Elena Lopez studied chemical engineering at the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany. She finished her PhD thesis on the topic of plasmachemical etching of silicon solar wafers at the Technische Universitaet Dresden. She is Head of Department for Additive Manufacturing at the Additive Manufacturing Center Dresden (AMCD) at Fraunhofer IWS and teaches AM as an adjunct professor. She also represents Women in 3D Printing as Regional Director Europe.
Elena, please describe your “AHA” moment with additive manufacturing:
During my second maternity leave (around the end of 2013), I was asked to take over the management of a new and major project in the field of Additive Manufacturing coordinated by Fraunhofer IWS: Agent-3D (AGENT-3D | Additiv-generative Fertigung – AGENT-3D (agent3d.de)). Even though the topic was new for me (I had been working until then in coatings and photovoltaic basically), I accepted to do it and that was my more genuine AHA moment with additive manufacturing. After getting a good insight into the strategy of the AM market and also the technological issues of AM, I started managing the AM department at Fraunhofer IWS in 2017 (combined with the management of the hybrid technologies group until 2019). Around 30 scientists, technicians and engineers are working since then within 3 different groups in the department. I supervise some master degrees and PhD theses per year as well and I work as a lecturer for AM at different universities. The combination of industrial insight from the Fraunhofer side and the continuous access to updates in the state of the art through the academic work fascinate me and provide me more “AHA moments” in my additive career, especially when discovering more about the details talking to the colleagues and also with industrial partners.
Do you have any (fun or not) stories about your career to share with us?
I got to meet Angela Merkel once at a business event and she was very inspiring!
When hiring, what are you looking for in a candidate?
The most important is the intrinsic motivation, even more than the background or experience. If you have a technical background and are highly motivated, we would be more than happy to welcome you to our team 😉
What is the best advice you were given in your career?
Open your mouth and steal the show in every meeting!
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
Any application related to space or aerospace is very impressive due to the need for exhaustive certification and security aspects and also the relevance for public opinion.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman 3D Printing?
I think the common challenge any woman has is working in a technical environment. Nothing more, nothing less 😉
In your experience, what are some actionable ways we can promote diversity more broadly?
Going and giving talks at primary schools and high schools about your experience in the field and the relevance of your work. I did so i.e. at a couple of high schools and immediately, we got 5 applications from young women asking for high school internships with us at Fraunhofer…. They need to have more references in industry and academia and feel the passion/interest we have about our jobs
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
I would be delighted to welcome you at our AM conference in Dresden ISAM November 29th to December 1st ISAM 2023
Favorite AM tool? DED robots being in action
Favorite moment in your day job? When a long term research proposal gets funded after months of dedication 😉 and attending conferences to meet the community
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? More medical applications, to double at least the AM market growth, more about real sustainability in AM, and more women in 3D printing!
Who inspires you? So many incredible people around, but nowadays especially Stefanie Brickwede (Deutsche Bahn), the Spanish female football team (world champions 2023 ;), our younger students, the “Letzte Generation” movement in Germany, or my father.