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AMT Tech Trends: Two Wheel Tesla

Episode 57: Steve explains why electric motorcycles are failing and he’s part of the problem! Ben pivots to the success of robotics in woodworking. Stephen quotes some Wall Street nerds with their take on additive manufacturing in/for space.
Sep 24, 2021

Episode 57: Steve explains why electric motorcycles are failing and he’s part of the problem! Ben pivots to the success of robotics in woodworking. Stephen quotes some Wall Street nerds with their take on additive manufacturing in/for space and then mentions GE’s use of AM in their big offshore wind turbine. Benjamin is just now finding out about the first-ever collaborative delta arm, then gets hyped about carbon nanotube wearables. Steve and Ben close with a discussion on AM, sustainability, and environmental friendliness.

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Benjamin Moses: Hello everyone. Welcome to AMT's Tech Trends podcast, where we discuss the latest manufacturing, technology, research and news. I am Benjamin Moses, director of technology, and I'm here with-

Stephen LaMarca: Stephen LaMarca, technology analyst. What's up Ben?

Benjamin Moses: Steve, I don't know why I'm holding this sheet of paper and looking at it. I do that every time for the intro. And it's like a sentence.

Stephen LaMarca: You know what? I'm glad you said that, because I'm looking down here at my notes on my phone and I posted my notes on a Slack channel. And of course, with my posts, it says my name right above it. And I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's my name. I'll be able to remember it when we're doing this intro." So that's why I had that dumb, grin on my face. We've got this.

Benjamin Moses: We got it. The intro's done. Well done, Steve. Earlier, we're talking about electrification, [crosstalk 00:01:00] motor vehicles. You brought up interesting point on electric motorcycles.

Stephen LaMarca: Electric motorcycles are failing.

Benjamin Moses: They're failing.

Stephen LaMarca: So I saw this great... Okay.

Benjamin Moses: You are a motorcycle enthusiast.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: So I just want to give a little background.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm a gear-head.

Benjamin Moses: Gear-head, all right.

Stephen LaMarca: Which I used to be a car enthusiast and I still am a car enthusiast. I don't know. I'm not wording any of this right. But I originally a car enthusiast and I like to use the term gear-head now, because I like a lot more things than just cars now. Watches, firearms, motorcycles. They all have gears. They're all mechanical. Sadly, a lot of them have computers too. I'm not a Luddite though, but anyway, so let's take a step back, let's look at cars again. If you look at the big electric car company, Tesla, they've taken off, they originally, I saw them as a luxury vehicle company. And I say that only because another company's stepping in now called the Lucid. Still haven't seen a Lucid car, seen a few articles. I don't think I ever will. They say they're based in California, but at least the Wiki page says the founders are all Chinese and this, this is a Chinese company for sure. But they're trying to make the luxury electric vehicle, which coming back to what I said earlier, I always thought, Tesla already had that.

They are pretty luxurious. They're expensive. The interiors are nice, but apparently I guess they think, and Tesla's BMW, Mercedes level. Lucid's going for that electric Rolls Royce.

Benjamin Moses: That's odd. And so it's here.

Stephen LaMarca: How about you give it a little bit of time. By 2035, I'm sure Rolls Royce will have an electric vehicle.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know who you think you are, what your credentials are, but anyway, electric vehicles are taking off, right? There's the Nissan Leaf, there's the Chevy Volt. It all started with the Prius and actually the Insight. But we won't get into that debate. And even before then the EV1 by Chevy, the GM product, but that's another one we really don't need to get into. Anyway, electric vehicles. I think that there's some government mandate saying that all manufacturers sold in the U.S. need to have at least one EV or majority hybrids by 2025. And some countries, maybe even the U.S., I'm speaking out of my mind at align right now, but maybe evenly the U.S. are saying, "Yeah, we want all electric, new vehicles have to be all electric. New cars have to be all electric by 2035," something like that, which makes me a little sad, but it's progress, I hope.

Benjamin Moses: I guess.

