Rush LaSelle, CEO of AddUp joined Adam Penna for a chat on the AM Voices podcast the Monday after the Additive Manufacturing Users Group conference to reflect, catch-up, and share more about hands-on leadership. Rush opened up about his plans with AddUp as well as his inspirational journey into Additive Manufacturing from FANUC, to Adept Technology, Swisslog/KUKA robotics, and Jabil as well as his voluntary work with the non-profit named 3DP4ME.org that provides 3D printed hearing aid solutions to the most hearing-impaired locations in the Middle East.
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Adam Penna (00:05):
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Adam Penna (00:27):
Continuing the conversation at 3D printing and additive manufacturing, this is Adam Penna, your host on the AM Voices podcast. Today we have Rush LaSelle, he is our guest today. He is the recently appointed CEO of AddUp, a company that focuses on laser powder-bed fusion, and directed energy disposition. That’s DED. Now we are having a great time just chatting a little bit before this getting going Rush, welcome. Great to have you here today.
Rush LaSelle (00:52):
Adam, great seeing you. Thanks for the invitation. Great to continue some of the conversations from last week at AMUG.
Adam Penna (00:57):
Wow. Right. We were just talking about that event and how great it was to see everybody in person and get to network a lot. And you always have not enough time, but it is just a great place to really do that and see a lot of good people in one spot and a lot of technology. So wow. Overwhelmed by that, the great comeback from last year and how great of a time it was.
Rush LaSelle (01:17):
Absolutely, the collaboration, the energy, seeing people back in person. It was fantastic. It really was.
Adam Penna (01:24):
Yeah. And there was an announcement that was put out just a little bit prior to, or right the week off, right? That when you were appointed a new CEO over there at AddUp and a lot of great history you have in the industry. So I’d love to talk a little bit more about that today and expand on what you’ve been doing on your plans for AddUp and all the things that you’ve been involved in. So we can get into that a little more today.
Rush LaSelle (01:47):
Definitely looking forward to it. The good folks at AddUp were kind enough to give me about two months of runway before they announced. And so at least I got my feet almost under me now. So lots of fun stuff going on.
Adam Penna (02:00):
There is, there is. So let’s talk a little bit about that history. You have a great journey inside of additive manufacturing, everything from even prior in the actual, just normal manufacturing world, imagine that.
Rush LaSelle (02:11):
Adam Penna (02:11):
But everything from Fanuc, AddUp technologies and then now, excuse me. And then Jabil, it depends on what part of the world you’re in. Right? It’s Jabil or Jabil.
Rush LaSelle (02:20):
Adam Penna (02:21):
But great experience there. So tell people a little bit more about that history and what especially what Jabil does on the 3D printing and additive manufacturing side. A lot of people don’t know, they’re like the big company behind the scenes that’s doing a lot of manufacturing, so that’s very interesting.
Rush LaSelle (02:39):
Yeah. Well, so let me give just a brief background on me, especially after last week, I have to confess I’m a recent newcomer. I’ve been in the space for about six, seven years, but my background has always been in manufacturing.
Rush LaSelle (02:52):
In fact, coming out of mechanical engineering school in the Bay Area, skipped over companies like Cisco, because just wanted to get into the heartland of manufacturing and went in robotic space.
Rush LaSelle (03:02):
And so for about 20 years, trying to help manufacturers figure out how to be more competitive, especially here in the US and put labor where labor should be and put manufacturing technologies where it should be. And there’s a place for both, just like additive manufacturing.
Rush LaSelle (03:21):
So yeah, spent quite a bit of time in robotics and then moved to Jabil almost 10 years ago, went there to help out with their automation strategy, did that for a short two years. And the CEO came back from a trip and speaking with some of our customers and some of our partners and said, “This additive manufacturing thing seems to be getting to where it’s going to impact our business and that of our customers.”
Rush LaSelle (03:44):
And so we went out on a technology scouting mission and started to answer the question of what portions of our business might be best served by additive, and then even more fun because got to meet a lot of folks in the industry. What technologies are ready for either tooling and fixturing? Obviously prototyping was already well established.
Rush LaSelle (04:03):
And then the real question in hypothesis is what was ready to get into serial production? So that was where we kicked off with Jabil, and over the ensuing six years built a phenomenal team over there, really quite a special group of folks that touched on technology, the materials, and then obviously what Jabil does best, putting that technology into the factories.
