Ranjani works as a Supplier Quality Engineer at Xometry. She completed a Masters of Nanomaterials from NCSU in 2018 and prior to that, a Bachelor of Engineering & Management in Materials Engineering (Nanomaterials) from McMaster University in 2014. Since the beginning of her tenure at Xometry, Ranjani has come to be known as a reliable SME for 3D printing processes and ensuring on-time delivery of products while educating customers who need technical assistance with their prototyping needs. Prior to this, she worked for Arcelor-Mittal Dofasco (the largest steel manufacturer in the world) and Mold-Masters (a hot runner injection molding company), gaining a variety of experience across multiple industries that eventually led to a career in 3D printing. Eventually, she envisions being at the forefront of providing consumers 3D printing solutions through the use of novel and innovative materials.
Ranjani, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
My undergrad and post-grad degrees are in Materials Engineering, specifically Nanomaterials Engineering. Previous to Xometry, I had worked for an injection molding company and a steel manufacturer in Canada. After moving to the US, I was given the opportunity to work at Xometry where I had my first exposure to 3D printing. I already had a great interest in it from coursework I had done in my undergrad degree, so I took up the opportunity to see how laser sintering, FDM, and other processes worked hands-on.
Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
My very first experience with 3D printing occurred when I started with Xometry. I had heard of 3D printing in the past, but never had any hands-on or practical experience that allowed me to see it in action. Once I started at Xometry, I got to work with our in-house additive team and many of our partners and, from there, learned a great deal about 3D printing including DfAM (Design for AM). Of course, coming from a materials engineering background allowed me to apply certain concepts in greater detail and from there, a great interest was nurtured and developed.
How does your experience working in steel manufacturing at Arcelor-Mittal help you in your current career in 3D Printing?
Working in steel manufacturing allowed me to understand the manufacturing and post-processing of 3D printed metals, specifically stainless steel. Understanding the different heat treatments and finishing possible for various grades of steel, it was easy to apply that same knowledge to 3D printed metal.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I had worked on a project where I was in charge of coordinating the production of around 40 3D printed metal awards. These were miniatures of artist Laura Kimpton’s life-size “Love” statue found at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
Before they got to them, though, a lot of work was needed to complete this. Due to the design, there was very little in terms of print orientation we could do that would minimize warping, since the primary focus was the aesthetic quality with the least amount of supports. Each piece was sliced from a 2” thick stainless steel part from a print that took 48 hours each. In order for us to achieve this within our 1-week timeframe, we had to utilize our partners across the country – we essentially tapped out the entire stainless steel DMLS capacity for that one week while these were printing. These needed to go through further finishing on a wire EDM and meticulous flash removal from the process. There were many long hours and impromptu last-minute flights that allowed us to pull this off in a grand way. Overall, this will definitely be one of my proudest moments knowing the amount of effort and dedication was put into it in such a short period of time. All the hard work paid off because it turns out, this was for a set of celebrities.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
I would definitely say the “Love” project was a fun and not fun story. There were many challenges we faced including a missed shipment by FedEx, the day before it was due to ship to our customer, but in the end, it was all worth it!
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman engineer in 3D Printing?
I wouldn’t say they were challenges, but it definitely feels nice to demonstrate my knowledge as a woman engineer especially when talking to experts in the field. Most people appreciate that I can talk to these technologies and understand how these may affect the end-user. I have been mistaken for a male a few times; with an ethnic name like mine, it can be difficult to tell, but as mentioned, it is always fun to show that a woman can be an engineer, 3D printing or not.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
Medical devices (e.g 3D printed tissue for organ regeneration) and their use in aerospace has been the most impressive to me.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Carbon DLS is revolutionary in that you can print injection mold quality pieces in a matter of hours with minimal to zero setup cost. Additionally, EBM (Electron Beam Melting) is also game-changing since metal components can now be 3D printed without the use of support structures and have zero stress upon build completion.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As an engineer?
The variety of applications to which it can be implemented – everything from prototyping to low volume production.
- As a woman?
3D printing requires a variety of different engineering disciplines, including more women-dominated ones like chemical engineering. In a new form of manufacturing, there is plenty of opportunities for women to showcase their knowledge and expertise as well as be at the forefront of new technologies as they are developed.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
The 3D printing industry is starting to gain more traction in the mainstream, and we are starting to see some commercial uses of it (e.g. 3D printed components for aircraft cabins by Emirates). From my perspective, I would like to see where nanoscale 3D printing will head. Currently, it’s mostly in R&D, so seeing it evolve for use in electronics or microfluidics/medical applications would be interesting.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Having 3D printers available to middle school and high school students would give girls more opportunity to express their creativity as well as carry out experiments with its aid. In addition, mentorship programs between private companies and local schools and universities/colleges would be another good way for women to become involved with 3D printing.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it) ?
Magics – it truly is magic when it comes to producing high-resolution stl files.
Favorite moment in your day job?
Helping customers understand/educating how they can implement 3D printing into their design process.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?
Finally getting my own desktop 3D printer! A 3D printer that can print food wouldn’t be too bad either.