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Kevin Carr, Jellyfish, Meeting Chuck Hall – Founder of 3D Printing

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Welcome to 3D From Nothing Powered by Metalmite, the Show where you will learn all about 3-D printing and additive technology, and I am your host, Tom Gendich.

Metalmite is a full-service machine shop that specializes in 5 and 6 axis CNC machining, CNC grinding, Wire EDM and 3D Printing. We are a 50 plus year old corporation started by my father, Michael Gendich the Third. I took over as CEO in 2009 and am continuing the manufacturing legacy as a third-generation owner.

In these programs you will learn what kinds of printers are out there and what kind of materials you can print on. Who is using these printers, what kinds of things should you be looking at printing. As well as hearing form experts in the field through interviews we will be conducting. And, as always you can go to our website 3-Dfrom can get free giveaways and learn more about what we’re doing and how the name comes from my father he said at some point will make parts out of nothing – and today we are doing just that with 3D Printing and additive technology.

Today, we’re excited to bring Kevin Carr with us for master graphics. Kevin reached out to me on the web about a month ago and we were able to connect and Kevin’s got his own podcast.

He’ll tell you about as well as a very unique business. Kevin, welcome to our show. Thanks Tom. For having me. I appreciate it. Absolutely. Uh, Kevin, I’m really excited as, uh, as you were telling me how you started your career in the 2d world with the, with the design prints and the graphics, and then merge quickly into the, uh, additive world.

And, uh, you were saying the two don’t, uh, fully relay, but you’ve brought them together in one unique business and you have a very successful blog and a very successful podcast. I’ve, I’ve found a value out of both. Yeah. So, no, I appreciate that. So again, I’m president of master graphics, we’re Midwest based company and it’s, it’s amazing much like you, I think we’ve been around a long time.

I think it’s our 74th year. Right. And so, you know, it’s interesting. So I’ve been at master graphics about 12 years and just took over the presidency about two years ago. And we started as a traditional blueprinter, which is kind of interesting as you take this evolution. And so we’ve been traditionally in the 2d print space, think of engineering, CAD drawings.

And then for a long time, we were a CAD Autodesk reseller. So you’ll kind of see where this fits into the 3d space. Right? And so, you know, over the last 10 or 12 years, we were not only at CAD Autodesk reseller, we sold wide format, but we started to dabble in 3d print. Um, we actually signed up with Stratasys almost 25 years ago.

It didn’t really go anywhere. 12 years ago, 14 years ago, when I came on, we were selling Z Corp. Uh, and then, then C Corp got bought by 3d systems. And it was about that time. I realized, Hey, this is kind of the growth, right? As, you know, a company, even like, like yours, we evolve over time. Right. We got to get new technologies, that type of thing.

So we really got serious about 3d print. And then in that time, over the last 12 years have, you know, sold. 3d systems. Now we sell HP. We sell Ultimaker. So we’ve got a pretty wide breadth of products. And so even though we still have our core traditional 2d wide format business, you know, our, our strength and growth has been around 3d.

It’s been an exciting time. And so. Um, so yeah, it’s interesting. We kind of run independently in silos in our group, but the one thing we’ve been able to leverage is kind of the, the service texts, right? Because technology is technology and then the CAD background has given us a lot of leverage on the design process.

Now, since that we’ve sold our Autodesk business and I still got a partnership with those who’ve required it. Um, but anyways, so yeah, we’ve just had this great evolution as a business and now believe it or not 3d prints. Over 65% of our revenue. So it’s been a pretty big growth area for us. Yeah. And so I think for our, uh, younger listeners, if we, if we have any, I think you may have to explain what a blueprint is.

I use that term the other day and my oldest son he’ll be 21 here in a, in a, in a two months. Uh didn’t know what I was talking about. Why, why would somebody want to print to be blue? So, uh, you may, you may want to explain what a blueprint is. Well, amazingly enough blueprint, and you may know this, but you probably had them in the shop when you were a kid, right.