Stephen LaMarca: But even before electric vehicles, going back to the gear-head part of me. I am an enthusiast, and enthusiastic car people, they don't make car companies money. When a car company kneels to the enthusiast fan base and makes an enthusiast car, they never buy them. I mean, they sell pretty well, but if you look at the sales of the Mazda Miata, a proper driver's car, enthusiast's car, the good Porsche is, like the... Not to insult your Porsche, like the Cayman and the Boxster and the GT3 Touring, the really crazy expensive ones that on paper aren't impressive anymore, compared to the hybrid Panamera, an all-wheel drive, they don't even compare to the Ford F-150 or the Toyota Corolla. It's like, "This is a successful sports car. It's sold 2,500 this year." And that's nothing.

Benjamin Moses: It's nothing.

Stephen LaMarca: They don't make the car company's money.

Benjamin Moses: Correct.

Stephen LaMarca: They cost a lot of money to the car companies in terms of research and development and production, but they make none of that back.

Benjamin Moses: Correct.

Stephen LaMarca: Well, they're happy to breakeven with them. So enthusiasts like myself are, because I'm living romantically in the nineties, late nineties, early 2000s when cars were at their best, and a light car was considered 2,500 pounds. These days, you'd be happy to get a car under 3,000 pounds, and even that's pushing it. It's people like myself have to go to motorcycles, if we're out of our mind enough, because it's the only place where you can go to get a high-revving, naturally aspirated internal combustion engine, because all cars today are turbo, if not, are going turbo and the EPA doesn't help with that. And manual transmission, forget it. You're lucky to find it as an option. And if you do find it as an option, you no longer as a car person, you no longer can pull that argument saying that, "Oh, well, the manual is more efficient, it's less expensive and it's faster."

Benjamin Moses: It's not anymore.

Stephen LaMarca: It's not none of the above anymore. It's not just like, "Oh, well it's still more efficient," or, "Oh well, it's still less expensive." It's none of that. It is usually an upgrade or an option.

Benjamin Moses: You even mentioned, developing countries are shifting away from manual transmissions.

Stephen LaMarca: A lot of developing, third-world countries, it's getting harder. It used to be unrealistic to go, if you were vacationing or visiting a third-world country for whatever reason that you could get a rental car with an automatic. It's becoming less and less. You can actually, well, it used to be that you couldn't even find one. Now it's at least, you can find one, it's an option. But they're everywhere now and they're taking over. So I think the enthusiast space, it's people like me that it's our fault that electric motorcycles haven't taken off. Harley Davidson had the Live Wire, but they've mothballed it. They haven't stopped. Well, they haven't canceled it, but they stopped production. And they're like, "We only sold 600 in two years."

Benjamin Moses: They're still hoping.

Stephen LaMarca: And then on top of that, just like the cars, all of that torque, the maximum torque is available at zero RPM. That's terrible for a beginner rider. The last thing a beginner rider wants to do is accidentally wheelie. And those things are almost guaranteed to wheelie. I think the only dedicated electric motorcycle company out there is a company called Zero. And they're only still in business and still up and running, because they've secured some serious police and military contracts, which that makes sense. That's great. I love that. Everybody loves a mil-spec thing. They've landed it. And it's an American company too. So they could quite literally the Tesla of motorcycles. But nobody looks at them and says, "Man, that's nice. I want that one."

Benjamin Moses: That's fair.

Stephen LaMarca: So it's people like my fault.

Benjamin Moses: We'll still keep seeing new electric motorcycle startups come around. I feel like that's, that's the thing I feel like-

Stephen LaMarca: They're not done yet. They're not dead yet.

Benjamin Moses: No, and I think-

Stephen LaMarca: They're in bad shape-

Benjamin Moses: In the U.S. motorcycle, I feel the market is more of a niche market anyway. I don't think it's a huge market in the U.S.. I feel like there's pockets. And I think you're right. You have to be an enthusiastic, you need the culture behind it. I don't think the electric motorcycles have developed a culture for enthusiasts just yet.

Stephen LaMarca: Motorcycles. And I think you're absolutely right. And I think motorcycles are the new manual transmission. If you want a manual, why even bother with a car? Let's get a bike.

