Chloe Kow – “Due to this learning curve, we haven’t seen the true untapped potential of metal 3D printing just yet”

Chloe Kow has 10 years of industry experience including more than 5 years specializing in additive manufacturing and metallurgical research related to aerospace and transportation applications. In her role as DMLM Manager at Star Rapid, Chloe brings a wealth of expertise to every project, ensuring the integrity of the design and build process to maximize the benefits of additive manufacturing for the most demanding applications in aerospace, automotive, medical and more. Chloe received both a bachelor’s degree with honors in materials and manufacturing engineering and a master’s in advanced engineering from Sheffield Hallam University.

Chloe, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?

I grew up in Malaysia and my interest in how things are created led me to study materials and manufacturing engineering during my undergraduate program at Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K. My initial interest in 3D printing really began when I was studying advanced engineering during my master’s program at the university. I was exposed to advanced manufacturing for my coursework and that really delved into the technology. Since then, I have been captivated by how 3D printing technology works.

What was your very first experience with 3D printing?

My first experience with 3D printing in my career was at The Welding Institute (TWI) in Sheffield. TWI has been at the forefront of welding technology for many decades and is a center for pioneering research. During my time there, I helped fabricate 3D printed engine parts and developed process parameters for the Renishaw AM250. The Renishaw AM250 provides flexible material use and easy changeover for metal 3D printing manufacturers and we actually utilize one at Star Rapid. At TWI, I was able to help improve the machine’s capability and stability and ensure its key features could be optimized during the manufacturing process.

You are the DMLM Manager at Star Rapid. Can you tell us more about Star Rapid and the services you are providing?

Star Rapid provides high-quality prototyping, rapid tooling, and low-volume manufacturing services. We combine advanced manufacturing technologies like 3D printing with traditional manufacturing techniques to provide customers with a one-stop-shop for all manufacturing needs. We also provide services such as CNC machining, plastic injection molding, pressure die casting and vacuum casting.

Can you explain more about your role?

As the metal 3D printing expert at Star Rapid, my role primarily entails creating metal 3D parts and products, assisting in generating quotes and sharing my expertise with fellow employees as well as customers. Metal 3D printing is still very new so there is a lack of design for manufacturing knowledge. This means on any given day there are a number of technical issues that could arise from the metal 3D metal process and need to be addressed. As design-for-manufacturing knowledge is crucial in metal 3D printing, we have also developed a free metal 3D printing training initiative at Star Rapid. I personally provide hands-on and in-person training courses to teach customers how to optimize product build.

Another unique part of my role focuses on Star Rapid’s Center for Strategy and Innovation where I oversee R&D activities. To date, we have completed 15 patents and have seven pending.

What 3D printing technologies do you use for low production volumes and why?

At Star Rapid, we use a Renishaw AM250. This machine utilizes powder bed fusion technology where the solid parts are built up layer by layer in powder bed form. It’s quite suitable for low to medium production jobs especially when the parts can’t be done using other technologies, such as CNC machining, or parts that need to be delivered to customers within few days instead of weeks.

Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?

Star Rapid provides a great environment for employees to flourish in. We have ‘fruit time’ every day where all employees gather for a short 10-15-minute social time to take a break from our screens to enjoy a delicious and nutritious snack. Another social interaction is during lunch where Star Rapid’s canteen provides a variety of free Chinese dishes that are both flavorful and healthy for all employees.

Have you run into any challenges from being a woman engineer in 3D Printing?

I’ve been fortunate in my career to work at engineering and manufacturing firms that truly believe in developing successful women engineers and providing them with the right skills sets to do so.

Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about? 

At Star Rapid, we believe that it’s the manufacturing industry’s duty to help close the learning gap in metal 3D printing. Our next metal 3D in-person training sessions will be held September 10-12, 2018 at our facilities in Zhongshan, China. If customers can’t make it to our facility, we also offer video tutorials and other resources as well.

What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?

I would say both the most impressive and impactful use of 3D printing is for prosthetics. Who would have thought that we could one day create artificial limbs with 3D printing that can look and feel so real? Around the globe, there are 30 million people that need artificial limbs and braces so 3D printing provides a low-cost, durable and customizable option that is truly a perfect fit for the wearer.

What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?

For metal 3D printing, Desktop Metal’s 3D printing systems are a game changer. The Studio System™ is designed as an end-to-end solution for printing complex metal parts in-house. It claims to be up to 10 times cheaper than comparable laser-based systems making it cost-effective for engineering teams. With the elimination of lasers and powders in the printer, the system is safe to use in any work area with a power hookup and an Internet connection. The company also plans to launch its Production System™ in Q1 2019. This will be the first metal 3D printing system for mass production, up to 100 times faster and 20 times cheaper than laser-based systems. Sintered parts are ideal for low-stress applications in consumer goods, but direct metal laser melting still has the edge in making strong, fully-dense parts for the most demanding applications.

What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:

  • As an engineer?

As an engineer, metal 3D printing is particularly interesting to me because it is such a niche field. I am one of the few female experts in this sector which is something I am quite proud of. Given my strong skill set and knowledge of metal 3D printing, I am also able to innovate and develop new processes for metal 3D printing which will be impactful the industry overall.

  • As a woman?

As a woman, metal 3D printing allows me to fulfill my creative desires and really make things (even if it is through a CAD model first) and then build it on a machine. I think that women have a strong desire to learn and implement new skills and 3D printing is an exciting industry to do so.

What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?

For metal 3D printing specifically, designers are just beginning to understand how to design for this process. Due to this learning curve, we haven’t seen the true untapped potential of metal 3D printing just yet.

As there is improved design knowledge of metal 3D printing, we will also see greater adoption of it. Metal 3D printing is poised to be a game-changer for the automotive and medical industries. Automotive manufacturers are interested in metal 3D printing to make cars that weigh less, thus improving gas mileage. Metal 3D printing is also interesting for high-end vehicle manufacturers who want to optimize performance. In the medical sector, there will be a more widespread use of metal 3D printing for dentistry and medical devices used in minimally invasive surgery.

In other sectors, companies are still determining the right applications for metal 3D printed parts and are doing small runs to test prototype durability and how they wear in real-world conditions. Once these tests continue to show positive results, more industries will see mass demand.

In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?

We can encourage more women to become involved with 3D printing by simply instilling more confidence in them. If young women are raised believing that they can excel in manufacturing and engineering, eventually pursuing careers in 3D printing will become more of the norm. Training should also be provided to young women and girls to be more confident and enable them to pursue careers in manufacturing that offer immense opportunities.

And specifically in China?

In China, one major barrier for women is the perception of what a ‘manufacturing job’ really entails. Older generations do not believe that women should be working in a ‘dirty factory’ and do ‘hard manual labor.’ However, this is so far from reality. Modern manufacturing requires high-skilled workers to use their knowledge of mathematics, engineering, and science to create high-quality parts and products. To dispel this issue, governmental bodies need to create initiatives that really show women why 3D printing provides a very promising career.


Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? Renishaw AM250

Favorite moment in your day job? Creating patents that will have a significant impact on the manufacturing industry

What’s on your 3D Printing wish list for the next 5 years? A more mature and reliable hybrid machine which integrates 3D printing process with CNC post machining in a single machine.


Thank you for reading and for sharing! 

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