Diana Kalisz came out of an early career in aerospace, joining 3D Systems in early 1989. During the next nearly 30 years, she has spent the majority of the time in the engineering organization. From managing early printer programs and dedicated software and materials programs, she progressed to running the full engineering organization. Through that experience, she has become well versed in all of 3D Systems’ plastic part-producing technologies. In addition, Diana has also participated heavily in acquisition integration, especially with those acquisitions that were technically-oriented. Her participation in the acquisition integration process has allowed her the unique opportunity to work with like-minded professionals who are solving similar problems in different ways. Diana’s current focus is on materials development for the new Figure 4 platform. Having seen the development and maturation of 3D printing technologies and applications, she is excited to see what arises in both technology and customer applications in the future.
Diana, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I originally worked in aerospace at Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin). The last work I did there was the development of fluid flow measuring instruments for aircraft which incorporated lasers, optics, and electronics. I later was a program manager for a small R&D firm that made similar instruments. Getting to 3D Systems and into 3D printing was a fluke. I happened to know the first employee of the company, and when I moved nearby, he thought I might be a fit for an open program management job. I interviewed, and 30 years later I am still here, still totally immersed in the technology and the people making it happen!
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
It seems unreal now, but at the time there was only Stereolithography, the original 3D printing technology, Chuck Hull invented and built 3D Systems upon. I was one of the project managers for the program to develop and introduce the first large-format 3D printer, the SLA-500. We had a pretty naïve idea that “it’s just a big SLA-250,” (the previous small-format printer) and boy were we wrong. Our aim was to make the system not just bigger, but much faster. The concept was that for someone who designed a large part, they would want it printed just as fast as someone who had designed a small part. It taught me some really important lessons about scaling. And each technology since then has its own challenges when you want to scale size, speed, or any other attribute. Great lessons!
You’ve started working at 3D Systems in 1989. What have been some of the major changes in the company since then?
I’ve been in this industry since very early on, and continue to be amazed at what the technology is capable of, and how our customers continue to think of new ways to use it. As we have developed or acquired new technologies, the expectations of our customers have grown. When we first started, our customers were blown-away that we could form a part on a 3D printer that even resembled the CAD data. Now, we talk about CpK data in accuracy, amazing properties of materials, and printers that run unattended for weeks to build giant parts. The applications needs and the expectations of our customers are constantly expanding, which is what fuels 3D Systems’ innovation.
As the VP of Engineering, where do you think the future of A.M lies for a company such as 3D Systems?
Since I’ve been with 3D Systems from nearly the very beginning, I can tell you that the foundation on which this company was built – our curiosity and desire to be problem solvers for our customers – is still very much a driver for us today. It’s our customers and their desire to transform their workflows and maintain their competitive position that fuels what we do on a daily basis. We have customers across healthcare, aerospace, automotive, dental and consumer goods who embrace AM for advanced applications from prototyping to production. I believe we’ll continue those collaborations, helping our customers unleash the power of AM to transform their businesses, and create products never before thought possible.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I’ve really enjoyed leading groups of engineers to develop products. I like to think of myself as the one who knocks down the obstacles for the real techno-folks. I love that I still get a bit teary-eyed when the first new printer or material gets loaded onto the truck and is headed to a customer.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
I have been with 3D Systems – and in the 3D printing industry – for so many years I’m not sure I could pin it down to just one fun story to share. I really do continue to be fascinated every day just by working with our customers. Each one has unique business challenges that our solutions help them overcome. It’s fascinating to learn about their businesses, and how 3D printing is helping them fulfill their mission. You get a real appreciation for the amazing world of products, and how complicated and challenging most of them are. From hearing aids to jet engines, and everything in between – we get to operate side by side with the people who make things. And that’s really satisfying.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
Being a woman has not made a bit of difference that I’ve noticed. I’ve always had wonderful opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes not the ones I expected or planned for, but I think that has made my career that much more exciting. We’ve been led by different executive leaders over the years. However, through any transition, performance and delivery have always remained the most important things. If you work hard and contribute to the mission of the company, you are valued and given more opportunity. I’ve been very lucky.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
It’s great to work on interesting products, from toys to missiles. But our work in healthcare, from the earliest times to now, when you can make a tangible difference to someone’s quality of life, that’s really astounding and humbling.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
The evolution of 3D printing from its inception to the impact it is making today has been nothing short of revolutionary. We’ve seen it grow from prototyping products to manufacturers now embracing it for full-on production. And the way it’s changing people’s lives in the healthcare industry is really making the impossible possible. From medical devices to Virtual Surgical Planning, the technology is enabling us to positively impact the human condition. When I started in the industry, I could not have dreamed about how 3D printing would change the world. I’m quite certain that I will continue to be astounded by how it evolves, and what we are able to achieve through its power.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
I think it’s important to let them know it’s exciting! This is an industry that is changing every day. Women should jump in and embrace the technology, love what they’re doing and work hard. I am living proof that you’ll never be bored, and you will meet some amazing people along the way.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? The last product I worked on, whatever that might be. I am always excited about what’s new.
Favorite moment in your day job? Seeing the light turn on in any one of the team, where they’ve got a solution to a thorny problem.
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? You already interviewed the person I’d recommend, one of my favorite people (ever): Katie Weimer from our Healthcare group in Littleton Colorado. She inspires me!