Benjamin Moses: Which is unfortunate, because I love a manual transmission. There's no way in hell, I'm going to buy a motorcycle.

Stephen LaMarca: They're so slow.

Benjamin Moses: Well, in this area, plus they're scary to drive a motorcycle.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no. I thought, I thought you were going to go, I would love a manual transmission. There's no way in hell I'm buying a manual transmission car these days, especially with what you've been used to.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Yeah. The previous car I had, the automatic transmission, the manual mode was, I would say that's impressive. I would say it's close to dual-clutch style, fast transmission speed. And going from a Volkswagen Golf, a manual transmission to that, that's exactly what I wanted. It was a higher revving, fast motor. Now they have this boat of a car it's not nimble and the transmission's slow. I'm like, "Hmm." If it's slow, I might as well go manual I'll have fun with it. But in this case, to get one, it's almost impossible.

Stephen LaMarca: I've been really impressed with when I test drove the Lexus performance cars. I'm trying to keep it short, the automatics, Lexus just have some of the greatest automatics and they're automatic. They're not dual-clutches, they're automatics. They have found the perfect middle ground between fast shifting, not lightening quick shifting like a dual-clutch, but fast shifting, but also you don't feel it.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: They've done such a good job with that, but the good news to come out of all of this sadness that has overcome me is at least with the existence of internal combustion engines still, gear manufacturers still exist. We love those people.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Let's get into some articles man. I got one on woodworking. Not quite, I would say a wheelhouse, but very fascinating. I mean, and talking about woodworking, I think the preconceived notion of is some dude in the backyard with a chisel making furniture.

Stephen LaMarca: I like to think of Louisville, Slugger, the factory. They've got a bunch of blades. Now, we're used to thinking of metalworking blades.

Benjamin Moses: Correct. The same thing.

Stephen LaMarca: It's kind of like that just a different material, but sawdust is really flammable and dangerous.

Benjamin Moses: So, and this started a little talking about the robotics revolution in woodworking.

Stephen LaMarca: Whoa!

Benjamin Moses: So they're talking about, I'll say, high volume, but more consumer grade or large volume manufacturing. Well, so it's not your custom... It's not, you're going to not visit a guy to make a custom table for you in that scenario. They're making cabinetry and that type of stuff, which there are high variations within that process. So it's a high volume slash higher variation type process. And there's the woodwork industry's seeing a lot of the issues that a lot of industries are seeing of, they needed high-talent or high-skilled workforce to do those type of tasks. Now they're able to try and augment some of the other tasks with robots and they go through a couple of scenarios where they're automatically feeding, CNC routers, or computerized bandsaws. They're also using robots to sort stack and direct those parts to other places in the production. And now, they're also exploring obviously sanding and finishing, which has been around in-

Stephen LaMarca: That is the one.

Benjamin Moses: [crosstalk 00:12:08] for a while.

Stephen LaMarca: Think about, so sanding takes so much time and if you can get a robot to do it, you'd need a robot with a really advanced vision system. And you would need a generation three robot, a third gen robot for that. A Cobot or an industrial robot wouldn't be enough I would think. You would need something that's implementing AI or machine learning to make sure you're getting a perfectly smooth surface and you're properly following the contours of each unique part made.

Benjamin Moses: And that's interesting part, when you look at parts that are produced, wood parts there, they always have very, very complex surfaces. So the complexity of the surfaces plus to get a surface finish, good to touch, but it's not just good to look at it, but you got to touch it.

Stephen LaMarca: You could have two perfectly identical cut pieces of wood, but the wood's still different. I see what you're saying. So there could be a knot somewhere in the wood and the robot you would probably want be like, because I would think you have to sand a knot slightly differently. The material is probably going to remove slower for that. Differently.

