Melanie Lang, Formalloy Co-Founder, and Managing Director is motivated by developing a disruptive technology that delivers the future we could have previously only imagined – geometrically complex components made from exotic materials at cost-effective prices with reasonable lead times. Her passion has manifested into making wave(length)s in metal additive manufacturing since co-founding Formalloy in 2016. Prior to Formalloy, Melanie spent over 15 years as an engineer and program manager in the Aerospace & Defense Industry. She holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois and M.S. in Systems Architecture & Engineering from the University of Southern California. In addition to her role at Formalloy, Melanie currently serves as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Navy League San Diego, and we are lucky to have her as our San Diego Women in 3D Printing ambassador as well.
Melanie, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
When I chose Aerospace Engineering as a path, I did so to satisfy my creative/artistic self with my math/science-loving self. 3D printing is another perfect example of the intersection of art & science, and so I was drawn into the “maker” world and started researching and exploring as a hobbyist. Working in the Aerospace industry for many years, I began to recognize more and more constraints on design and function that were limitations in the manufacturing processes and materials. By leveraging additive manufacturing/3D printing, I realized we could eliminate some limitations I had learned over the years regarding design and materials, and that’s when I dove in and altered my path towards 3D printing.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
My first experience with 3D printing was attending a maker meetup and building a small FDM printer. Even though we could only build small plastic structures, which took hours, the excitement of designing something and seeing it come to life ignited a spark.
You are the co-founder of Formalloy. Could you explain furthermore what Formalloy is and the product you are providing?
Formalloy is a metal additive manufacturing company that designs and produces directed energy deposition systems and equipment. Our latest machine model, the X-series, has a scalable/customizable build volume, closed-loop control options, and the ability to process with the widest range of metal alloys on the market, including titanium, copper, and carbides.
How did you come to build the company?
The prototype for our first metal additive system started in the garage, and eventually moved into a small office space. We took the working prototype to RAPID in 2016 and it was a hit, generating significant interest from a diverse set of industries with paid R&D projects. We were able to use the proceeds to invest in staff and further developments, releasing 2 additional machine models, and began selling systems.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman entrepreneur in 3D Printing?
The biggest challenge for me as a woman entrepreneur is to stay true to myself and be confident in an industry dominated by men. I shouldn’t need to change who I am, how I speak, or my external image in order for men to take me seriously, but it is an on-going challenge.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
My secret superpower is to be able to 3D print custom space tourism vehicles that I call STARS.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We will be demonstrating more on closed-loop control in the coming weeks – improving and validating build quality in real-time, which will enable the full potential for our laser metal deposition systems. And, we will be featured on an upcoming episode of Discover Channel’s “How It’s Made”!
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I love any story where 3D printing has helped improve a person’s life, particularly with the medical device capability.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
The ability to print gradient-material parts is revolutionizing how parts are designed. It’s no longer a restriction of making different parts because they are made of different materials. Now they can be produced in a single build…reducing complexity, weight, and cost!
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As an engineer and entrepreneur?
The ability to integrate with the scientific and creative realm keeps me energized.
- As a woman?
I have always liked the famous words “Vini, Vidi, Vici”. Being a woman in another male-dominated field that I can make an impact on is exciting and motivating.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
Today I see 3D printing utilized largely for prototyping and I can see the shift to production happening now as parts can be created that are fully dense, and can be built to scale at the full production size.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Women helping women! It’s the responsibility of women in our field to be supportive advocates and inspire other women entering the field or considering a career in 3D printing. Wi3DP is a great example of doing just that.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it) ? Why, the X-series, of course!
Favorite moment in your day job? Speaking with customers and hearing about their challenges
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? Improved slicing software for 5-axis builds!
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Barbara Hana,😉 I’m sure she has been.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!