Adam Penna (04:28):
And there’s clarity there on it’s all basically verticals, you have aerospace, medical in there, consumer products. People are usually in one of those individual fields, but you’re catering to all those fields. And those are certifications, qualifications, a lot of big things that are happening in those processes. So, that’s some amazing experience. Talk about that time and how you actually came across some of the industries and your challenges and successes inside of them.
Rush LaSelle (04:58):
Boy, how many hours do we have here [crosstalk 00:05:01].
Adam Penna (05:00):
Hold on a second, [inaudible 00:05:02].
Rush LaSelle (05:01):
Let me try and parse out some of, I think the best learnings I took away and I think where Jabil is headed with it. But relative to converting and manufacturing technologies, the more traditional ones additive is obviously relatively new. And so it’s still looking for it’s footing, it’s driving economic curves to get to where you can really understand where it’s a better technology as compared to things like injection molding or CNC.
Adam Penna (05:29):
Rush LaSelle (05:32):
I’d say part of the complication is the promise of the digital side of it and the speed and the agility. I always like the analogy of thinking what Amazon did to the brick and mortar retail. That’s what digital, that’s what additive promises, but that conversion it’s a bit challenging, right?
Rush LaSelle (05:49):
Because now you’ve got this new technology, that technology’s got a lot of variables in the build processing, how you’re converting a metal or a polymer into a final format.
Rush LaSelle (05:57):
So there’s a fair amount of cost that goes into that with the certification, the engineering, and because of that, right now, the most solid footing outside of prototyping is in high value markets. And those high value markets just happen to be typified by aerospace and healthcare, because if you’re putting something in your body, you’re willing to pay a little bit more for higher quality and a better product. And that’s not true in all other markets where you have high volume and the industry manufacturing is trying to drive cost curves down. I think back to Ford, Ellen gave a great presentation last week [crosstalk 00:06:35].
Adam Penna (06:35):
Yeah, she gave one of the keynotes.
Rush LaSelle (06:36):
Absolutely. And it was wonderful. So Ford’s had a great view as do many of the auto manufacturers. But manufacturing’s been built on the DNA of driving cost out of the manufacturing process, both repeatability and cost. So you can get a car in everyone’s driveway as an example.
Rush LaSelle (06:52):
So you’ve got that trajectory and additive brings something new. It brings agility, it brings smaller batch size. And so anyway, back to Jabil, Jabil is exploring how in all those various verticals, does it add value to ultimately a consumer product or an industrial product.
Rush LaSelle (07:11):
And right now it remains that those highly certified markets are the best playgrounds, but you can start to see there’s a trickle down into other markets. And I think Jabil doing a great job of that pattern matching and moving the industry forward in their way, factory space.
Adam Penna (07:27):
They are, that’s some incredible times you must have had there, obviously seeing a lot of that in action and coming from the manufacturing world and being able to apply that to what’s happening now in additive.
Adam Penna (07:39):
And now, with the announcement at AddUp and AddUp focuses that we’d like to talked about on the metal side with laser powder-bed fusion, and DED directed energy deposition. I know that they’re associated with Michelin, but the bigger company, again, it depends on what side of the world you’re on with the name is Fives or Fives I’ve heard in the US, but it’s Fives.
Rush LaSelle (07:59):
Fives. That’s right.
Adam Penna (08:01):
Yeah. And that’s a French company. I know Michelin got involved a lot with laser powder-bed fusion, especially looking at the metal side of what’s happening and seeing the sipes, which are the tire treads, a big application, obviously AddUp, was specializing what Michelin was there, but now it’s, of course expanding into other applications because you have such a great technology to work with and a lot of customers expanding and the different verticals. Talk about that transition and what’s happening in AddUp now in this exciting times.
Rush LaSelle (08:34):
It, it absolutely is Adam and I think that you described it well, obviously did some good at due diligence here. Michelin has been utilizing additive technologies to do tooling and fixturing, which a lot of folks don’t know that’s a huge market unto itself. Right now, I think it’s measuring hundreds of millions of dollars every year, moving towards a billion. Just tools, things that you use to make things.