Benjamin Moses: Differently. That's right. So, they've implemented these cases. And those cases have been around in other metallic processes for a while. They're implementing a lot of those and also talking about it'll load all this into a truck with a robot too. So it's fairly interesting. And what they're looking at in the future is that they want to use warehouse robots to replace pallet jacks and forklifts, which I think is very fascinating. So it's not just, "Hey, let's get a robot in the house," they're kind of jumping generations to, current state-of-the-art of, "Hey, we've got warehouse robots. Let's put a big old robot in there, have them lift this big bed of, planks and wood and stuff and move it all around the facility." So I think it was a fairly, pretty cool look at the current state of the art in woodworking from the woodworking network.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes. I really like how that article, if you scroll all the way to the bottom of that article and you see the author, it's like this gray bearded dude with the thick, protective glasses. And it's like, this guy is not just a woodworker, this guy's a woodsman too. And he's becoming an evangelist for adopting robotics in the woodshop. I think that is so cool. The trickle down from one industry to another one.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, you haven't used trickle down in a while I see.

Stephen LaMarca: I love using that.

Benjamin Moses: You got one on the 3D printing in space or 3D printing about space?

Stephen LaMarca: I have a few articles, which one did I want to start with?

Benjamin Moses: You're very 3D printing additive-

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: That's fine. I'll offset your articles. Come on Steve.

Stephen LaMarca: Forgot which one I was... Was It going to be the ETF that I was going to start with first?

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay. So there is an article that I found called, more confirmation, 3D printing belongs in space. You're right. I don't know what I was thinking. Now, this article is from etftrends.com, which-

Benjamin Moses: It's not quite manufacturing.

Stephen LaMarca: It's not a manufacturing website. It's not even a technology website. This is a NASDAQ, S&P 500, Dow Jones website. These are Wall Street nerds.

Benjamin Moses: To make money on money.

Stephen LaMarca: So I just want to put it out there. We are not giving any financial advice. Do not listen to us if we suggest anything and we won't suggest anything.

Benjamin Moses: Thanks, Steve.

Stephen LaMarca: Just want to cover the lawyers there. But I did pull a really cool quote from the article, not an actual quote in the article, but the article had two paragraphs that were nice, that I wanted to touch on that helped validate additive manufacturing and not just additive manufacturing, but additive manufacturing in space. And the first one is, "In addition, the 3D printing industry continues showing its relevance in the space race, consider its applications in the construction of rocket engines, obviously an essential part of space exploration." So they're talking about obviously using additive to make the rocket engines. And the next one is, "3D printing, whether critics want to agree or not is speeding along space-related technological advancements. There was a time when it took thousands of NASA engineers years to launch anything into space. Today, privately held relativity space can 3D print a rocket and just a couple of months." And so, it's just the rest of the article, it's talking about market stuff, it's talking about an ETF called print or PRNT, you can search for it on your Robin Hood app or whatever the kids are using.

Benjamin Moses: But those are two interesting trends in that. So you have the criticality of the parts. I mean, these are, if there's any issues, people will die. So you're launching someone in space on 10,000 pounds of fuel. And you're printing a that basically the nozzle, the engine, all the fluid transfers from taking this explosive fluid into the engine and then combusting it out the back. So if there's flaws, issues on a additively made part, that thing's going to explode. So the idea of the confidence in being able to grow these parts where you're comfortable strapping people to this explosive device, basically. So I think that's a new look at additive also.

Stephen LaMarca: It's also very grim outlook that the article also touched on, but I like to look at this article for the confirmation that additive is here to stay, and it's also going to space.

Benjamin Moses: It's going to space. And I think space has the ability to harvest value from additive in terms of complexity also, because they do touch on being able to reduce the number of components. So being able to reduce nuts, bolts, washers, trying to put two pieces together to just throw it all together and you can build in the internal cavities into that feature. I think there's a lot of value in that both in, reducing assembly time, but also I can make more complex internal geometry where I don't have to worry about trying to bolt things together and seal them.

Stephen LaMarca: Also, just to transition to another article. And then I'll give it back to you I promise, because I've also been following the market a little bit and I've been watching big company GE have the smallest share price ever for the past two years. GE found an article about them. GE uses binder jetting to design the world's largest offshore wind turbine.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: It's really cool. So GE Additive has been crushing it even though their share price won't necessarily reflect it. I don't know what the rest of GE is doing, but GE Additive and GE Aerospace absolutely crushed it.