It was ammonia process. Right? So my first job out of school was running a big ammonia machine, which was quite honestly pretty dangerous. We had a couple of ammonia links. I don’t have to leave the shop. So yeah, no more kids don’t know bloopers. Yeah. So, so basically it was a, it was a way for archaic people like you and I to make a copy of a drawing and offer it to others.

We ran it through that ammonia machine. So I also use the term. Someone said, uh, you know, how are you? I’m good. And I said, I said, ditto. And someone else said to me, what, what does that, what does it did? Okay. So same concept. Right? How do you, how did you make a copy back in the day with that’s right. I did say we did all comes from that.

It was a dental machine. It was, that was the guy’s last name, but it was how you made a copy. It was black all over it. So, um, but yeah, so I love the fact that, you know, the company 74 years old, you said, yeah, Yeah, I assume you weren’t there from the beginning. Cause you look great for your age, whatever you’re eating.

I want, I want that diet. In fact, I just hope it doesn’t fail under me after 74 years. It’s my biggest concern. Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, there’s the, there’s the Lindy effect. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that, but uh, the longer a company’s been around, the more likely it’ll stay around a long time. So I got that going for you and you and I are both riding on the code test at 53 years for me, 74 years for you.

So it’s true though. Yeah. Um, so we, we start with the drawing. We move quickly into software or not quickly, but maybe, you know, 30 years later you move into software. Now software is driving. Uh, manufacturing, additive manufacturing. So I love the connection point of the business and how it’s transitioned.

It makes a lot of sense. There’s a saying, I, you know, so we’re in the Detroit area, I think you’re, you’re just outside of Chicago, right? Yeah. So in the Detroit area, I don’t know if this is a, a term all around the world, but, uh, they, they, they always say you don’t want to be the guy making horseshoes when Henry Ford comes to town.

Oh, yeah. And so I use that term with my team all the time, because essentially it’s saying don’t let technology pass you by. Yeah. And there’s a lot of shops. Uh, there, there was 1800 shops in 2009 that closed their doors and that she just in the Detroit area and we were able to survive that one. Now, you know, we got round two here with what, 2019.

It seems like every 10 years we’re hit with another, you know, COVID year or whatever. And so, um, w if you’re letting technology pass you by, you’re not embracing. These, these new things. And so certainly your company has embraced new things from, from blueprints to digital software to actually manufacturing.

So let’s talk for a minute. As I pulled up, one of your blogs, love, love the second blog I’m seeing on there about complimenting additive and subtractive. And you, you and I talked briefly offline about, so there was this, I’ll set it up and I’ll let you take it from there, but there was this, uh, dichotomy that existed where.

Subtractive machining, traditional milling and turning and grinding is called subtractive machining. Um, additive came on the scene and there was this, uh, distaste for some reason, the, the, the traditional subtractive guys said, Hey, we don’t, we don’t need these guys to come in and just print something and not need us and replace our skill.

So then immediately the additive people said, Well, we don’t need these old school machinists who think they can do everything better and it’s expensive and timely. So, so for some reason, the two industries don’t like each other off the bat. And so, so, so take us in there to your blog. How are we going to get past that?

What’s the deal here? Well, it’s interesting, you know, I go back to even 3d print, I think at one point got over-hyped right. Like I think the biggest challenge we’ve had in industry. Yeah. It’s totally exciting technology. And I think what happened is, you know, at one point, everyone in 3d was almost promising, right?

We’re going to get rid of traditional manufacturing. Right. And it was really exciting technology, but I think we over-hyped it. So then the true manufacturing guy at the time was like, well, wait a minute. Right. You think you can do it better than me. I’ve been doing it 50 years this way. And so I think what happened is we kind of over-hyped it, you got excited about it.

And then the traditional guys were intimidated by it. But I think we’re coming around where as we, we actually talked earlier. If 3d print became 1% of the manufacturing industry, it would be a huge success, right? So we’re going to, I think, to be successful, we’re going to compliment, augment and make that better.