Rush LaSelle (09:01):
And so Michelin began, as you said, with these sipes, the little components that go into a mold that make the tread on your tire that allows you to drive through rain and do all those things safely. And so they had a really interesting problem looking for a technology as compared to a technology looking for a problem. And so through the time that they’d incubate the technology and partnered with others over their first 10 years, they started to identify things that maybe there were gaps in how the technology was being deployed, how the machines were built and that’s how the company formed.
Rush LaSelle (09:36):
And so for me being that dirty fingernail factory guy, one of my attractions to the company is that the DNA of the product and the service offering is very much for operations and factories. So the way they think about environmental health and safety, the implementation of a system to keep people’s safe and to reduce the cost of implementation. Things like how you maintain the machine, really just the robustness and reliability of the product.
Rush LaSelle (10:06):
It’s just at the heart of what the equipment provides. And then where I think the technology wants to go is really the mesh and integration of software and sensory output to start closing the loop in the actual [inaudible 00:10:22]. And so I think there’s a lot of exciting things going on. And so for them, they’re really focused on that process and the reliability of that process. And that was really pretty attractive to me.
Adam Penna (10:33):
Yeah. Now how about the DED side of that? Everything that it’s happening there. What are your expectations in that particular technology?
Rush LaSelle (10:43):
Absolutely. DED is a fascinating technology. It’s just the one I’ve spent the last 60 days really trying to get up the curve on, but sitting through, again, some of the tremendous presentations from last week at AMUG, the sky’s the limit almost figuratively and literally because you’re seeing a lot of use for large form things, think about launch vehicles, think about rockets. The form and the size, just basically the size of part that you can produce with DED technology, it’s much larger than anything else.
Rush LaSelle (11:17):
And so it’s a reasonably tried and true technology and the application I think is just growing it. So it’s a very exciting technology. And again, last week, just through the collaborative efforts of everyone talking about where that technology in particular wants to go, I think we’ll see a heck of a lot more placements over the coming years.
Adam Penna (11:37):
Yeah, it’s exciting. Obviously just to be blunt on it, there’s a lot of competition in both metal 3D printing technology for powder-bed and DED, but you have some focus technology that you’ve been working on with customers there to add up to produce and push it a little bit further.
Adam Penna (11:55):
And so that’s the type of things that we love to see, people actually grabbing applications and pushing them forward. The more applications, the more standards we have and those type of things are very important.
Rush LaSelle (12:04):
Adam Penna (12:05):
So yeah, that’s going to be great to see that layout as we go forward. I know we also have a friend in common, I like to bring up Jason Szolomayer over there, 3DP4ME, and you’re recently on the board over there too.
Adam Penna (12:19):
So a little bit about the company is it’s a nonprofit in the middle east. That’s headed up by Jason Szolomayer. He actually went over there a little bit before the pandemic hit. So I was following him doing that with his family, bringing them over there. And they’re focused on, on 3D printing hearing aids. One of the most deprived locations in the world.
Adam Penna (12:38):
So he faced a lot of challenges getting that set up, especially during the pandemic, but then got a lot of support from the industry. Really people seeing what he is doing over there is really heartfelt and focused in the right way, growing the local ecosystem over there, really working with people to make things happen locally and get out of the way. That’s really his goal.
Adam Penna (12:59):
So that in itself is actually works in action, doing something about what’s happening and actually supporting the local community. So what’s going on there and how do you seen things since you’ve been on the board?
Rush LaSelle (13:14):
Well, thanks for asking. It is such a very special mission that Jason is on and the people he’s in circled himself with are just tremendous people. And like you say, he’s gotten a lot of support from the industry. For me, I was introduced to Jason almost a year ago. And he just said, ‘Hey, I got some questions.” And in his very wonderful way, just reached out and asked if I’d be interested in help support on the technical side. How could you ever say no? He’s such a special person. And the mission is so compelling.
Rush LaSelle (13:51):
The thesis is, again, is take all this great technology been developed in the commercial world and in industry and apply it to some real challenges in the world. So Jason has a beautiful vision of taking 3D printing and applying it right now into hearing aids. And there’s just a tremendous number of communities around the world, starting in Syria and Jordan, where there’s children who definitely need help.
Rush LaSelle (14:20):
There’s just not enough warm bodies to administer the care, and that’s where you start to see digital technologies scanning all the way through the cloud and all the pre and post processing that you do on those forms, those, those molds, or want to be molds, and then printing in location so that you can get them to the point of care.
Rush LaSelle (14:42):
And think what’s amazing about it is Jason has just such a clear focus on how to get started with hearing aids and then move into a lower limb prosthesis. And it’s not a technology problem, it’s that last mile of somebody identifying, hey, here’s where all this goodness that you all are toiling away on, here’s a place where you can put that together and really serve a community. And this is a wonderful story and people are rallying behind it. And he’s done a great job of orchestrating that and getting it underway in a meaningful way.
Adam Penna (15:14):
For sure that’s exciting. And I was really happy to see you join the board over there. Jason does a lot of great work and obviously attracting the right people, you’re one of them so great to see you a board over there. A lot of great things are happening for him and good to see that with good people and a good product and a good vision. So he’s got all that going for him and I’m very happy for him and you, that’s a good place to be.
Rush LaSelle (15:35):
Adam Penna (15:36):
Actually, I know he’s always talking about, “Someday, we’ll meet.” He’ll come to the US. He’s got a lot being set up over there and a lot of responsibilities, but I know he is someday going to get back here. They’re headquartered over on the California side so maybe I’ll get to meet him in person when he visits the headquarters over there. Looking forward to that day. A lot of good things happening.
Rush LaSelle (15:56):
Adam Penna (15:57):
So we talked about AMUG, we talked about what’s going on a bit in the past there, and a little bit with AddUp as it is. What do you see as the future plans for AddUp and where you see things going here forward?
Rush LaSelle (16:12):
Boy, I’m excited for the whole community. And as you said earlier, it’s a reasonably crowded field, whether you’re talking about a particular technology solution sets. And what I’m most excited about is again, just the collaborative nature of the industry. Yes. We’re all competitors and we’re all fiercely trying to get our solutions into the marketplace and makes some money for our shareholders. But what I’m seeing more and more is intent focused on solving particular problems.
Rush LaSelle (16:37):
And so, as I say with AddUp, it just happens to have a DNA that is very factory based. And the company is really focused on that processing technology. We’re, not looking to develop material per se, we’re looking to partner. And so taking full advantage of a growing ecosystem. And so knowing how to solve problems with partners in the ecosystem and not trying to be everything is one of the hallmarks of why I think that we’re on a good path.
Rush LaSelle (17:10):
And in the future Adam, I think that, and I’ll an analogy. As you mentioned, I work for Fanuc, another company that you pronounce it depending on where you are in the world. We used to say just as long as you spell it right on the PO, don’t don’t care how you pronounce it, but it is Fanuc. In [Dr.Anaba 00:17:30], who was a tremendous visionary in the robotics space, came out at one point and we had all been clamoring in support of our customers. It needs to be more accurate. It needs to be better.
Rush LaSelle (17:40):
And at one point he said, you get to a point of diminished returns. Castings are going to expand motors are going to have backlash. Mechanically, you get to a point where it just doesn’t get better, kind of like a human body actually. And so then you go down a path of how do you get to that level? And it happens to be things like vision systems. So if you see robots that are deployed today, they use a lot of vision systems, tactile feedback, just like again, human body.
Rush LaSelle (18:07):
So as I think about that, Adam and I think about where our industry and AddUp is headed. It’s really important to recognize that whether it’s the elevators in the systems, whether it’s recorders, whatever the mechanical system is in the machine, at some point it’s as good as it’s going to get, and you get to that diminished return. So as I think about the future, and what I’m most excited about is getting an exceptionally reliable machine and then start doing that same dynamic force feedback loop to where we make the machine smart.
Rush LaSelle (18:38):
And when you have voids, when you have the exceptions that happen in manufacturing, because they do. It doesn’t matter how good you are when you’re trying to achieve Six Sigma, you need a more information and you need it to be actionable, and that’s where I think we’re headed. And that’s one of the things I’m excited about with AddUp is that they’ve got that vision and are actively working on it.
Adam Penna (19:00):
That’s huge. Coming from my background, I spent five years at EOS and looking at all that, the big, the big conquest is also always the close loop side of things. You want to tie it in to where you could use or harness all the tools in the digital world and do something with all of that information, because there’s a lot of information that’s going on inside the machine layer by layer, creating things, all the heat signatures, the amount of data that’s poured in, the feedback loop is enormous and it’s filtering and getting to the stuff that you have to use for the application. That’s the most important side of it. And then what you do with it.