Benjamin Moses: That's true.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's just really cool that we don't get to see or hear about offshore wind turbines that much, other than that, every other Yahoo that thinks of wind turbines is like, "Get them out of here. They're wasteful." And well, if it's offshore, then it's out of sight out of mind. So I don't think you need to worry about it.

Benjamin Moses: Unless you're at the beach.

Stephen LaMarca: GE's... And you see a turbine blade impaled a whale that's beached. But it's cool that GE is coming out and being like, "Yeah, we use additive. And we also made the biggest wind turbine that's offshore." So it's a nice little feat.

Benjamin Moses: I like that. And it's an energy scale, so we can talk about space. Rockets are fairly large, but then the component is going to be fairly small, the engine itself is actually fairly small, but then you go to the other extreme of, that's probably one of the biggest structures, other than skyscrapers that we're manufacturing. Going to a wind turbine that's several hundred feet tall. The blades are that big, it's impressive, to be able to support that manufacturing process with additive is great.

Stephen LaMarca: And put it in the ocean.

Benjamin Moses: And put it in the ocean to make it last.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm not ruining the view of beautiful rolling hills and amber waves of grain.

Benjamin Moses: Of Virginia.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure. Or wherever. And originally, I was like, "Man, that can't... What if a huge storm takes one of those out, and who's going to be...?" Which electric company or energy company is going to be like, "Yeah, we lost some wind turbines today." They're never going to come out forward with that stuff. If it goes missing, because a storm or a big old tidal wave took it out, it's gone.

Benjamin Moses: It's gone.

Stephen LaMarca: It's already in the trash pile in the ocean. But I got to say one thing that makes me happy about offshore wind turbines is for every 10 or so, I guess I'm pulling, pull total arbitrary number out of my head. But I guess for every 10 offshore wind turbines there are, that's one less offshore oil rig.

Benjamin Moses: We'll come back to that later.

Stephen LaMarca: Hopefully. We will come back to it, yes.

Benjamin Moses: That'll be the last article we talk about is sustainability in manufacturing. So I'm glad you brought that up now. The article I will talk about is, "World first sidebot offers compact design and high speed."

Stephen LaMarca: I love this site.

Benjamin Moses: Do you know what a sidebot is Steve?

Stephen LaMarca: So I don't want to rain on your parade, but this is a couple of weeks, if not months old. But I remember, so I put something, weeks or months back in the weekly tech report about sidebot. Sidebot is my new robot hero, because so everybody knows delta arms. If you don't, go to an IMTS and you'll be amazed by how stupid quick they are.

Benjamin Moses: They're fast.

Stephen LaMarca: But there's never been a... When we think about collaborative robots, we think of really slow robot arms, the opposite of the fast delta robots.

Benjamin Moses: Plus the speed is part of the safety.

Stephen LaMarca: Sidebot, it is part of the safety, specifically the energy, the force, the Newtons. 15 Newtons is the max, the regulatory max for a cobot. But has to be under 15 or under. So I dragged again. Sidebot is the very first delta arm cobot.

Benjamin Moses: That's right. So this is a direct drive pick and place robot. And then an article from a Packaging Digest talks about work side-by-side with human workers and food beverage, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, electrical automotive company, is in this case, comparing it directly to cobots, which I think that as part of our marketing article. So it is 10 times faster than a cobot, but it's more in line to a delta arm. So the ability with, if we have the speed, but also the safety for a human to work in that environment.

Stephen LaMarca: So, they're pulling the card of does the reader know their right vocabulary? Sure. It's a lot faster than a conventional arm cobot. But is it faster than an industrial delta arm? No.

Benjamin Moses: And they are picking their battles there. So that's fair, but I think they're offering different options. So instead of-

Stephen LaMarca: Still cool. Still an industry first.

