Kay Matin – “The AM industry is exactly where it should be, with lots of room for growth & improvement”

Kay Matin has served AlphaSTAR as President and Chief Operating Officer since 1990. During her tenure, the company has evolved from an advanced Research & Development firm to a leading provider of software and engineering solutions for the global aerospace, automotive, department of defense, and energy markets. With Additive Manufacturing creating interest from all sectors & industries globally, Kay has established an aggressive R&D agenda with the support of DOD and tier one organizations to develop, optimize, verify & validate toolsets that can meet the fast-paced needs of the marketplace.

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

I have been with AlphaSTAR corporation for the majority of the 28 years that AlphaSTAR has been in operation. The evolution of technologies throughout the years has been massively interesting. Technology development challenges, learning experiences, and roadmaps are what has brought me to this new revolutionary period which I call the Additive Manufacturing Era. As part of the team at AlphaSTAR, the years of experience as executive management member has prepared me for the challenges & excitement we are about to experience.

What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?

The first corporate effort in additive manufacturing was associated with our crash effort to simulate the AM fabrication of Local Motor’s Strati vehicle using one of the biggest AM machines in operation at the time called the BAAM platform produced by Cincinnati Inc.

All hands were called in to fix serious 3D manufacturing issues for a car that was scheduled for the Detroit Auto Show only 4 months away.  It involved a significant amount of work carried by our staff, but using our engineering expertise and our advanced micromechanics software, we were able to help all partners to have a successful showing.

As you mentioned, you are the President and COO of AlphaSTAR since 1990. Could you tell us a bit more about the company and the services provided?

We are developers of unique multi-physics simulation tools that utilize nano, micro & meso mechanics and we apply these sciences for the design & analysis of complex structures relevant to multiple industries (i.e additive manufacturing). AlphaSTAR’s core scientific knowledge is inherent to the high-end services and technologies we provide to our customers.

What markets are you serving?

As a developer of software that provides virtual testing and simulation of manufacturing processes, our products serve a wide variety of industries and markets including aerospace, automotive, energy and power, marine, medical devices, and civil infrastructure just to name a few.  

Please let us know about the first Additive Manufacturing project AlphaSTAR was involved in, with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Our involvement with Oak Ridge National Laboratories goes back over a decade but our first AM project with ORNL involved the crash effort to simulate the AM fabrication of the Strati vehicle and determine the cause of massive delamination during the build. ORNL had a deadline of four months before the finished vehicle was to be presented to the world at the 2015 North American Auto Show in Detroit. Many major software developers balked at the difficulty of the problem and the severe timing restrictions. Knowing the capability of our team we made an executive decision that the opportunity was a propellant for a small company such as ASC. Our work in this effort earned AlphaSTAR and all it’s team members an R&D 100 award for our Additive manufacturing Software called GENOA 3DP.

Could you actually tell us more about GENOA3DP simulation software? 

GENOA 3DP is an additive manufacturing design tool and software suite that simulates the 3D printing process to accurately predict the deflection, residual stress, damage initiation, and crack growth formation associated with AM parts ‘virtually’. This provides the customer to save up to 60% of testing costs by using Virtual Reality Simulation tool (which is calibrated accurately to test). More significantly, GENOA3DP Simulation provides the end user the ability to optimize their AM build with the ultimate goal to reduce weight, scrap rate, improve performance and meet specification hence be more competitive.

Is it optimized specifically for metal 3D Printing? 

GENOA3DP is a toolset that works for both polymer 3DP and metal 3DP. We are also currently in development to add ceramics to that list.

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

Yes, a story which I am the most proud of through the entire 28 years of our service in this industry.  In 2004, we were approached by NASA’s Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) to support its efforts to find the reason(s) for the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia.  NASA personnel were familiar with the forensic capabilities of AlphaSTAR’s GENOA and MCQ code and wanted to use the software to simulate reentry and identify the cause for failure. We were given a very short amount of time to solve a very complex problem.  After three months of around the clock analysis teams working, we determined the series of events that culminated in the disintegration of the space shuttle and the tragic loss of life of the crew upon reentry into earth’s atmosphere. In recognition of its work, AlphaSTAR was given a prestigious NASA CAIB award currently hanging proudly in our conference room.

Have you run into any challenges from being a top executive female in manufacturing and now more specifically in 3D Printing?

Yes, in general, this industry is a male-dominated space. There are definitely some underlying hits that come as a result of being a singular female in a boardroom of male counterparts. Depending on one’s sensitivity to them, it can determine your reaction & resolve. However, self-confidence and determination is an important attribute when faced with undue challenges. [I view it as their discomfort and not my lack of capability]

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

Digitalization is becoming ever so important. Here, AlphaSTAR under contract from the Navy is in the process of developing AM-SimQ software which is coupled with in-situ sensor technology to monitor the AM build and provide calculation and visualization ‘In-Real-Time’. This added capability will allow end-users to optimize all aspects of the build cycle and allow them to find the best solution to their build requirements without resorting to trial and error.

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

While there are many outstanding examples of 3D printing, I personally have been most impressed by the use of AM to fabricate unique medical devices such as heart valves and prosthetics that are used to immediately and dramatically improve the lives of people in need, particularly for those in the developing world.

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

As mentioned previously, part qualification is critical to AM adoption. In that regard, In-situ monitoring coupled with feed forward technology has the potential to recognize manufacturing anomalies as they arise. This technology will help manufacturers achieve the ultimate goal of part qualification and part acceptance.

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

Additive manufacturing is exciting because it is still in its infancy of being an applied technique into the commercial & production units of large OEM companies in Aerospace & Automotive where our scientific background is most advanced. I believe we are experiencing the reindustrialization of the United States and the globe sparking the AM era.

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

It is simultaneously expanding exponentially while experiencing growing pains, i.e. finding solutions for critical bottlenecks such as part qualification and material validation. From that perspective, the industry is exactly where it should be with lots of room for growth & improvement.

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

There are roles for women in all aspects of AM, from engineering to management to machine operator to material scientist. Fortunately, the field is broad and encompasses many industries and many skillsets. I am confident the young women of tomorrow will either perfect existing approaches or discover new ones.  


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

Favorite moment in your day job? When I have answered all my emails!!!

What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? To be recognized as one of the leaders & technology providers in AM simulation Corporate expansion is most definitely prime & center on my planned agenda for next 3-5 years.

Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Graciela Paydarfar- Engineer/scientist at the Boeing company. 

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