Adam Penna (19:42):
And the machining world, you put things on a zero point and then everything grows from there and you know where you’re referencing now, it’s like everyone has their different of referencing so things have to be standardized as we go forward. And we’re seeing a bit more of that with some of the hybrid technologies in the industry and things. But the closed loop side of it, the monitoring side, the ability to look at something and make a correction, it’s starting to play out and there’s focus on it, but it there’s a long way to go, especially when you’re talking about mass manufacturing.
Adam Penna (20:15):
That’s a big jump, and a lot of it’s tied in that feedback loop and be able to do the proper things with the data. So it’s great to hear that’s a big part of your focus because that to me is pretty much everything inside of growing the manufacturing world with 3D printing. It’s really cool.
Rush LaSelle (20:31):
Adam, you’re spot on. The reality is it’s not a trivial problem and it’s not one that’s going to be solved overnight. So I don’t want to set the faulty expectations. It’s somewhat analogous to autonomous driving. You can see the technology there, but it’s always those exceptions. And as you mentioned earlier, the place where you’re seeing the most serial production is in regulated industries.
Rush LaSelle (20:54):
So I don’t think any of us are necessarily ready to take the hands completely off the wheel on those processes, but it’s a crawl, walk, run, and so you’re going to see things like record monitoring, you’re going to see things that are showing a pathway to full autonomous machine control, but that is a long journey.
Rush LaSelle (21:14):
And I also just mentioned that if you think about all the promise of AI and deep learning, you just said it perfectly, we’re spitting out lots of information. Deep learning and all of these AI tools require that. And so the more we put out there, the more you can take and make actionable information that ultimately satisfies our certifications and our quality systems. So it’s a very exciting time to be in the industry.
Adam Penna (21:43):
It is. And that quality is a big focus. And I know with the LPBF, you definitely have precision and quality in one place. It’s going to be neat to see the things that you produce over there and all the customers you work with.
Rush LaSelle (21:55):
Adam Penna (21:56):
Rush, this has been an awesome conversation. I know we’ll have many more, but is there anything that you’d like to add while we have you here today?
Rush LaSelle (22:04):
Again, I just can’t say enough about how wonderful it is to see everybody in the ecosystem, in an event like last week. And one thing that I did observe is we’re seeing a lot of new faces and a lot of people coming into the industry. And so whether it’s AddUp, it’s 3DP for me, whether it’s your friends at EOS or Jabil, I think we as a community have to continue to get out there and beat the drum on stem and creating the excitement that lived in Silicon valley around chips and computers 20 years ago.
Rush LaSelle (22:36):
Manufacturing is awesome. It’s back on the radar. And I just ask everybody to continue to get out there and have our young people see what we do, help educate them and usher in the next generation, because it’s going to be again, another exciting 10 years for the industry.
Adam Penna (22:52):
It is. Great thing to bring up that next gen is exciting. I saw a lot of exciting young people at the event last week and it continues to be an excitement there. And I’m always like, “Hey, we got to get them to stay in the industry.” It’s like a lot of them in the past have come along and popped off into different places. But I think it’s at the tipping point where you’re going to see a lot of people stay that you’ve seen all the universities start to get the programs in them.
Adam Penna (23:16):
So there’s things that are going to keep the younger generation focused on additive. And it’s exciting. There’s a lot of great things happening. Still kind of like the Wild Wild West, because there’s so much going on. It’s like, hey, what can I get involved? And maybe something at the startup, maybe something to established, maybe something in the middle. What technology, where am I going to go? What people am I going to? There’s a lot to look at. And it’s exciting, especially for the younger generation coming up.
Adam Penna (23:37):
So looking forward to see that come to fruition and keep supporting. That’s a great thing to hear. Well, thank you for visiting AM Voices podcast. We look forward to seeing your works in action at 3DP4ME and AddUp. So thanks again. Rush. Great to have you here,
Rush LaSelle (23:53):
Adam. Thanks for the invite. Looking forward to seeing at the next show.
Adam Penna (23:57):
Definitely take care.
Rush LaSelle (23:58):
All right. Bye-bye.
Adam Penna (23:59):
Thank you for listening to the AM Voices podcast on additivemanufacturing.com brought to you by Metrix, an ASME company. Metrix unlocks access to resources, content, people, and expertise to inform technology, purchase decisions and cement business relationships. For more information, visit our website, metrix-connect.com.