Episode 64: Ben and Steve share their favorite fast food joints. Stephen announces Shell has been awarded the first certification for an AM part in the oil and gas industry. Benjamin shows some excitement over the automation of depowdering laser powder bed fused parts. Steve says some places won’t let you buy robots but hire them. Ben brings up the Air Force wanting to enlist robots to build and maintain satellites in space. Stephen closes with his reaction to the TIPE 3D Printing virtual conference.
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Benjamin Moses: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the AMT Tech Trends podcast, where we discuss the latest manufacturing technology, research and news. I am the director of technology, Benjamin Moses, and I'm here with...
Stephen LaMarca: The technology analyst, Stephen LaMarca.
Benjamin Moses: Did you get your title right this time?
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, but I noticed you did your title before your name so I wanted to do the same thing. Consistency, Ben.
Benjamin Moses: And copy and pasting. That's great.
Stephen LaMarca: Pasting.
Benjamin Moses: Stephen, how you doing, man?
Stephen LaMarca: I'm doing great. But I'm not doing as well as [Sharub Kumarsing 00:00:40] is doing.
Benjamin Moses: Who is this guy?
Stephen LaMarca: Sharub is one of our favorite people here at AMT who sadly... He's not only an Indian, but he's like an Indian civilian?
Benjamin Moses: Citizen.
Stephen LaMarca: Citizen. That's the word. So he was here on a work visa for a couple years and he had to leave us to go back to India. We may see him again soon, but anyway, I see him at AMT as a MT connect developer. His proper AMT title is Research And Development Engineer. He just works with Russ and MT Connect. He told me that the title that he does like, that he has on LinkedIn, is Information Architect, but he doesn't like it and then he has to explain it to everybody, what it means. But anyway, Sharub, when he was here, he was the biggest fan. We had a lot of fast food together. As a true Indian citizen, he didn't tell his parents ever that he ate beef, but he loved burgers and steaks and stuff like that. But his favorite passion food, fast food, that he's the most passionate about is Popeyes.
Benjamin Moses: That's a solid choice.
Stephen LaMarca: He loves Popeyes. You and I, Sharub, love Popeyes. Popeyes is awesome. Russell loves Popeyes, too.
Benjamin Moses: When you love a place so much you know the nuances of ordering the under the table stuff, that's what to go.
Stephen LaMarca: If it wasn't for you, I would've never known about the Cajun Sparkle.
Benjamin Moses: Oh, that's good.
Stephen LaMarca: The MSG packets that you can sprinkle onto your already MSG loaded chicken.
Benjamin Moses: The heart attack in a packet.
Stephen LaMarca: But listen, as long as you're moderate about it and don't have it too much... But anyway, Sharub loves his Popeye's. He was literally in tears of joy this morning when he reached out to Russ and I to tell us that India is opening their first Popeye's location.
Benjamin Moses: That's amazing.
Stephen LaMarca: In the huge country, it's opening 15 minutes away from him. He is so pumped and excited.
Benjamin Moses: Can you imagine spicy Indian Popeyes chicken, if they are doing local seasoning?
Stephen LaMarca: He's told me that they have other American fast food chains over there, but it's not like the same food. It's close, but it definitely has its Indian spin on it. He says that Burger King and McDonald's are so much better over there.
Benjamin Moses: Interesting.
Stephen LaMarca: They add so much flavor to some of the stuff. And probably they have a lot more regulations on the kind of chemicals and bad stuff they can put in the food, but I won't get into that. He's told me crazy things like how Domino's Pizza and Pizza Hut, they have tikka masala pizzas. It sounds amazing. I want to go to India just for that. I asked him, "Do you think the spicy Popeye's chicken in India is going to be spicier than it is in the US?" He was like, "No doubt." Unquestionably, it will be more spicy than it is in the United States. But he's so in love with the Popeye he came to know over here in the States that he's like, "I'm really hoping it's as close to US stuff as possible."
Benjamin Moses: That's cool.
Stephen LaMarca: "I know it's going to be better, but I miss the US stuff," is what he was saying.
Benjamin Moses: That's good. Do you have a favorite? What's your favorite?
Stephen LaMarca: So if I looked back at like my bank statements, my favorite of last year was probably Bojangles.
Benjamin Moses: Oh, good choice.