Benjamin Moses: So, if the primary need is to have a cobot and then you're doing just pick and place, yeah, a single-arm cobot is going to be slower than what they're offering. So that's cool article. I'm happy to see more integrations with humans and robots working together. I think, I'm a big fan of hybrid manufacturing and hybrid technologies in general.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's not like delta arms are new and certainly delta arms aren't new, and it's not like cobots are new. But the cool thing about sidebot is there was the fact that sidebot it exists now is an indication that this isn't like some invention that somebody came up with.

Benjamin Moses: Somebody has a need.

Stephen LaMarca: Somebody has a need for it. This came out of necessity. And I would love to see if a facility that is running a delta cobot with their production line with other humans.

Benjamin Moses: But look around.

Stephen LaMarca: Maybe it's that I Love Lucy episode where they're in the chocolate factory, something like that. I'm really showing some age now.

Benjamin Moses: That's some quality television.

Stephen LaMarca: Black and white dude.

Benjamin Moses: So let me hit on this article Steve, if you're going to end on the sustainability. So I've got an article with all the buzzwords in it. "Smart shirt uses flexible carbon nanotube fibers to keep tabs on the heart."

Stephen LaMarca: Ben Moses, you're talking about carbon nanotubes?

Benjamin Moses: I'm bringing carbon nanotubes up.

Stephen LaMarca: Which for like the past 20 years has been vaporware. Yet people won't shut up about them. Are they becoming real? Is it a real thing now?

Benjamin Moses: At a university at least. So the idea behind the smartware developed by Rice University, "The lab uses conductive nanotube threads to weave functionality into regular apparel." So in this particular case, they want to measure the functionality of the heart. Researchers have stated that, "Nanotube fibers are soft and flexible and clothing that incorporate them was machine washable." So obviously in the article from California news times, they show the video of kind of their demonstrator. And it's kind of like a under armor-type shirt, because it's measuring basically EKG of the heart. So it's got to be fairly compressive and they have the sensor close to the heart, but they're routing the wiring down to say the ribcage. And then they have the electrical contacts coming out into the device that they're collecting the information on. So it's interesting that, they're able to solve the problem of embedding sensors into clothing and make it usable. Obviously, you can just glue something to the T-shirt and make it work.

Stephen LaMarca: Put an [inaudible 00:25:46] or a raspberry pie on the back of your neck.

Benjamin Moses: And the reason that they, I think went this route is one of conductivity, but also they had the carbon nanotubes were too small by itself to actually weave into the fabric. So they created a very, very thin rope, several layers of the tubes to make into a thread. And then they used certain techniques. So if I want to make this in production, how do I sell it? What patterns do I need? What are the kind of limitations of how to implement this? And they were really good.

Stephen LaMarca: There's a carbon nanotube yarn.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, exactly.

Stephen LaMarca: Wow.

Benjamin Moses: So this thing exists, they tested it, they got better results than all the other devices they compared it to. And then when they added medical grade contacts and things like that, then they saw a slightly step above what they tested. So, from the all intents and purposes of the article, they have a thing that works, weaving carbon nanotubes into clothing and getting useful information out of it.

Stephen LaMarca: That's so cool. How close is it to actual production and not just university tests?

Benjamin Moses: Probably a ways out.

Stephen LaMarca: They didn't say anything like that.

Benjamin Moses: It is funded by the Air Force and a bunch of other grants. So I definitely see applications going into-

Stephen LaMarca: The G-suit for sure.

Benjamin Moses: Definitely. Yeah, so measuring heart rate, being able to measure blood pressure, all the air pilots' vitals, that could definitely be a plugin into the suit.

Stephen LaMarca: You plug that in, it's in the suit and you plug it into the plane and it detects that the pilot's about to pass out. It starts limiting the G's, that's really cool.

Benjamin Moses: Yep. Yep. So, of course they're looking into how do we transmit the data? So you can always go wired connections like they do in the demonstrator, but now you could put a Bluetooth adaptor or some other low-power wifi device where you get to wirelessly transmit it. And so, I think it's a very good demonstrator that, wearable electronics, other than the watch, it's more hearsay, carbon nanotubes is hearsay. Somehow they combined the two and made it work. It was fairly fascinating.

