Listen as Dave Woodlock, Market Development Manager at HP’s 3D printing group discusses lessons learned when incorporating 3D printing into your business as a product and as a tool. Notes Woodlock, many assume that what holds 3D printing back in terms of greater implementation is material, hardware, and so on. But what HP has found is that change management is a larger issue that executives must address. Woodloock also takes a look at 3D printing’s benefits to saving time in getting product to market faster, and in how this technology will expand the role of the engineer in design and manufacturing.
Langnau: Welcome everyone to this issue of Executive Edition. I’m Leslie Langnau with Design World Magazine. In today’s episode, we are speaking with David Woodlock, HP’s Market Development Manager. HP, of course, is known for a number of products including the Multi Jet Fusion line and Jet Fusion line of 3D printers, and we’ll be discussing some of this today. So thank you for joining me, David.
David Woodlock: Thank you, Leslie.
Langnau: Okay. One of the first questions I want to ask is how is HP using its own 3D printers in its design and production efforts?
Woodlock: Just about in every business and every use case you could think of. Early on, when we were starting this 3D printing business, it’s really focused on manufacturing transformation, right, growing 3D printing, this prototyping space, and into real production, real high-value use cases within engineering and manufacturing, right? So we’re trying to work directly with customers to guide them along this journey, and obviously, you can’t do that, or at least do that credibly, until you really know what it takes.
So our executives, I think very wisely, early on decided that for us to be able to lead this charge, we need to be able to do it ourselves and learn from it, so that we can share our successes, and frankly, our failures and challenges as we do this within our own business. So it’s been a big effort for the entirety of our business, and so, it’s penetrated a lot of the different business segments and a lot of different applications.
Langnau: So speaking of challenges and failures, what challenges did you encounter that surprised you?
Woodlock: You know, people talk about what holds 3D printing back in terms of material, hardware, things like that, cost, man, it’s change management is the big one, right?
Woodlock: And nowhere was it more apparent than within HP, which is, obviously, a company with a great, great supply chain, world-leading supply chain, but those supply chains are set up to be super-efficient based on all the manufacturing tools available to them. So now, when you try to bring something new into that supply chain and take advantage of it, there’s a whole bunch of change management that has to happen. People are measured, how people think about product development and timelines, all of that. So that was kind of a big surprise to us, how much of it was kind of organizational and process, versus limitations of material or hardware.
Langnau: Can you give maybe one or two tips that helped you implement change?
Woodlock: Yeah, for sure. The biggest thing that we had was really strong executive support. Our COO is one of the greatest supply minds in the world, and he saw the value early on and he has been this huge supporter. And he has engaged his teams and pushed his teams to make it work within their supply chain. And now when you have that sort of executive support, people are willing to kind of step outside of what they’ve done before, take on new ideas, new technologies. They can take some risks because they know that they’ve got the backing of their leadership.
So once that happened and we had that supply chain on board, it wasn’t just a 3D printing thing anymore, it was an HP thing, and we could use their expertise building world-class supply chains to build a world-class 3D printing supply chain. That’s really what’s been enabling all of our 3D design efforts.
Langnau: Yeah. one of the things I occasionally hear in talking to people is 3D printing allows you to fail faster, which can get you to market faster.
Woodlock: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. You know, there’s tons of benefits on product performance, on cost, reducing capital, things like that, but man, the time savings are one of the biggest benefits. Engineers can take on more scope. A lot of times you have fewer part numbers. Design changes are easier, learning cycles are faster, so you can get products to market faster, or you can just use those extra learning cycles to create better products. But yeah, all the time savings has been one of the biggest benefits for a company like us that’s trying to move faster, and is in these fast-moving industries like 3D printing, but also just like consumer tech.
Langnau: Okay. So now, as far as designing, what challenges did you face in designing and producing products? And I’m thinking specifically with your design team.
Langnau: Did they have certain things to overcome?
Woodlock: Yeah. Yeah, again, a lot of it comes down to the people, right? So what you’re doing is you’re asking people to learn a new technology and new design strategies. What a lot of these engineers are used to designing for is sheet metal or injection molding or things like that, and so, a lot of what people think about design for additive manufacturing, it’s some of these like new futuristic capabilities, you know, topology optimization, organic designs, advanced simulation, and all of that is just even further along. That’s a lot to learn, a lot of new capability, but you don’t necessarily have to go all the way there when you’re designing for additive manufacturing, right?
Really, what we did was we focused on how the process works, right? Changing it back to injection molding. So like say injection molding, you have to think about, you know, your wall thicknesses and things like that.
Woodlock: Well, we’re thinking about cross-sectional areas. Both of those are for kind of regulating heat. For costing injection molding, you’re thinking about minimizing your press size, right, to get the most efficiency. For 3D printing, we’re talking about maximizing the packing density to build, again, for the same reasons, right?
So if you get them to understand how the technology works, how we’re melting plastic, how production works, engineers are smart. They can make those connections, and then they can see how different design changes, right? You don’t have to go all the way to topology optimization, but if you can make things that remove, say, areas that’ll lead to heat concentrations, or you can make changes that’ll make it pack better, that they get to benefit.
So people, once they started to get their hands on it, they realized it wasn’t this huge new thing to learn, but really a slight variation on how they had been designing before-
Woodlock: But with all this freedom. So once they got there, got past that initial learning hurdle and they saw that it increased the amount of time that they had, right, it shortened a lot of things, it wasn’t a time suck, then it just really took off.
Langnau: I like that phrase, that it was just a little bit of tweaking that they needed to do as far as getting over some design challenges. They were doing a lot of this anyway-
Langnau: They just needed to move a little bit further down that path. That’s pretty cool.
Woodlock: Yeah. I mean, when you’re designing for injection molding, you’re designing for thermal history and productivity, and we’re trying to do the same thing, just the physics are a little different, right?
Langnau: Okay. So now, what do you see or how do you see 3D printing affecting jobs for engineers?
Woodlock: That’s a good question. I see there are some new tools out there that I don’t think many people are proficient at. I look at some of these, say, tools for advanced simulation or things like that, that will become bigger and bigger parts of people’s engineering processes. As I said, that’s not everybody.
If I look at kind of like more general mechanical design, I don’t see tons of change from what they’re doing today. Really, what I see is a move from people that are more parts designers taking a step back, becoming more system level designers. Because to get that value out of the manufacturing, right, you really want to design for function. And then, traditionally, once you have this function, then you have to figure out the manufacturer ability. So that may turn what could have been one part into a few dozen, right?
Woodlock:So really, the opportunity here is to take a lot of these people with smaller scope and create more system-level thinking and a system of architecture amongst the engineers because that’s really what 3D printing lends itself to in those applications.
Langnau: So it’s more of an expansion of the engineer’s role rather than any kind of a contraction?
Woodlock: I think so, for sure. I think that just the ability to take on bigger sections of a product because you have fewer part numbers and less things to organize, increases kind of the scope that an engineer can take on. I think it’s going to lend itself to fashion development cycles, right? So we’re going to see products come out a lot faster. And so, again, I think it’s a slow evolution of the designer’s job, not a radical shift.
Langnau: Okay. Very interesting. Well, those were all the questions that I had, David, so I thank you very much for joining me today.
Woodlock: Sure. Thanks for having me.
Langnau: Thank you for joining us today. Please return again for our next episode.