Stephen LaMarca: That's like Tim's favorite. That's what he grew up with.
Benjamin Moses: He's a southern boy, isn't he?
Stephen LaMarca: Southern boy. Here's my thing about Bojangles. I do love it. We've got a great Bojangles location close to us, being outside DC, and this is by no means the south. You have to drive 30 minutes to get Bojangles. 45 minutes, if you want Waffle House, but that's another topic. The Bojangles that opened 30 minutes away from here happens to be a very good location. My beef with Bojangles is, one in five Bojangles locations are actually decent.
Benjamin Moses: [crosstalk 00:05:07] mess up here.
Stephen LaMarca: Four out of five just have, I don't know if it's the workers or what it is about the ingredients they get, it's just not made as well. It's not as good. But one in five locations actually make good stuff and we're lucky to have a good one, which is why I'm going to say Bojangles.
Benjamin Moses: My go to used to be Taco Bell.
Stephen LaMarca: Strong choice. People talk smack about it. Strong choice.
Benjamin Moses: I've shifted away from that. So every Tuesday my daughter has a gymnastics class and we do fast food on the way, just because it's more convenient. I have to get her on practice on time. So every Tuesday's fast food day for us. She's not a big fan of Taco Bell, and plus they slimmed down their menu. I'm a big fan of the Mexican pizza and that doesn't even-
Stephen LaMarca: They got rid of that?
Benjamin Moses: It's gone. They said, "Ben liked this, so let's get rid of it." So I've shifted to Wendy's. Wendy's is now my new jam.
Stephen LaMarca: Wow. Wendy's is another strong choice.
Benjamin Moses: The world's most expensive fast food.
Stephen LaMarca: It really is.
Benjamin Moses: You could go broke eating there.
Stephen LaMarca: It is so expensive. You're right. I think if you get a small everything, if it's a combo it's going to be $10.
Benjamin Moses: It's going to be $10. Yeah. I just order sandwiches there now.
Stephen LaMarca: But Wendy's, they do do. Their, their burgers are actually quite good.
Benjamin Moses: Steve, kick us off with some additive content.
Stephen LaMarca: Okay. Additive metrology. Metrology based additives all over the news and it always will be at least for, I don't know, for the foreseeable future. But from metrologynews.com, one of my favorite sources, 3D Printed Pressure Vessel Receives CE Certification. So as we heard back in 2018, man, that's a long time ago now, but it feels like it was yesterday... So we heard back in 2018, the things that were holding back additive were standardizations and materials, availability.
Material availability's ramping up and standardization, as we've reported on, is ramping up. But what's cool is, this is a first for any kind of standard or certification in oil and gas. So the article, it wasn't written by material news. It was given to them by Shell, my favorite oil and gas company. I only fill up my tank with Shell. And this isn't sponsored. I promise, believe me. My credit card statements can show that too. But Shell has been playing with additive manufacturing and they 3D printed a pressure vessel using laser powder bed fusion. Basically this part can withstand 220 atmospheres, that wasn't the term they used or the unit-
Benjamin Moses: Bars.
Stephen LaMarca: Bars, same thing. And because of that, it got a CE certification, which is a first for the oil and gas company.
Benjamin Moses: Nice.
Stephen LaMarca: Actually, I'm not explaining it well. Let me read a quick blurb that I pulled from the article. "The vessel was manufactured through powder bed fusion or laser powder bed fusion or direct metal laser centering and is designed for pressures up to 220 bar. This certification is an important milestone for the energy industry because there are, to date, no legislation or global standards specifically for 3D printed pressure retaining parts in oil and gas. This lack in regulations means that the use of 3D printed pressure equipment is generally not permitted at industrial assets around the globe. Shell printed this pressure vessel to gather research data and help improve the sector's trust in additive manufacturing as a technical solution to source spare parts just in time instead of stalking spare parts for years."