Stephen LaMarca: That's a big deal.

Benjamin Moses: Big deal. All right. And what's your last article Steve?

Stephen LaMarca: Last one. I figured we could have a discussion about this. So 3D printing media network. Nice, respectable. We like their news.

Benjamin Moses: Yes.

Stephen LaMarca: Their article posed as a question, so we all know the law of, newsletter editorials. If you ask a question as the title of your article, the answer is almost always no.

Benjamin Moses: That's fair.

Stephen LaMarca: It's 80%. That percentage may be a lot, but it's going to be no. "Can AM additive manufacturing help fight climate change with a more sustainable production?" When I read this-

Benjamin Moses: Tell me your thoughts, Steve.

Stephen LaMarca: I immediately said, "Yeah, of course."

Benjamin Moses: Of course.

Stephen LaMarca: And then I thought about it. I was like, "Man, no." Immediately you start from square one. Let's say you go to Staples or wherever the home kits are sold these days. You go buy a 3D printer material, you come home, you plug it in, you get the software all set up and you print something. If your design is perfect and you've simulated it on your computer and done digital simulation and testing to make sure it's going to print okay, and you've done that properly, and then you've made sure the machine is clean, but of course it is, it's brand new and peeled all of your plastic off the smooth surface. And you print it and it comes out you have a perfect part in one shot, the answer is yes.

Benjamin Moses: Correct.

Stephen LaMarca: But if you're like [Alka 00:10:19] and-

Benjamin Moses: What did she break?

Stephen LaMarca: I don't mean to pick on her, but if you're how I would imagine most home 3D printers, you're just like, "You're just printing out parts."

Benjamin Moses: If you scroll through the 3D printing sub-Reddit on Reddit, you're going to scroll through a lot of scrap parts before you get to the first good [inaudible 00:29:50].

Stephen LaMarca: And what do you think happens to those scrap parts? Do you think they can break them down and return them back into stock, printing material that they can throw right back in? No, it's going to end up in the ocean.

Benjamin Moses: Or recycling bin.

Stephen LaMarca: So that's when I got a little dark and I was like, "It's only yes, if you get all of your simulation down." And so, the answer-

Benjamin Moses: From your perspective.

Stephen LaMarca: Probably no. And then on top of that, let's say you do recycle your scrap parts or you recycle plastic in general. There's a lot of articles coming out this week alone, talking about recycling plastics, in bottles, shopping bags. And how to refine that, break it down and turn it into a material to 3D print with. That costs so much energy, and unless you know exactly where your energies from and your energy is green, if you will, then no, you're not doing anything environmentally friendly. Sure, you're getting rid of plastic or, well, you're using some plastic that would normally just end up in the ocean, but you're still putting a lot of CO2 into the air just to do that.

Benjamin Moses: Can I give you my thoughts too?

Stephen LaMarca: Yes, I want to hear the professional thought.

Benjamin Moses: Well, let's not get carried away here. So the title I think is oversimplification. So they're trying to compare one process to whatever the reader thinks is another process. So a lot of times you'll compare it to subtractive manufacturing, which is fair. Most of the industry is subtractive at some point. But also let's look at, you have casting processes, you have forming, you have joining. And then of course you've got subtractive. There's a bunch of other manufacturing processes that you should consider. And subtractive encompasses a huge variety of stuff. You've got waterjet, then you've got mills, blades, whatever. So the idea of is additive better? Well, I don't know, what are you comparing it to? What metric of, what do you need to measure, you comparing it to? So if you look at, maybe time and energy?

Stephen LaMarca: Oh man, time.

Benjamin Moses: So if I have to form parts, yeah. I need to make dyes, but then forming those 10 parts, once I have those dyes is going to be a hell of a lot quicker than making, growing those parts additively. So if you look at time, it depends on, are you including-

Stephen LaMarca: Time also depends on how many parts you need.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you look at how many, yeah. And then you look at where does T0 start? You started the design process that we would do dyes and manufacturer dyes and process it. So a lot of questions on that, but then you look at, okay, energy, how much energy is used to produce those parts? Do you have the same amount of energy forming those parts versus growing those parts? And then, at some point you're probably going to have machine features on it also.

