Heidi Piili is working as a research scientist at  the laboratory of Laser Materials Processing (LUT Laser) of Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), in Finland. She did her Master’s degree in 2003 at Lappeenranta University of Technology. While she worked at EOS in 2017, her main mission was to develop additive manufacturing of metallic materials. Heid has more than 16 years´ experience of laser processing (cutting, micro/mill processing, welding etc.) of various different materials. Her doctoral thesis in 2013 was about characterization and mathematical modeling of the interaction between laser beam and material. She also graduated in 2015 as a professional teacher from Häme University of Applied Sciences. She has more than 110 international publications in the field of laser technology and additive manufacturing.

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

My background is as a research scientist in the field of laser technology since 2002 at LUT University. I graduated as M.Sc.(Tech.) in 2003 and as D.Sc. (Tech.) in 2013 at LUT University. I got a degree of docent in 2017 in field of metallic additive manufacturing, more closely powder bed fusion of metallic materials. Our research group started doing research in the field of additive manufacturing in 2009, and we got our first metal AM-device in May 2011. During years, I have been involved in national and international projects (both academic and industrial projects) related to laser technology and additive manufacturing, and I have also been doing education for M.Sc. and D.Sc. students and training for industrial partners in those fields. I was also working at EOS Finland in 2017 as an R&D engineer, and this experience really opened my eyes to the magnitude of additive manufacturing. As our research group started doing research in the field of additive manufacturing, I immediately knew that this is something I would like to work with. It really hit me!

Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?

In February 2009, I visited EOS Finland in Turku, to see their facilities and activities in metallic additive manufacturing. It was very mind-blowing to see that all, and I knew immediately that I would like to work in this field for the rest of my life.

You are a research scientist at the Lappeenranta University of Technology. Can you tell us a bit more about your field of research?

My specialty area in additive manufacturing is the monitoring of additive manufacturing of metallic materials. I have been working with monitoring since 2006 and my doctoral thesis was about monitoring, as well. By monitoring, I mean real-time detection of powder bed fusion of metallic materials by the assist of different sensors and high-speed cameras. Temperature and emitted radiation released from the process can be for example detected.

Generally, the topic of research at LUT University in the field of additive manufacturing covers for example case studies and feasibility studies for national and international industrial partners. Academically, we study basic phenomena (such as laser beam and material interaction) occurring during powder bed fusion of metallic materials.

LUT University has also a strong role in Finland in the field of education of additive manufacturing. We have had education for M.Sc. students since 2012. We have also been doing a lot of industrial training in Finland.

What are some of the challenges you’re coming across and how does Additive Manufacturing help?

Generally, if there are any applications were, for example, better fluid dynamics or lightweight structures are needed, additive manufacturing is the solution. The biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge of additive manufacturing and its possibilities, and this is why we try to educate and train both students and industrial companies to understand the full potential of additive manufacturing.

You are also Women in 3D Printing Finland’s co-ambassador. What can you tell us about Finland’s community and what makes it unique?

Unique thing is the number of interested women in this field. We have been very positively surprised at how many women are interested in additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Why did you decide to become a Women in 3D Printing ambassador?

We had a discussion about this idea with Neea Kontoniemi (who is also an ambassador of Wi3DP Finland) in August 2018, and she asked whether I was interested in having this kind of activity in Finland. I have been doing a similar kind of activity in my free time, I namely found 3D printing club for children and youth in my home town Imatra, so I was really interested also about Wi3DP Finland.

To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?

Greatest achievement is that we have been doing additive manufacturing at LUT University successfully for 10 years both project-wise and also education-wise. Personally, for me the greatest achievement is to see our students be successful in their industrial career. I wish that our research and education at LUT University could be inspirational and encouraging for all of our students.

Have you run into any challenges from being a female researcher in 3D Printing?

Sometimes in the beginning of my career, yes. By time and by experience, it has luckily been much easier and nowadays A.M. fortunately doesn´t look at gender.

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

I have to here mention my activity with children and youth. It is always so mind-blowing how fast they learn to do 3d models and find out totally unexpected solutions for practical problems. It has been also very inspirational to see how enthusiastic they can be with this kind of new technology.

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

All industrial solutions where all the advantages of additive manufacturing are taken into account are impressive.

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

Good thing is that more new industrial applications appear, and the industry seems to take AM seriously. I would like this all just to expand more and more.

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

Generally, spreading of knowledge and public examples are the best way to attract more women.

Favorite moment in your day job?

To be with students and to see their inspiration towards 3D printing.

What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?

I wish that we can have large and strong R&D facility at LUT University for additive manufacturing and 3D printing both project-wise and education-wise.

Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview?

Neea Kontoniemi

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