So I know the oil and gas and Shell probably isn't the only one to experience that. But when it comes to pressure vessels, any kind of pressure vessel, they're engineered in such a way that they know when they're going to break, where they're going to break, how many hours of run time they can get on that part before it needs to be replaced. And sadly, even with all that information, they need to buy in bulk. They need to make sure that they have enough storage space to provide for the overhead of these spare parts when they need to do a replacement. And the cool thing about this is, instead of worrying about that overhead, instead of worrying about that warehouse real estate and backlogging parts that are just going to collect dust, that are expensive parts, mind you, they can order just in time.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah. That is interesting that they're looking at, a slightly different problem that they're solving is, obviously you can increase the complexity, increase the efficiency through additive design to more complex features, but also looking at reducing inventory. Holding inventory is very costly. Like you said, you got the warehouse itself, but also someone's got to pay for buying and manufacturing all those pieces. And they're probably doing large lot sizes to amortize or reduce the cost of setup and things like that for these complex parts. So like you said, if they can reduce the lead time to manufacture these parts, they can definitely save a lot in the whole overall supply chain. That's cool. I like that.
Stephen LaMarca: Because not that Inconel or something like that goes bad right over time, but that's a lot of money to buy an Inconel part and you just don't want it collecting dust. If you're spending that money, you want it to go to work.
Benjamin Moses: And I'm very surprised. We did a few projects in oil and gas and they do use some, so Inconel is a choice, but they use a lot of abrasion resistant materials. Was it Monel K and L605 materials-
Stephen LaMarca: They use a lot of moly?
Benjamin Moses: Maybe. I don't know. But in the end, the raw material cost itself is a big portion of the cost of the part itself. So you raw material, you've got design, you've got manufacturing costs. But a lot of these are significantly scale higher than aluminum or the less expensive steels. So one way they're also saving, by going to additive, is just the material cost itself. The materials that you're using and the process is significantly less. So that's really interesting. I'm glad that they're taking a lot of advantage of that. And Shell has been publishing quite a few works on additive. So they're definitely taking the lead on the oil and gas, on the outside side.
Stephen LaMarca: They do do a lot of research. It's funny that they're doing research in additive because they also do a lot of research in additives. I'll stop.
Benjamin Moses: It's going to be a long day.
Stephen LaMarca: I'll stop. I'll stop.
Benjamin Moses: On that note, I'll talk about automating the powdering of 3D printed parts for streamlining production. Like you mentioned, if you're printing-
Stephen LaMarca: Powder bed fusion.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Powder bed fusion. Right. So you've massive powder bed... At the end of the print, it's just covered in powder. You can't see your part. You may see just the last layer that's printed, but when you take out the part it's going be covered and all your cavities are completely filled with powder that still remains there.
Stephen LaMarca: Going to look like a barber covered in talcum powder, dusting all that off.
Benjamin Moses: So in the overall processing, you have to be able to remove it. And the current state of the art is having a human just shake it around, blow sand around, which conceptually, it's fine. I mean, if you have a [Casid 00:12:33] part, to remove it from the gates and stuff, you have a human that's going to use an ax grinder or a dye grinder to remove it or whatever process. But one thing that a lot of people, I think, do gloss over, the powder is actually very, very harmful and explosive. A lot of these powders in their small form are very, very dangerous. So if you actually go to a manufacturing facility where they have a lot of powder bed equipment, they humans are in full respirators. They have head gear. They're wearing gloves. They have to protect their body so much in just entering the room and manipulating parts in there.
Stephen LaMarca: I've heard of that before. but I never thought about it. If you Google or Wiki search a flash bang grenade, that's all it is, is flash powder, gunpowder and fine metal powders. You're working with flash bang innards. That's wild.
Benjamin Moses: So in the article, they talk about automating this process. So removing the human as much as possible, but also-
Stephen LaMarca: Safety.
Benjamin Moses: ... improving the cleanliness of the part, because you're going to have to-
Stephen LaMarca: Quality.
Benjamin Moses: ... post process the part. Some of it could be just going to subtractive manufacturing, but you could be welding on this part, too. So you got to be able to make sure that it's clean, as much as possible, and any other debris is going to create porosity and you'll have your welds fail. So it's a interesting technology where they're using vibration and air or in a gas to get rid of or control their atmosphere as they're processing the part. That's on like a rotating table, so it can articulate around and vibrate and shake everything out. So it feels like it's a step in the right direction in terms of improving auto additive processes.
