10 Questions for Andrew
We recently spoke with Andrew Tordanato, our 3D Sales Engineer for the South East US, about his experiences in Additive Manufacturing.
How did you get started in the field of industrial 3D printing, and what sparked your interest in this technology?
I started in 2014, but not in the traditional way where most people begin with plastic. I first got started in the industrial 3D printing world with a nose dive into the deep end with DMLM (metal powder bed laser) with a 3D Systems ProX-300.
Most people start with plastics and then get into metal. At that time, I was one of the managers at a Metal Stamping Company, and we sought to adopt new technologies that were unique in our vicinity. The spark for additive and metal additive, in particular, came from a tour of a facility called CCAT (Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies). They had a metal printer and offered facility tours. I took advantage of this offer and was immediately captivated by the technology's potential, both current and future.
Could you give us a brief overview of the 3D printing process and how it has evolved over the years?
When I first started, there were not as many resources for information when it came to 3D printing, let alone metal 3D printing. Being among the pioneering companies in CT, alongside Uconn and Pratt & Whitney, to own a metal printer came with its pros and cons. I found a great group of people at AMUG back in 2015 down in Orlando, FL. I discovered a group that possessed the same metal printer as we did.
The evolution of how information is exchanged and the number of users has grown exponentially over the last 9 years. This has led to rapid development and growth from the OEMs to compete and stay relevant as the user base expanded and demanded more features and offerings.
The 3D printing process begins with a part that needs to be made. The part is designed in CAD and turned into a 3D rendering. From there, the 3D rendering file is brought into a slicing software where the user orients the part based on their chosen technology, material, and finishing limitations. The slicing software takes the newly oriented geometry and slices it into layers. These layers become the toolpath for the printer to make the tangible part. The physical process by which each printer physically forms the part varies, but the principle of producing the part layer by layer is the same across the various methods used.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when 3D printing parts for customers on demand, and how do you address these challenges?
The largest challenge is having the customer understand what they are actually going to receive at the end of the day. This may sound easy if you use the technology every day, but most customers have little to no experience using the various technologies they are looking to utilize. Understanding the views and expectations of the customers is the biggest challenge but the most important. This is mostly because it's hard for them to relate or envision the process and limitations.
Normally people give something new one chance, but if that first chance goes terribly wrong, they are highly reluctant to give it another go. So it's extremely important as a person who produces parts for a lot of first-time users that the experience is smooth, efficient, and meets the agreed-upon expectations set at the beginning of the project. This not only leads to return business but also to a trust for the technology moving forward.
How has the industry responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what impact has it had on the 3D printing industry?
When Covid first hit, I think pretty much everyone with a printer was trying to figure out ways to use their printer for the common good with PPE supplies and supply chain disruptions. Initially, it led to a huge increase in the number of first-time buyers (companies and individuals). This led to more users and more advocates for the technology at their workplace and at home for personal projects. In all, it has drastically sped up the way people view 3D printing and helped drive the OEMs to innovate faster due to the higher technology adoption rate.
How does Würth Additive differentiate itself from other players in the 3D printing industry, and what makes its products and services unique?
The largest difference between Würth and other players is Würth's ability to lower the barriers to entry. This is done with in-house financing and options to purchase pre-owned equipment, material discounts, and terms on payments. This allows companies to grow faster and also enter into a new segment without as much risk. Würth offers brands and equipment that others do not. Würth also has connections with their sister companies that allow them to help companies with the sourcing of other shop products like safety and everyday shop supplies.
How has Würth Additive evolved over the years, and what are the company's plans for the future?
I was Würth Additive's first customer. Initially, the Würth Additive Group (WAG), although small, achieved feats that long-established resellers either didn't or couldn't, such as material stocking and offering in-house leasing options. As time has passed, the team has grown, the offerings increased, and the goal to bring additive to more people and businesses became easier (Digital Inventory and the ability for shops around the world to print parts on demand).
How does Würth Additive stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the 3D printing industry, and how does it integrate this knowledge into its product development and customer service?
We at the WAG is always on the lookout for new technology and new vendors that have a vision for the future. With the ever-evolving landscape of Additive Manufacturing, it is crucial to keep up with the latest trends and developments. To do this, WAG attends numerous trade shows, reads industry reports, and continually seeks feedback from customers to improve its offerings. By staying ahead of the curve, WAG ensures that it is always offering the most cutting-edge products and services to its customers.
How does Würth Additive approach the process of designing and prototyping new parts for customers, and what role does 3D printing play in this process?
Currently, Würth has no intention of internalizing the designing and prototyping processes as our core service offering to customers. While we do identify high ROI applications, and sometimes provide benchmark parts to customers, our scope extends beyond that.
Our primary focus is on helping companies establish these processes within their own infrastructure. At the heart of this approach is knowledge transfer, enabling manufacturers to innovate on their own.
We don't aim to operate merely as a print bureau. Numerous providers already offer on-demand 3D printed components. Our unique objective is to assist companies in identifying the most suitable equipment and processes for their long-term needs, and to collaborate with them consistently as they develop and enhance their 3D printing capabilities.
What advice do you have for individuals or businesses starting in the field of industrial 3D printing, and how can they best position themselves for success?
Collaborate with a company that resonates with your needs and visions. Begin on a modest scale, leverage your network, and embrace in-house technology tailored to your benefit.
Finally, could you share some of the most exciting projects you have worked on in your industrial 3D printing career?
Turbine blades for one of the big three aircraft engine manufacturers, full-sized human colon mock-ups for surgical procedures, parts for the Boston Dynamics robot dogs, a new helmet attachment product for a startup, and working with startups on bringing their product designs to life with 3D printing.