Um, so, you know, in fact, even today, if you look at final use 3d printed parts, I don’t have the fact, but it’s something like what we consider final use parts in 3d print are all over 40 or 50% are jigs and fixtures. To be used in traditional manufacturing. So I think like you said, sometimes what happens what’s I think stalls actually the implementation of additive is sometimes, like you said, we’ve over promised and they, you don’t see really where it can fit because we’re trying to replace it versus augment.

So, you know, again, it’s been a pattern, passion of mine, where you talk about the evolution of our companies and looking things differently. Is to try to educate people and show them how the technology can practically work, but not totally changed their process. Cause it’s not gonna happen overnight.

Right. Um, you know, this cause metal right, is another one and it’s like the Holy grail metal printing is still so reliant on finishing through traditional processes. So the world’s best metal printers. Really gets finished with traditional metal solutions. Right, right. That better than me. Yeah. Cause I, I just had that question earlier this week where, um, a lot of people will call me and say, well, what, you know, what tolerance can you hold on your metal printer?

And, and, uh, you know, we have three metal printers. We have four, what we call plastic printers, you know, the, the nylons and the carbon fiber. And so. And they’ll ask me the same question on, on nylon. What time should you hold it? And I’m, uh, I’m always a little perplexed because I’ll say, well, whatever tolerance you want, I mean, I’ll print it.

I’ll leave some stock. And then I’ll, I’ll hone the hole or I’ll ream it or I’ll tap it. And so it’s so natural for us to do both because we’re looking to give a customer a finished product. And as I told you offline, we’ve even had customers. I say, Hey, do you care if I 3d print that and then finish it?

They’ve told me I don’t care. At all, how you make it, they, they, they don’t even care. They find it intriguing. Hey, if you 3d printed, can you tell me how it’s done? Or can you send me a picture? They think that’s cool. But at the end of the day, whatever they’ve designed, you know, with the software that you’re talking about, whatever you design, you just want this thing that you’re holding to, to be there.

You want those holes to be right. You want those, you know? And so, um, that’s another great reason that the, the two things you’re looking at, um, and you were starting to talk about fusion three 60 and how it’s even got a, an option to it’ll tell you the best way to make it right. Yeah. Yes. So two things on that, like I said on the finishing, what I would say is it’s the dirty secret in 3d print.

Look, I’m one of the most passionate people, 3d print makes it shorter time to market more innovative, but the dirty secret is the finishing part of 3d print. Right? And so really traditional manufacturing is often that finishing touch, right. To get where we want to go. But what I was talking about, fusion three 60 and again, where I’m passionate about that traditional versus the atom is.

Uh, fusion three 60 added with generative design components and what I, uh, I mean, even, you know, again, in my own nativity, uh, I always looked at general design as being such the strength for 3d print, but, uh, fusion three 60 now has a general design function where you can put in your parameters and we’ll create some designs.

And then we’ll actually do a study on different processes, three accidents for access milling. And then we’ll actually go through a calculation of what the costs would be. And so it will actually output kind of the best way to go. And just like we were just talking about, sometimes it’s gonna tell you traditional manufacturing, and sometimes it’s going to tell you additive, but I think don’t, you know, one of the other things where, you know, we were talking about just evolution of cat.

Design processes have to change to leverage additive. And that’s why I’m excited about tools such as fusion three 60 solid works is continuing to evolve their product so that it does some of that, that workflow changes. So that, uh, designs, right? Yeah. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. So, and, and the other good thing about you, we can jump right into, um, the, the, the different offerings that your company has.

I know you’re a big HP distributor and also 3d systems. And then you said Ultimaker, um, by offering these different, uh, Solutions you are able to, uh, offer multiple, uh, ways of producing something. Right. So you can talk a little bit about that. So HP, let’s talk about them specifically for a minute. Um, what’s kind of the range.

A, why would somebody be looking at an HP? So, so we’re HP changed the market take SLS was always kind of the standard barrier for a good quality plastic product. Right. When HP came along is they really increased the throughput and the speed and the, they drove the cost down. Right. So they took, I kind of look at it at SLS on steroids.