You go from printed part to clean to the next step, where if you really have the ability to line up these machines, then you can start adding robots and automating the process even further. So you can get into more less human interaction in the process and increase your throughput. So I think, overall, this is a very interesting step. Taking a step back of the human interaction with additive, that's something we don't talk about too often, either. How should the humans interact? We talked about how easy it is to design a part and then get to print. You're not post-processing to every different machine. It's fairly streamlined in terms of creating your output for the machine from a CAD file. But now we're looking at external interactions on the machine itself. So I think it's a very interesting look at how additive will further get into production manufacturing.
Stephen LaMarca: I think a huge, maybe not huge, but a bottleneck that I've noticed, like when I was out in Texas recording the second season of Road Tripping with Steve, a bottleneck in terms of quality in manual intervention, build plates. Just build plates alone. That blew my mind. I mean, I probably should have known more about what went into that, but you have to cut the part off of the build plate and then you need to resurface the build plate.
Benjamin Moses: There's a lot of steps.
Stephen LaMarca: There's a lot.
Benjamin Moses: Let's talk about some automation. I'm ready to talk about, I got a really good one later, but let's get into yours first.
Stephen LaMarca: So this is such a cool article and it's not typically by an industrial news source. It's from Wired.com.
Benjamin Moses: That's cool.
Stephen LaMarca: But it really stood out to me because, in one of our meetings that we were in recently with the [Aim 00:16:10] Committee, somebody mentioned that some robot companies are not even selling robots or robot solutions anymore. This article by Wired.com is, now you can rent a robot worker for less than paying a human. Less parts. Not necessary. The rent part doesn't sound entirely accurate. I think the craziest part to me was, you pay the company that provides the robot by the hour, the same... So you're paying the company the same way you would pay a human to do that work. Let's say, you really like the robots' work and it was awesome. That company won't sell you the robot. They only allow you to hire the robot.
Benjamin Moses: That is an interesting shift in how you implement CapEx projects like that. I mean, we've talked about the reduction in costs in robots over the past couple years, but it's still fairly expensive when you add the-
Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.
Benjamin Moses: ... integration cost. So if you're able to take $200,000 and spread it into just an hourly rate, I think it's a really interesting look at cash flow for the businesses. It's a fairly big shift in how CapEx projects could be implemented in the future.
Stephen LaMarca: It's cool because, let's say a job shop. They like the robot. Even if they want to buy it, this company won't let them buy it. Which initially seems to me like it's a bad thing. But if you have a quarter million dollar CNC machine and it's not running because you don't have to run it for anything, then you should be able to back out of it. It's actually, even though it's atraditional, it's unorthodox-
Benjamin Moses: It is.
Stephen LaMarca: But it's pretty beneficial.
Benjamin Moses: Right. Especially if you're just...
Stephen LaMarca: At some point, it is introducing a lot of diminishing returns. As for, like, you get like a Mitsubishi laser cutter, those things will work for 30 plus years. Those things don't break. I mean, maybe they break, but they can be fixed. Those things last forever. As expensive as it might be, eventually you'll break even, and then you'll start making a lot of profit off of it. The robot, assuming you're paying little enough for it, you can potentially start making profit right away. And you can see the profit right away, but it might get to a point where, like at years after using said robot, you may get to the point where it's like, "I could be making a lot more if I had initially bought the robot outright."
Benjamin Moses: Maybe. Maybe.
Stephen LaMarca: But it's such an advanced technology, that, even though they've been around forever, it's such an advanced technology that who knows what the next evolution of will be.
Benjamin Moses: I think we should investigate a little bit more, because how do you sustain it? With subscription service, that's a new model for everything. Everything is a subscription service. Even cars, Porsche tested that for a while, Volvo tested that, shifting away from a lease and going to a subscription model. But the idea of this technology being an hourly cost, what happens when the new model comes out? Do we get upgrades? What is the technology statement plan for these devices that are broken down a little bit more?
Stephen LaMarca: Then that's going to get you into the old boomer argument. They're like, "Oh, they don't make things the way they used to be." You're right. They make them better.
Benjamin Moses: I see the last article I got was from Carnegie Mellon. A research team selected to develop robotic technology to service satellites and build structures in orbit. So we've touched on and off about manufacturing in space a little bit. I feel like there's a fairly big wave, particularly with more space travel. I was more interested in going further in space, but we're launching a lot of rockets, a lot of satellites in general. The research from Carnegie Mellon will head a consortium selected by the Air Force and the scientific research Air Force group to pioneer research into robotic inspection maintenance and manufacturing of satellites and other structures while in orbit. They're going to focus on a couple of key areas. Obviously artificial intelligence or machine learning will pay a key part, but they're going to look at hard and soft robotics, additive manufacturing, of course, you're in space with astrodynamics, control theory and space systems.