Stephen LaMarca: And how much energy is used to recycle scrap material, scrap parts.

Benjamin Moses: And then, I think the idea of time comes into energy also, is that, where are you starting to measure? I mean, should you go back to the mines where you still have to harvest the same amount of material either way, but then I've got to process them differently for, powder or filament or wire versus bar stock or a sheet and things like that. Then you have the question of, you're still going to have some scrap and additive, You're still going to have some scrap powder. You can try and recycle it, but not all of it is clean enough to go back into the process. Do you include, is it recycling all that material back into the process? Well, in subtractive manufacturing, recycling, super alloys is fairly robust. You want to harvest as much back to the mill. You don't want to throw that down the drain. Maybe you have aluminum stuff like that. Maybe you just chuck it in the river, but the metallic processes, recycling material is fairly robust.

Stephen LaMarca: Especially with a legacy technology, traditional technology.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, exactly. So, back to the article, I think is oversimplification, if we just say, is additive better? What are you comparing it to? Can you truly use less energy? Can it get you something faster? I don't know. It's really, really difficult to tell. And I think that's where we get the current state of we're still oversimplifying the value of additive. We need to dig down a couple of more layers to see if additive can, what does additive actually get you in the future? What leverage does it create for you? Yeah. I could go from a 3D model to a thing printed faster, like in your case, if I buy a 3D printer-

Stephen LaMarca: First part or first prototype.

Benjamin Moses: Right. First prototype.

Stephen LaMarca: Additives cross that line, well before anything else.

Benjamin Moses: But I still need to get that powder, I still need that filament, which you still have that problem in subtractive. I could-

Stephen LaMarca: If you need to.

Benjamin Moses: What if you need-

Stephen LaMarca: What if you need 10? What if you need 100? So just keep ramping that up. Additives quickly looks like, "Okay, this is not the answer."

Benjamin Moses: Right. Then you leverage the complexity of the design where you can only make it additively or bi-metals or some other interesting feature. So it's a fair question. I don't think it's a fair way to answer an article. I feel like you'd probably need a little more research and you brought up the idea when we were prepping for the podcast today is let's understand the process, before I start cutting chips. Let's simulate this process and figure out what is the fastest way to produce these parts. If we look at simulating, if I'm just a job shop that has just a bunch of subtractive processes, I should be able to simulate all the processes to get from raw material, to finished goods and see what is the most efficient way either the time, energy or dollars. So being able to understand, maybe we should put it on this other machine, I can cut it faster, or optimize my tool better using better workholding, things like that. So I think there's a lot of nuances in that question that should be answered regularly within the manufacturing floor. How do you feel about that, Steve?

Stephen LaMarca: No, that was exactly what I want in terms of a discussion. And it got me thinking of it would be really cool in the future for our test bed, but what I'd love to do is if we got a 3D printer, home 3D printer and we did hybrid manufacturing, but open-loop hybrid manufacturing. So we print something in a printer and then we take that part and put it in the pocket and see, and just have the pocket and see, finish it.

Benjamin Moses: Sure. Yeah. I think we can get there.

Stephen LaMarca: Is because I don't mean to sound like at the very end of this episode, we're ripping on ads, because we're not. It's here to stay. It's not going anywhere and it's only getting faster, better and more efficient, which is the cool thing.

Benjamin Moses: It's not the electric bike. It'll be around for a while [crosstalk 00:36:40].

Stephen LaMarca: But it still sucks.

Benjamin Moses: All right man, where can people find more info about us?

Stephen LaMarca: amtonline.org/resources. From there, you can find past episodes of the podcast and you can also find our white paper series, as well as just the latest articles that we've put out and you can even subscribe to the weekly tech report.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Thanks Steve.

Stephen LaMarca: Thank you Ben.

Benjamin Moses: Bye everyone.

Stephen LaMarca: Bye.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
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