Katie Hardiman is an Additive Manufacturing Applications Engineer at the Irish Manufacturing Research, which provides information and support to manufacturing SMEs.
Katie, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I studied Product Design and Technology in the University of Limerick which I absolutely loved, it was my first choice course for University, for me it was the right mix of Maths, Science, Art and Technical graphics all of which I enjoyed doing in school. After spending 4 years studying there, learning CAD, Design thinking, problem-solving skills, product concept generation, and prototyping and product modeling, I started working for Centre for Industrial Services and Design in Athlone Institute of Technology not long after finishing University.
There, I started working with start-ups and industry helping to develop product concepts, create models and final prototyping where 3D printing was our main prototyping tool. We used SLA printing to make prototyping and indirect tooling, jigs, and fixtures for a number of projects and companies to get products to be ready for manufacture. Conor Hayes, Dr.James Kennedy, and Dr.Declan Devine thought me so much about polymers, polymer 3D printing and design for manufacture, I really can’t thank them enough, their knowledge and experience in polymer industry in Ireland.
With this experience, I decided to specialise solely on 3D printing as manufacturing solution as I had previously seen so many good project ideas not make it due to the upfront cost of manufacturing, particularly start-ups and on the later end see multinational companies waste thousands on tooling for injection molding and lead times when small complex parts could be made cost effectively with additive manufacturing.
This led me to my current position with Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR). I work as an Additive Manufacturing Applications Engineer. In IMR we work with a wide range of industry from consumer products, medical device and automotive. Every day is different. We have a team of 8 researchers from different industry backgrounds which makes us so dynamic and have expertise in metal and polymer printing.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
My first ever experience with 3D printing would be in the Product Design and Technology Studio in the University of Limerick, they had a Stratasys Connex 500, which we were allowed to use for making finalized product prototypes.
Could you tell us a bit more about the Irish Manufacturing Research’s mission?
- “Enabling Ireland to achieve global leadership in advanced manufacturing through industry-supported research”.
- “Develop a manufacturing and energy efficiency research program, to create and disseminate knowledge, and deliver significant benefits to industry”.
- Irish State Funded Independent Research Centre
IMR’s mission is to address cross-sector manufacturing challenges, provide productivity and sustainable manufacturing solutions to enable Ireland as a global leader in Advanced manufacturing.
What does your research center on?
I currently look at parts for industry and asses if they are feasible for polymer 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing and deciding which is the best technology they should utilize for their critical features and dimensions, batch size and material performance requirements for their part. Many parts are also re-designed or adjusted for additive manufacturing depending on the chosen technology to provide a cost-effective solution to reduce print time, reduce material and improve post-processing time and outcomes to reduce the overall part cost.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I have written a chapter for a book with Dr.Declan Devine, Director of Materials Research Institute in AIT and several other contributors on a book Biomedical 3D printing of Polymers, it is due to be published this year.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
Other than the occasional printer not printing when you need it to print most, but I think all women in 3D can relate to this. I think they can sense human stress, particularly desktop printers.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman engineer in 3D Printing?
I have been lucky enough to not face any major challenges for being a woman in engineering. The biggest thing is trusting 3D printing as a manufacturing solution, some industries are still really struggling to adapt it into lines and commit to the technology even for small solutions this would be the biggest challenge I would face, but that has nothing to do with being a female engineer in 3d printing.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
As we are a research center, we can’t really disclose findings for IP reasons. We do have a lot of whitepapers that will be published on our website that are worth reviewing as an insight into what we do and what we can achieve.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I guess the most impressive use of 3D printing I have seen is the medical device adoption of printing for, femoral stems, patella, and spinal cage implantable devices.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Since working with IMR, I have had the chance to work with a Carbon M2 printer. Its speed and capabilities have changed the additive polymer world, previously 3D printers were put on in the evening before leaving the office to check a file. Now files and iterations, depending on the geometry can be iterated and printed in as little as 20 mins and re-iterated. Other 3d printing companies are following suit with speed and becoming far more competitive particularly with the adoption of projection rather than laser systems for photopolymers. The next few years will be exciting to see when projection pixels reduce and speed increases.
The next few years will also be very exciting as we see more bio-resorbable drug based polymers hitting the market.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As an engineer?
There is currently a polymer material race in the additive world happening, new materials are being released quarterly creating new opportunities and new ideas for new products to be developed and pushed.
Also, the continual release of ISO standards will also ensure the quality is being met for an additively produced part.
- As a woman?
As a female,the development of controlled drug release of 3D printed vaginal rings for localized treatment of cervical cancer is great to see. Dr Ian Major and his team in AIT are doing great work.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
- I believe that in a very short space of time there will be a 3d printer in every home just like a laptop or computer- they are becoming more reasonable in price and I am hoping to have one in my own home very soon.
- I believe there will be better availability of drugs for rare conditions and disorders, where it may not be feasible to set up a full production line for a tablet that won’t make a financial return, it can become far more feasible to run smaller batches by 3d printing.
- Material selection and choice will be significantly larger
- Part quality and finish would be at a standard that would be hard to tell how it was manufactured.
- Part manufacture with minimal limitation.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Every school should have a 3d printer or access to a printer and create workshops or projects to solve an everyday problem, to encourage females at a young age to use innovative design thinking, problem-solving and utilizing tools like Tinkercad to create 3d printed solution. Kids are like sponges our next generation of engineers is going to be exciting, the ability to create without manufacturing limitations will be exciting.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? Ntopology is a great software for generating lattices I am looking forward to working with it more in the future and also the release of Ansys Discovery Live or the past year or so for quick feasibility simulations for a product.
Favorite moment in your day job? I like seeing what new product challenges come in from companies. Every day is different
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? A fully automated hands-off 3D printing line- no more cleaning parts
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Two females who I work with in IMR they are specialized in the Metal printing and they are metallurgy experts and extremely interesting researchers from France and Portugal