Prof. Katrin Wudy is an Assistant Professor (Tenure Track W2 to W3) for Laser-Based Additive Manufacturing – School of Engineering and Design at the Technical University of Munich, Germany and is our Women in 3D Printing Guest #279!
Katrin, Could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?
In 2010 during my time as a student, I first came in touch with an Additive Manufacturing (AM) system at my former University. At this time, I was studying plastic and rubber engineering and I immediately knew that I wanted to do my Ph.D. in the field of AM. During my Ph.D. between 2012 and 2017, I immersed myself in the industrial and scientific environment of AM.
After only two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuernberg (FAU), I was appointed to the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in 2019 as an Assistant Professor for Laser-Based Additive Manufacturing. I managed to turn my passion into a profession.
Now I am able to bring young engineers closer to AM while conducting future-oriented scientific research, which is terrific.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
The appointment as Assistant Professor of Laser-Based Additive Manufacturing at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) allows me to shape the research environment and educate students with AM-specific skills.
This will lead to a new generation of engineers, which does no longer think with limitations in manufacturing or design.
Do you have any (fun or not) stories about your career to share with us?
During my time as a Ph.D. student at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, I was unpacking a powder bed fusion building process late at night.
Powder bed fusion of plastics works with thermoplastic powders, which appear as white powders. Up to now, the unpacking of the partcake is done mainly manually, which looks like you are an archaeologist. A student entered the laboratory and asked me if he can get a little bit of the white powder.
I was not sure what the aim of this question was, but I said: “I am afraid I cannot give you anything of the powder”. He seemed a little disappointed when I told him about the real purpose of the powder.
At that time, 3D printing was not discussed in the media and society was not aware of the AM processes. This definitely changed the last few years.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
The impact of 3D Printing during the COVID 19 pandemic is in my opinion very impressive.
With the pandemic present all over the globe, we are witnessing highly stressed healthcare systems, interrupted supply chains, and a changing work environment.
In these difficult times, society and the maker community stand close together. AM providers, makers, and universities volunteering their skills to ease the pressure on supply chains.
Besides that, COVID 19 related medical equipment like respiratory systems, facemasks, and other medical devices were built and connecting hubs for makers and the medical sector were set up. In China, an architectural 3D printing company printed quarantine booths. As can be seen, there were no limitations regarding creativity during the crisis.
What advice do you have for women looking to get started in 3D Printing?
Unfortunately, additive manufacturing, like all production technology, is still a male-dominated industry.
The most important advice I can give young women is not to be deterred from becoming AM engineers just because the percentage of women is so small in this industry.
Even if the road is rocky and there are obstacles to overcome, you will find your way to this fascinating field of technology.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with Additive Manufacturing?
In my opinion, young women need to be made aware of engineering subjects at a very early stage of their life. To bring girls and young women closer to so-called MINT subjects is a great concern for me.
At my former institute, we set up 3D workshops for school children between the ages of 9 and 16. The kids were able to design and build their own parts using CAD software and additive technology in this workshop.
I was amazed to see how quickly and intuitive these youngsters got to know the CAD software and how they implemented their own parts creatively. For me, this is a perfect example of how gender doesn’t dictate the amount of fun you can have within the field of engineering.
If girls and young women are encouraged to overcome established role models at an early stage and are given the chance to gain interest in technical subjects, more young women will follow the example to study engineering subjects and a snowball effect will occur.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We establish exciting new lectures in Additive Manufacturing at the TUM in the winter and summer semesters for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Furthermore, the additive manufacturing cluster/community at TUM will set up a massive open online course on additive manufacturing. We’re expecting a high number of participants and want to encourage everybody who is interested in additive manufacturing to join us.
Favorite 3D tool?
Futurecraft 4D running shoes (not really a tool 😊)
Favorite moment in your day job?
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview?