INTERVIEW: AMUG 2019 preview with Brad Keselowski, LAIKA’s Brian McLean and Todd Grimm

“For users, by users” runs the slogan of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG). Ahead of the group’s annual meeting, this year taking place from March 31-April 4, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois, 3D Printing Industry asked several of the keynote speakers (who are also AM users) about their expectations, insights and reasons for attending AMUG 2019.

Todd Grimm introduces some of volunteer team who make AMUG possible. Photo by Michael Petch.
Todd Grimm introduces some of volunteer team who make AMUG possible at the 2018 conference. Photo by Michael Petch.

Winning with Additive Manufacturing

Brad Keselowski has nearly 15 years experience competing in NASCAR racing. He currently races for Team Penske, driving a Ford Mustang engineered to win with additive manufacturing. Having seen the on track advantages of AM, Keselowski founded Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing (KAM) a hybrid manufacturing company using state-of-art CNC and AM equipment to deliver custom solutions to industries including automotive, aerospace, defense and energy.

Keselowski will be attending AMUG for the first time and told 3D Printing Industry, “I am excited to meet the key people in the industry who have advanced the industry to the point where it is today. I am excited about forming new relationships that will not only drive KAM into the future, but also how we can advance the industry as a whole.”

Stratasys demonstrated carbon fiber 3D printing for Team Penske at IMTS 2018. Photo by Michael Petch.
Stratasys demonstrated carbon fiber 3D printing for Team Penske at IMTS 2018. Photo by Michael Petch.

AMUG 2019: What to expect?

The combined experience of the AMUG attendee audience is substantial, however the event is still welcoming to newcomers. I asked Todd Grimm, AM Industry Advisor & Director and president of T. A. Grimm & Associates, about how to prepare for the AMUG conference. “First-time attendees need to let go of expectations built from past attendance at trade shows and conferences. AMUG 2019 will be a unique experience; it will be different. If an attendee goes through the week as they would for any other event, they will miss out on much of the value of the conference.”

Grimm explains that AMUG is very much a social learning event, “We put together activities that run from breakfast to bedtime. You won’t be roaming the halls in your own little bubble; instead you will be engaging and participating with other AM professionals, so be prepared to connect with others to get and share insights.” Having attended AMUG for the first time in 2018, I can attest to this advice. Grimm continues, “Also, don’t plan on cutting out to make phone calls, do some work or splinter off with a few good friends; instead you will want to be a participate in every AMUG 2019 activity. This makes for long days, but those who do it right will fall into bed with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.”

“Our event is also known for the openness of attendees and their willingness to share. Expect to be amazed by the depth of information that you will receive, both from the stage and during one-on-one conversations. If you have questions or are facing problems, expect to get insights and answers from anyone that you meet. That last part is important. To attend AMUG, you or your company must be AM users, so everyone you meet will be an active AM participant.”

One such returning AM user is Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype at LAIKA. LAIKA uses stop-motion animation to create feature films including Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings and the forthcoming feature – Missing Link. “We have evolved from using off the shelf 3D printing hardware and software on Coraline, to being in the driver’s seat of new technology and innovation. For our most recent film Missing Link we used Stratasys’ J750 and Fraunhofer’s software Cuttlefish to print more than 106,000 full color faces,” says McLean.

A Scene from Kubo and The Two Strings. Credit: LAIKA Studios/Focus Features
A Scene from Kubo and The Two Strings. Credit: LAIKA/Focus Features

While LAIKA has produced only 5 films the studio has taken home many awards, and received nominations for 5 Academy Awards.

McLean explains that, “LAIKA’s 3D printing story spans more than thirteen years, over half a million parts printed, and has included four different 3D printing platforms. Creative demands on each film pushes the limits of the technology, often meaning we need to pioneer new workflows and techniques.”

LAIKA’s 3D printing expert will give a keynote at AMUG that should be useful to, “Anyone who is interested in advanced color 3D printing, mass production techniques and artistic inspired ingenuity.”

Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype at LAIKA. Photo via LAIKA.
Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype at LAIKA. Photo via LAIKA.

McLean echos Todd Grimm’s advice for AMUG attendees, “The last time LAIKA attended AMUG was in 2015. One day during the conference Rob Ducey, LAIKA’s RP Technical Supervisor, happened to eat lunch with Todd Grimm and the two struck up a conversation. During their conversation Todd mentioned hearing about a new advanced 3D slicing program called Cuttlefish. Immediately after the conference we contacted Cuttlefish and started collaborating. It was that conversation with Todd back in 2015 that set us on a four year journey.”

“For AMUG 2019 I am looking forward to meeting other industry professionals and hearing about new innovations.”

Mr. Link wearing the exclusive 3D printed shoes. Image via Nike.
Mr. Link wearing a pair of 3D printed shoes. Image via Nike.

