves and talk about how they’ve been used over the life of the vehicle. And then you have the ones that you often hear about more, which is the LiDAR, RADAR, visual cameras, and those sorts of things for pressure sensors, other things like that, ultrasonics in the movement of the vehicle, they need to be carefully positioned. And so additive works very well for that in order to be able to do that. And if you’re going to move them around and you know, the more degrees of freedom you have on a gimbal or other things like that to move them around, the more chance they have of getting moved in a place where they shouldn’t be. So we believe pretty well that additive works well to get a lot of the bracketry and the potential for jitter and movement in those highly sensitive sensors out, and that’s exciting. I think that additive has allowed us to put our LiDAR into or inboard on a vehicle, so they’re behind glass, which means that those very expensive sub-components can be more survivable, due to lack of exposure to weather. So lots of sensor work that is inspired or works better with additive.
– So while we’re talking about sensors, which starts sticking into printed electronics, and we have a couple of, can you make questions coming in from our audience. So I’m going to turn this into a two-parter. One, are you doing anything with printed electronics, and two, have you seen a printed superconductor? And Amy you’ve probably worked with a really diverse group, why don’t we start with you?
– You know, this is a good question, I think I’ve heard rumors of this, so I’m not sure if it’s been done or if we’re just thinking about doing it, but I think it’s definitely possible. The superconductor itself is just a material like any other, and with additive potentially we can, you know, achieve the same grain structure that they’re getting, if it’s, you know, either a metal or ceramic superconductor. And then, you know, I think we could, you know, maybe increase the heat transfer. So you have to, you know, most of the time we have to cool these downs, maybe we can make it even better with the geometry that we’re using. I don’t know, I’m just spit balling here, but I think it’s possible, and maybe that’s here in the future.
– Definitely the possibilities are always exciting to explore. So Jay, is your team doing any work with printed electronics? Do you think that potentially in the future that might be something you do?
– I think that printed electronics, I think that robots don’t die on the processors and the sensors, robots die on the connectors. We believe that very strongly. And so when you have harnesses, and the harnesses have lots of connection points, that’s where failure happens. If you can embed printing and you can get dissimilar parts out of the way you’re doing with structures, then you can have a better chance at survivability. So putting buses high voltage, low voltage, wire channels, other things like that, giving yourself redundancy. So if you have all this wall’s strength, using it for buses or harnesses, as opposed to just using it for the other needs of what a structure is, we see great applicability in that. There are also polymers that are self-healing, and so those are pretty exciting things that in printed electronics have been proven already. And so that is something, again, dissimilar materials, and I know that there are a lot of people here that are interested in non-parallel access robot printing, welding, or materials. I see this as an opportunity there for really thinking about electronics, because if you have a structure that’s printed and then you come back and present a non-parallel access robot printing various forms of even things as simple as a ground around a structure, imagine sort of your old copper lightening strap or led strap that was hammered down to the roof of a building. Think about a non-parallel access robot printing over an additive structure, but printing down a ground on that would give you an example of something that that could be done in that way.
– Well, that kinda leads us to the next, can you make question? And I know many of the processes you’re not gonna have a bed, a bath, in which parts are printed, but the question is whether you can make a wheel on a rotating substrate? So applying the materials on something that’s rotating. Jay, what do you think? You’re kind of smiling about that thought.
– Well, I’m just one person to answer this in this group of two, I would say that the answer is part positioning in a welding scenario, gives a lot of promise. And, you know, there are great companies like Wolf Robotics that I think was sold to Lincoln Electric that had worked a lot on how to position a part for welding better. Absolutely, if you can do it, do it. I think that wheels are a challenge because wheels are something that are complicated. They have, and whether we’re talking about the tire even, or the wheels, we need a lot of them. And so, in a sense, I often joke like you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Wheels may be something that ought not use additive, unless you can really figure out the use case for doing a wheel differently. They all need to be round, and so I’m not the best one to opine on whether wheels will go additive, but it certainly can be done. And so I’d love to see somebody give it a whirl, no pun intended.
– Absolutely. Amy, what do you think?
– I don’t know if I can come after that comment, that was pretty good sum up there. But yeah, so anything that is like, you know, bent pieces of sheet metal, like, you know, the outside of your car, like if you’re making it that way and you know, some wheels have components like that. That’s really hard to beat with additive, typically the thin wall structures are the challenge for additive. And then also in the wheel, you know, you need pretty uniform density, pretty uniform, you know, just structural properties, and so, yeah, I think I’m with Jay in that maybe the wheels, not the best place to go for additive, although I’ve seen some pretty creative tire designs without additive. Yeah, the actual actual metal wheel part is probably something that we probably leave to traditional manufacturing.
– Okay, we are just two minutes short, so let’s see if we can take one more question and get it in there. So shape memory alloy, shape memory polymers, do you see a potential for use of the AM with functional materials using those? So, Jay, I mean, any thoughts on shape memory materials?
– Oh, well, so we’ve been using shape memory materials in the US Navy, I think, you know, whether it’s talked about or are known, I think there’s lots of reasons that shape memory makes a lot of sense. But I really want to turn that one over to Amy from a point of view of printed grains or printed metal. I don’t have experience in printing with them, so that would have to be your question.
– Yeah, absolutely. We have done work in this, we’re working towards, you know, getting there. It’s just like any other material, what are the process settings that you have to find to get the grain structure that you’re looking for? Get rid of the ferocity, the shape memory alloys are more tricky, obviously, they’re more complex and the more sensitive to the processes we put them through. So, you know, the environments that we have to process in have to be more controlled because there’s more, you know, they tend to oxidize more than they tend to pick up other elements more, which ruins their properties. And so it’s just a matter of getting the technology to the point where we could print them. But I think it’s definitely possible, it’s just a matter of, you know, how important is it, can we get that effort towards it?
– Well, we are at time, but Amy and Jay will be joining us in a Zoom meeting for about 15 minutes, if you’d like to meet them, ask some more questions. Thank you so much to Jay Rogers, Dr. Amy Elliot, thank you for sharing your experience. It was definitely an interesting discussion, and thank you to everyone for joining us.
– Thank you, thanks Lauralyn.