Right. Okay. And what they allowed to do is really mass production. So now when that crossover point, you know, it used to be, you know, let’s say a hundred parts. It made sense to additive manufacturing versus going into tooling. HP moved that up, right. And it might be 200, it could be 10,000 parts. And so that’s been HP strength.

So I said this many years ago, I think in the last, you know, if you look at traditional 3d printing, it’s been FTM and then SLA is kind of the standard bearers. Right. Right. And, you know, HP and then carbon, and we don’t sell carbon, but I’m a TRO, a proponent of it. These guys got to where the material property was a true kind of, you know, Plastic part.

And with properties that weren’t really seen before, but HP strength has really been that through, put out for composite parts for plastic parts. Right. And, you know, just kind of the way they’ve, architectually built the machine and it’s built to scale up. So we have seen a number of actually. Really what I would say, short run manufacturing companies pop up that we support take a fast radius, take a read 3d tech that are really short run plastic manufacturers, right?

For certain applications, they skip the whole, they skip the whole plastic injected mold idea that go right to the HP machine. They’re making production on it. Exactly. Right now, again, as you were saying, It’s it’s a fit for some, right? Like I’m not seeing where we were replacing injection mold, but yeah.

But if you look at clips in some, you know, where you traditionally were waiting 10 or 12 weeks for a mold for a thousand parts, you can print out the take Invisalign, right? Those are printed. The molds are printed using HP. So that’s really what HP has done. Right. That’s pretty revolutionary. And again, there’s a been a couple out there again.

Carbon’s another one, you know, they do pretty high throughput. Properties are good. Um, but HP has been pretty game changing. Yeah, no, no. I’ve seen some, uh, some buzz on the, on the media. HP has this multijet technology. Can you talk about that? How is that different from, from what others have? Yeah. So I know, you know, again, I talk about being oversoul right.

And I think so eventually, if you look at the way HP works, it actually jets look where HP made their money. It was like just our tubules. There are technologies based on jetting, a liquid, right? So the way the MJF works is it puts a very fine layer of power. It generally a PA 12 nylon it jets a medium that will make the material of the powder react to heat and melt.

So where they talk about it in the future. Is there going to be able to do some processes where not only can they jet, uh, a medium to, uh, uh, creates using an action melting, but there’ll be able to do mechanical properties, maybe more flexibility, um, you know, some, uh, electromechanical properties. So it’s a little bit farther down the road.

What they currently have done. That’s pretty unique. Of course, is they jet it. Then they can actually put a color in a product at a very high level. Right. So they have, that’s really kind of been their next step, but long-term, if you follow kind of where they want to go with it is, you know, one of the other challenges with 3d print, generally as you’re printing in one medium, right.

That’s what you’ve got to keep HP believes with their technology. They’ll be able to deploy it. Again, properties in those liquid chemicals to change what’s in it. So you might have an electoral electronic conductivity built in the middle of a part that will extend from top to bottom and you want to have to ascend, uh, you know, assemble it.

So again, I say this time, I think it’s a little bit, when they first came out, they were a little aggressive in it because their strength is now making mass quantity, plastic cards, but that’s where the technology will go. And you’ve seen some other people look at that, but again, it’s kind of like our cell phones who would have thought of that, you know, 40 years ago.

Right. Right. And so I. Obviously they have tested that technology, but that’s where they get multi-jet fusion technology from is they can jet different materials to get different outcomes. And again, longer term you will see where they can, you know, create clarity on parts. They can create flexibility, not based on the material, but based on the actual liquid or chemical.

Because the only thing I don’t know about you’ve learned in 3d print, so much of his chemistry, right? Yeah. The technology’s one, but so much of it is about chemistry, for sure. For sure. Okay. So, uh, with the HP, um, it looks like you have three main solutions there that, uh, the three main machines, can you give us a little nutshell?