It's a fairly diverse group. You've got other universities, you've got University of New Mexico, Texas A&M, Northrop Grumman's involved, of course. There's two things that I'm very interested in this. Robots for maintenance inspection, I think, have a lot of opportunity. We have seen-
Stephen LaMarca: Oh, absolutely.
Benjamin Moses: ... a lot of interesting use cases where the robot is used to make sure the assembly is complete, like make sure objects are in place, which is very interesting use cases, but also using them for supporting maintenance and overhaul of large airplanes or whatever. So it's interesting to see potential adjacent technology that's going to be used that, one, you have to verify the robustness. You're in space. That's the key. Once you're in space, the barrier to get into space with technology is confidence and robustness in that design.
I'm very interested to see, if you're going to put a robot in space and you want to inspect something, you know it's going to inspect it unless an asteroid hits it, of course, and then you get a movie out of it. I think the reliability trickling down into manufacturing is very interesting from my perspective. And also, I'd want to give a shout out to the ARM Institute. They're a manufacturing US institute focused on robotics, and of course they're based out of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon was one of the universities that helped spun up that institute. They've done some really interesting projects recently, too.
Stephen LaMarca: I've been meaning to go back to Pittsburgh. We need to go back to Pittsburgh.
Benjamin Moses: We had a great time.
Stephen LaMarca: That was an awesome time. And learn more about export controls.
Benjamin Moses: Maybe.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. What do you mean? I feel like I need to get caught up on them.
Benjamin Moses: It's been a while since we talked export controls.
Stephen LaMarca: Anyway, speaking of other exciting events going on right now... It started yesterday, which yesterday was the 18th of January, and it's going on today and wraps up tomorrow. It's the Tipe 3D Printing Event event. Tipe spelled T-I-P-E 3D printing. And it is a series of webinars. It's really a virtual conference. It's probably one of the best executed virtual conferences I've seen. It's hosted by the Women in 3D Printing. And I sat in on Lisa Block of Hybrid Manufacturing, I sat in on her presentation yesterday. What's funny is, she's with Hybrid Manufacturing, Jason Jones out in Texas, I got to meet her last year on a Zoom meeting. Sadly, I didn't get to meet her in person, but she was really fun in the Zoom meeting, as fun as a Zoom meeting can get.
I saw her presentation yesterday. What she was talking about had nothing to do with additive or manufacturing, but it was so energizing listening to her speak. She has so much drive and passion and fire. It's really cool. It was awesome. I can't wait to meet her in person. When I flew out there to see Hybrid, she actually, at the same time, flew to DC to do some manufacturing advocacy on the Hill. So I'm really looking forward to eventually meeting her in person.
I've met a handful of people in life that have a big drive, that are really motivated, passionate individuals, but I can count on one hand, and it's less than five, people that have so much drive, passion and motivation that it actually radiates from them. Yesterday, when I went into meeting room three to sit in on this presentation, I was out of it. I needed a cup of coffee badly. I was getting ready to fall asleep. And then she started speaking and I was going until like 7:00 PM after that. It gave me a second wind. She's one of those people. Looking forward to meeting her. I hope to see more presentations from her.
But it was such a great conference. I'm looking forward to today, seeing some more of what they have to offer. Typically takes place in the second half of January every year, so be on the lookout next year for the Tipe 3D Printing Virtual Conference. Might be in person next year.
Benjamin Moses: Maybe.
Stephen LaMarca: I don't know.
Benjamin Moses: That's great to hear. I'm glad you had a great experience on that. I agree. It's a very interesting conference and speaking lineup.
Stephen LaMarca: You get to meet cool people.
Benjamin Moses: Looking forward to see the next iterations next couple years. Steve, where can I find more info about us?
Stephen LaMarca: AMTonline.org/resources. Like, share, and subscribe.
Benjamin Moses: Thanks, Steve.
Stephen LaMarca: Bye.
Benjamin Moses: Bye.