Alison is a Business Development professional with diverse experience in Commercial Aviation, Aerospace MRO, and Additive Manufacturing (AM). Over the past decade, she has spent time in various roles at Emirates Airline, AeroTurbine, Honeywell Aerospace, and GE Additive. Alison holds a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics and a Master of Business Administration with a focus in Aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.also manages www.additivealison.com, an online journal and informal blog designed to help generate awareness of additive manufacturing. She recently was on our #3DTalk panel on aerospace.
Alison, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
My background is in Commercial Aviation and Aerospace MRO. I spent the first couple of years of my career in Commercial Aviation, living in Dubai and working with Emirates Airline. Upon repatriation back to the US, I took a position with AeroTurbine, an aircraft end-of-life solutions provider, also (at the time) a subsidiary of AerCap, one of the worlds largest aircraft lessors. I spent several years working with AeroTurbine before I left to join Honeywell Aerospace, where I was first officially introduced to 3D printing.
My team had a request from a major airline for a spare part that was last manufactured over 30 years prior. There were no used spares in the marketplace to overhaul and sell, so we had to prep to start a new manufacture of the part. We were able to source all the custom tooling we needed to move forward, but one of our suppliers quoted us a long-lead time on a critical tool. An intranet search led me to Don Godfrey and the Honeywell Aerospace Additive Manufacturing team and several days later our problem was solved. That was a pivotal moment for me and my career. Shortly thereafter, I joined the sales team at Arcam, which later became GE Additive.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I recall reading an article in SpeedNews about the ability to use Arcam’s EBM to 3D print Titanium Aluminide low-pressure turbine (LPT) blades. This must have been around early 2014. I shared with my colleagues and added Arcam to my “must watch” list. My memory of this article is what prompted me to do an intranet search at Honeywell when I was searching for tooling solutions several years later.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Speaking at RedCabin’s Aircraft Cabin and Additive Manufacturing Conference in Abu Dhabi this past March. This conference brought all 3 of my past worlds, Aviation, MRO, and AM, together into one place. I have been a vocal advocate on applications for AM in MRO for several years, and it’s great to see some of those efforts start to evolve.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
I feel it’s more so that I’ve faced challenges being a woman in business versus being a woman in 3D printing in particular. There have been instances where I’ve been ignored or rebuffed in a meeting. I decided to try to combat this proactively by going to business school after my contract with Emirates. It does still occur, but I feel I’m well-equipped to handle it.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I like to share stories that maybe miss the mainstream spotlight, for example, using AM in assistive technology to tailor fit mobility devices like wheelchairs. I am aware of a group piloting a small project using AM to print Postural Support Devices (PSDs) and custom fitting them to individuals’ wheelchairs. Another example comes from Ben Salatin and his team at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They recently used AM to print a quick adapter plate to add a side pad to a Veteran’s wheelchair armrest. These examples showcase the impact of using AM for quick and effective customization to help improve one’s quality of life, something that is hard to quantify using numbers alone.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
I’m excited to see volumetric 3D printing (volumetric polymerization) continue to evolve. For 2019, the ability to make things with speeds 100x faster than layered manufacturing fits the bill for a game-changing technology.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
I feel we’re at a place now where we see use-cases in the press often but we may find ourselves jumping to read them less. In my opinion, this is a sign of a healthy industry and technology maturation. The news is no longer new, it’s expected. I also look forward to seeing people, especially those already established in the industry, continue to embrace a fresh perspective. As well, as AM discovery, recognition, and adoption spreads and grows to new areas and new industries, I look forward to seeing applications and ideas grow as well. For years, we’ve been seeking the obvious wins. As I like to say, it’s time to uncover the overlooked.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
My suggestion would be to lead by example and influence girls at a pivotal age. Seek out mentorship opportunities.
Favorite moment in your day job? New business development for a small business includes developing and executing strategies for customer engagement. I really enjoy this part of my work.
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Amber Roberson, GE Additive.