I mean, what’s the starting price range, where are we ending? So their strength has been, if you look at their 5,200 4,200, our production workhorse is built to print 24, seven thousands of parts. Right. And they’re not, they’re not cheap, right. They’re starting at 250,000 up to half a million. But again, they’re truly production units where they include the printer, a build cart, which is also unique, right?

So you. You build the print into a built cart. You can remove that build card, put a new one in, and it starts right away where traditional 3d print, you got to remove it. You got to let it cool down. And then you have a processing state and then they have the 500 series, right? Again, more in that 80 to one 20,000, $120,000 range is more of what I would call prototype semi production.

Again, same technology. So you’re walking away with true. PA 12 nylon parts. And actually that the lower version actually does color, but that’s kind of the realm, but like I said, they are truly built on production environment. They are like, again, the other thing, master graphics, we’ve generally dealt with more professional and production printers.

Our expertise is not what I would call entry level printers. Right. Even though ultimakers kind of on that borderline, but yeah, so there. But there are HPS. Real success has been around the 5,200 is really the next evolution of the 4,200. And it’s all built about really short run manufacturing. Right. Okay.

Yeah. Yeah. And then, uh, then you move into your 3d systems opportunities. So you have, uh, several printers there. And then I know you, you specifically call out on your website, the large scale printer. So let’s talk about the, the regular 3d systems offerings first. And we’ll go to that. Large-scale next? So 3d systems is unique because right there, really, if you find Chuck hall was one of the ones who found it along with Scott Crump out of, uh, just Stratasys.

So I mean, 3d systems. It’s funny. So when we picked up HP, 3d systems actually didn’t allow us to sell their product anymore. So it was a big gamble five years ago, and I made an acquisition where they were 3d systems reseller. And fortunately, I knew I didn’t burn my bridges. 3d systems kind of changed their mind and they could see the value in someone like me who sells multiple technologies.

But 3d systems really has been the leader around SLA SLA plastic type parts. They have great SLS products. I was talking about how HP is kind of SLS on steroids, but there’s still a lot that SLS does that, that multi-jet fusion. Can’t do. Um, they have some jetted materials, much like object has where they’re jetting on acrylic plastic.

So 3d systems strength is really kind of, again, a wide range of technologies. They have one of the leading metal printers as well. Right. So they, so they’ve been an interesting one because one of the challenges I always loved representing 3d is. There’s systems is you could walk into a client and you could pick the technology that fit.

Because a lot of times, as you know, when you look at 3d print, it doesn’t fit the application. And so HP, I was somewhat hamstrung because again, it’s kind of, I don’t want to say niche. But it’s a very specific product, but 3d systems kind of a again, expands it because of the number of technologies they have and just their strength and history.

Right. So I know we were talking about it. They’re big in the medical with bio, uh, compatible materials. They do a lot of like, if you take their metal. They have a bunch of units that actually print like knee replacements. So they, 3d systems has done a really, if you look at even follow their results, they have a pretty large, a part of their revenue coming from medical applications.

And as you know, that’s pretty demanding. Um, but, but they’re, they’re a great partner to have because of their technology and just they’ve been in the industry for 30 years. Right. It was Chuck hall. I got a great story on Chuck hall. So I actually met him at CES and you know, and this is where I maybe I get my think about the over-hype.

This was like five years ago. And he was an unbelievable guy. I mean, this guy invented 3d print and I’m literally having a Corona beer with him sitting at some, you know, events. And it was interesting. He was on a panel and no one asked him questions on 3d print. Everyone was interested in like Tesla and the self-driving car.

And it was funny. I asked him, I go, you know, how was that, that panel for you? You didn’t get a lot of questions that people aren’t. Do they not have questions about 3d print? And he said, you know what? It was actually a good thing because it shows that the hype cycle’s kind of over and the real work is going to begin.

Right. And so it was kind of interesting. I mean, he kind of felt that right. Like a perspective of it, but he was unbelievable person because I’d be like, my ego would be like, Hey, ask me questions. Right. And I do think, like I said, we’ve, we’ve, I, you know, harping on that have turned the corner where the reality of 3d print is more.