Trends in Additive Manufacturing

While AMUG attendees will get to share practical experiences and trade tips, the event is also an opportunity to gain a strategic perspective on the state of the 3D printing industry. I asked Todd Grimm for his insights on the current trends in additive manufacturing. “The trends in AM that are most notable to me are industrialization, software, process improvement and continued technology innovation.”

“While we need AM to be a more “industrialized” solution, and progress is being made, I am a bit concerned at the liberal application of the word “industrial.” A few years ago, everyone seemed to append “professional” to their products; that has been supplanted by “industrial.” It appears that this is a marketing play for many rather that a true, quantitative measure. When inappropriately used to describe an AM solution, the truth could be used as evidence to show that AM isn’t ready in an industrial context.”

“Software has a lot of momentum, and we are seeing new solutions that solve some issues related to feeding and managing AM. In fact, at AMUG 2019, we will have some new solutions being introduced to the user population. This is a trend that I can really get behind. Letting software do the heavy lifting and shoulder some of the burden of expertise will open the doors to more AM use in more applications by more companies.”

“Software certainly plays a role in process improvement. But when I think of this as a trend, my attention is drawn to automation of pre-build and post-build actions. Bright minds are tackling many of the laborious steps on the frontend and backend that limit the interest in, and justification of, AM for production. Solutions are arising that tackle all the operations that have unwarranted labor and time demands, from powder handling through post processing.”

“The last trend, technology innovation, is a welcome surprise. After so many years and so many creative approaches to AM, we still see breakthrough ideas. Rather than just seeing modifications to technologies conceived in previous years, we continue to benefit from innovations that give us new methods. These innovations open the doors to new opportunities.”

Keynote speech from Brad Keselowski

Todd Grimm will be giving Monday’s keynote, “Additive Manufacturing: Making your own reality”. While Tuesday’s keynote comes from Brad Keselowski and is entitled, “Winning the Manufacturing Race”. Keselowski says, “Additive Manufacturing is in its infancy. A good comparison would the late 1800’s when rail lines were being laid, oil was first being processed, and electric power stations were constructed. Like these examples, additive manufacturing will unleash many opportunities that have yet to be conceived. However, for major industries such as aerospace and medical, we have just begun to scratch the surface. In the coming years and decades to come, “additive manufacturing” will simply be “manufacturing” as the processes matures, the industry matures. As that happens, the growth in this market will be exponential.”

Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing founder, Brad Keselowski, with a Mazak hybrid multi-tasking machine. Photo via KAM.
Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing founder, Brad Keselowski, with a Mazak hybrid multi-tasking machine. Photo via KAM.

KAM is on a mission to “spearhead a modern-day industrial revolution”, I asked Keselowski how additive manufacturing helps with this goal. “The First Industrial revolution was the taming of steam in order to capture its potential to perform work. The second revolution was in the utilization of steel, oil, and electricity. And the third revolution saw the advent of nuclear power and compact electronic devices,” he says. “We are in the midst of the fourth revolution where genetic medicine will revolutionize healthcare; artificial intelligence will speed development and decisions across all of society; and new innovations in manufacturing will equally spur advancements across society in the things we buy, vehicles we travel in, and any aspect of our lives which involves a manufactured good. I fully believe we are laying the foundation at KAM as we speak to be at the forefront of all these areas.”

For Keselowski, “Additive Manufacturing is all about unleashing the potential of the design engineers and building parts and assemblies that are optimized for cost, weight, efficiencies, and any property that the customer demands. Previously, engineers were limited by the ability of machine tools and casting technologies as to how complex a part could be in order to be practically manufactured. With additive, although design freedoms are not infinite, these freedoms are significantly greater than traditions means of manufacturing.”

Surprises at AMUG 2019

While this article has hopefully whetted the appetite for AMUG 2019, there will be plenty of surprises at the event – one of the most anticipated surely the top-secret location and activity planned for Tuesday evening’s off-site event.

However, Todd Grimm explains that for him “what most excites me is the anticipation of the response to the conference. When I take the stage to kick off the event, there is a little tradition that we have. I won’t spoil it by telling first timers what it is, but if it goes as it has in the past years, that will define the event for me.”

AMUG is certainly one of the most anticipated events of the year. Returning to represent 3D Printing Industry, I am looking forward to the many great conversations with both old and new acquaintances across our industry.

Todd Grimm gives a final tip for those contemplating the trip to Chicago, “I’ve tried my best to put expectations into words, but I will turn to those more eloquent than me. Last year, Michael Petch penned a wonderful article that captured his experience as an AMUG Conference first timer. I’d suggest that those new to AMUG read about that experience.”

Wednesday evening at AMUG 2018 included a trip to the Gateway Motorsports Park. Photo by Michael Petch.
Wednesday evening at AMUG 2018 included a trip to the Gateway Motorsports Park. Photo by Michael Petch.

More information about AMUG 2019 and the full conference program can be found here.

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Featured image shows AMUG attendees welcomed to the St. Louis Union Station Hotel for AMUG 2018. Photo by Michael Petch.