Mars, Hearts, Spaceships, and Universities: 2019 Colorado Additive Manufacturing Day a Success

Engineers, educators, and enthusiasts gathered on the green lawn of beside the Platte River at the Blind Faith Brewing to talk about Additive Manufacturing. Over 170 attendees (and two dogs) met each other, caught up with old colleagues, and shared their AM journey during the breaks and listened to 13 presenters and panelists. 12 antipasto platters and 30 pizzas were consumed, and 298 beers or sodas were imbibed. By the numbers and by type of interaction we saw, a successful event all around.

This was the fourth annual gathering, hosted by PADT and sponsored by our partners at this brewery. We could not have put this event on without the support of Stratasys, ANSYS, ZEISS, and Desktop Metal. We also want to thank our promotional partners, Women in 3D Printing and Space for Humanity who both brought new people to our community. Carbon, Visser and a student project with Ball Aerospace did their part as exhibitors.

Check out the Slideshow at the end of this post to get a visual snapshot of the day.

We want to thank the true stars of our event, the speakers and panelists who shared their knowledge and experience that turned a great gathering into a learning experience.

We started the morning off with an inspirational keynote from Dr. Robert Zubrin. A visionary in the space community and long term champion of going to Mars, Dr. Zubrin shared with us his observations about the new space race with his talk: “The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibilities.” He left the packed audience energized and ready to do our part in this next step in humanities exploration of the universe. He stayed after to talk with people and sign copies of his book, which you can find here.

We then heard from user David Waller of Ball Aerospace on his experience with their Desktop Metal system. He went over the testing, lessons learned, and usage of their Studio system. It was a great in-depth look at someone implementing a new technology. There is a lot of interest around this lower-cost approach to producing metal parts, and the audience was full of questions.

Sticking with the Desktop Metal technology, PADT’s very own Pamela Waterman talked about how PADT is using our in-house Zeiss Optical Scanning hardware and software to inspect the parts we are making with our Desktop Metal System. She shared what we have learned about following the design guidelines that are developing for this technology and how scanning is a fast and accurate way to determine the final geometry created in the three-step process of building a green part, debinding, and sintering.

Next up was Christopher Robinson form ANSYS, Inc. to talk about recent additions to the ANSYS Additive products. He shared how customers are using simulation to design parts for metal powder bed fusion AM and then model the build process to predict and avoid failures as well as compensate for the distortion inherent in the process. The key takeaway was that simulation is the solution for getting parts built right the first time.

After a short break, and some AM trivia that won some PADT25 T-Shirts for people who knew the history of 3D Printing, we heard all about the new V650 Flex Stereolithography system that Stratasys recently introduced. Yes, Stratasys now makes and sells an SL system and it is literally a dream machine designed by people with decades of AM and Stereolithography experience. Learn more about this open and powerful system here.

Another AM technology was up next when Nick Jacobson spoke about Voxel Printing with PolyJet technologies. He discussed how he varies materials and colors spacially to create unique and realistic replicas for medicine and engineering. He also showed how the voxel-based geometry he creates can be used to create Virtual Reality representations of objects. Much of their work revolves around the visualization of hearts for adults and children to improve surgery planning. While we had been focused on space at the start of the afternoon, he reminded us of the immediate and life saving medical applications of AM.

And then we moved back to space with a presentation from Lockheed Martin‘s Brian Kaplun on how they are using AM to create parts that will fly on the Orion Spacecraft. Making production parts with 3D Printing has been a long-term goal for the whole industry, and Lockheed Martin has done the long and hard work of design, test, and putting processes in place to make this dream a reality. One of the biggest takeaways of his talk was how once the Astronauts saw a few AM parts in the capsule, they started asking of its use to redesign other tools and components. The ultimate end-users, they saw the value of lightweight and strong parts that could be made without the limitations of traditional manufacturing.

We finished up the day, after another break and some more trivia, with a fascinating panel on AM at Colorado’s leading Universities. We were lucky to have Ray Huff from Wohlers Associates moderate a distinguished group of deans, directors, and professors from four outstanding but different institutions:

  • Martin Dunn PhD,  Dean of Engineering, CU Denver
  • Jenifer Blacklock PHD, Mechanical Engineering Professor – Colorado School of Mines
  • David Prawel PhD, Director, Idea-2-Product 3D Printing Lab, Colorado State University 
  • Matt Gordon, PhD,  Chair, Mechanical Engineering, University of Denver 

Their wide-ranging discussion covered their education and research around AM. A common theme was industry cooperation. Each school shared how they use AM to help students not just make things, but also understand how parts are made. The discussion was fantastic and ended far too soon, which is always an indicator of a great group of experts.

And that sums up our great day, leaving out several hundred side conversations that went on. Check out this slide show to get a feel for how energetic and interesting the afternoon was.

As everyone left, some reluctantly and after one more beer, the common comment was that they can’t wait to get together again with everyone. We hope that next year we will have more speakers and participants and continue to support the growth of Additive Manufacturing in Colorado.

A quick note about the location: You are not wrong if you remember a different name for the three previous events. St. Patricks’s is now Blind Faith and the new owners could have not been more welcoming. Plus, they have more Belgian’s, which I am a big fan of.