Apparent then, then that over-hype, but it was, it was kind of a cool, he was, I mean, it’s amazing to meet the guy who basically founded 3d print to some extent. Yeah. So I was going to say for, can, can you give us a full background? I just pulled him up. So he’s, uh, uh, co-founder executive vice president of 3d systems today, but he was a, one of the inventors of the SLA 3d printer.

So, um, He was a, what, what was his original company then? So, no, I think he was a regionally 3d systems. I think he started out in California and literally in his garage. And I cannot remember what company was and if he’s a chemist, but he basically started taking light. To cure a photo polymer. Right. So, I mean, that’s where he kind of started, like that was the first additive and then to give due credit to Stratasys right.

Current Events

Researchers from the Japanese Yamagata University have developed a fully-3D printed actuator that could form the basis of a jellyfish-like soft robot. 

Using a UV-based 3D printer, the team were able to cure a newly-synthesized Particle Double Network (P-DN) hydrogel, into a mechanism that contracts in a similar way to the muscles of a moon jellyfish. Building on their novel device, the scientists now intend to create an entire aquatic robot, with potential marine wildlife monitoring applications. 

Car manufacturer Ford has partnered with 3D printer OEM HP to recycle 3D printing waste into end-use automotive parts.

In what is believed to be an industry first, the partners have started converting recycled 3D printing material into injection molded fuel-line clips for use on Ford’s Super Duty F-250 trucks. The parts reportedly offer better chemical and moisture resistance when compared to conventional counterparts with fresh materials, and are even 7% lighter and 10% cheaper to produce.

Debbie Mielewski, a technical fellow at Ford, said, “Many companies are finding great uses for 3D printing technologies, but together with HP, we’re the first to find a high-value application for waste powder that likely would have gone to landfill, transforming it into functional and durable auto parts.”

I don’t know if you’re familiar with any of that with your, with your work with HP or no, it’s interesting because in fact, it’s funny because we’ve been working with Ford, we’re just talking to them about finishing side of things. And I did see that and it’s one of the things I should’ve mentioned earlier is HP.

One of the other strengths they do is. They reclaim a higher percentage of material than what traditional par outer processes did. And so, yeah, they’re all working. In fact, they do have one powder and it might be polypropylene. I should know this, but it’s a hundred percent recyclable in the machine.

Right. So that is, yeah. So, no, it’s interesting. So I’m not familiar exactly with what Ford is doing, but obviously, especially from a park perspective and others, we’re starting to see more and more of that being done. But I, I love the sustainability aspect of it, right. Right. And in reusing them. Yeah. Yeah, it seems a lot cleaner.

Uh, and as we talked, uh, uh, with some of the other manufacturers earlier this month, it seems like much of the 3d printing is very conscious of the environment and the by-product and the gases and the different things being used. So, um, love the fact that HP and Ford are conscientious of this. And, and it’s funny, the article talks about the  being one of the gas guzzlers that is being picked on, right.

Uh, but yet the product they’re using, they have a, uh, a zero waste component, uh, in this whole process that they’re doing with it. So again, links on the website. I’d love for you guys to check that out and I’ll have your contact information posted as well, but just really appreciate your time today, Kevin.

Thanks for, thanks for sharing with us. No, it was great chatting with you and you’re doing great work on the podcast. So I appreciate you having me. Oh, and we should mention that you have a CA a friendly competitive podcast that we love. So, uh, tell us about that and how to find that that’s right. Little did I know?

So I have a podcast that I started calling chatting, 3d, same thing as Tom, like my, it it’s meant to be educational, more professional production level focused. Um, so I would say compliments, we’re trying to do the same thing. It’s all about education. And again, just having fun with good people from the industry.

So again, you can look it up either go to our website or go to Apple. Uh, but it’s called chatting 3d with, uh, Kevin Carr and Mark bloom writers. My co-host as of now. Yeah. Thanks for plugging that. I absolutely, I checked it out. I loved it. I love your format. I love the conversation, so. All right, well, thanks again for today and we’ll be talking to you again soon.