Tatjana Popovic, M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering, graduated from Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, department for Production Engineering, Belgrade University. Her final examination was on Rapid Prototyping (1997). From then, she worked in Hemofarm, Vršac in the Maintenance Department, and as a designer in the Design And Manufacture Department. She was responsible for for the creation of parts and assembly 3D models and drawings, design of new tools and systems for packing in pharmaceutical industry, redesign of existing components in order to adapt or improve performance, preparation for CNC machining (programming, preparation of cutting tools and fixtures, working out of procedure, cutting parameters), 3D print of prototypes and functional plastic parts (using SLS, FDM and stereolithography). She is currently working on Ph.D. degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade in the field of Artificial Intelligence and prediction of intelligent behavior of mobile vehicle based on AI.
Tatjana, could you let us know about your background and your journey to Additive Manufacturing?
My first knowledge about new technics for building parts was when I was still student on Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. When it was time to choose topic for my final exam, my mentor suggested me to write about methods and technics for rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing. It was almost 25 years ago and I had only some books, pictures and very deficient information from the Internet, no printers or printed parts to see and touch. One sentence I read then remained in my mind as main moto: building any shape from any material. Of course, it isn’t entirely like that (hopefully one day it will be), but opportunity to bring design and materialization of it so close to each other is really exciting.
You have worked with additive manufacturing since 1997. What made you stay in this industry for so long?
I have been active user of 3D printing only for last 4-5 years. For a long time it was more like SF to me. As mechanical engineer I am participating in design and manufacturing of many mechanical parts different in sizes, shapes and materials. My colleges and I have demonstrated many advantages of CNC machining and enjoyed in possibility to produce more or less complex parts fast, with proper dimensions, tolerances and quality. At one point we found ourselves in the situation where it wasn’t enough: some parts are too complex or impossible to be made on CNC machines or too expensive and time consuming to be injection molded. That is where 3D printing is taking its part for example for replacing parts that are originally injection molded. Additive manufacturing has important role in completing the whole production circle: design-technology-manufacture-test and implementation of parts in real production environment. As the cost of 3D printers has declined and accessibility increased it is possible to have both conventional and additive technologies under one roof.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I am only user of 3D printing as a part of my job and that certainly will not bring anything revolutionary in the world of additive technologies. But every time when I build functional part using 3D printers with proper dimensions, quality and performance I am proving that additive technologies can be used for industrial purposes and that high performance and expensive printers are not necessary for that.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
The primary purpose of my job is design and manufacture of functional working parts, elements of some assemblies or mechanisms. 3D printing is great tool for some purposes in that manufacturing process. 3D printers available now are so user friendly that you can start printing instantly and even without any technical background, only what is needed is 3D model, file in proper format. In this way digital model became a universal language, keystone in modern manufacture.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
My main focus is industrial implementation, but beside that I am especially fascinated with bioprinting and medical applications (implants, prosthetics).
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman 3D Printing?
Being a mechanical engineer and working in mostly masculine environment, I find 3D printing most feminine technology of all I’ve had the opportunity to come into contact with. Being a woman in engineering is challenging and I hope 3D printing will encourage girls and women to get involved more in the creative world of engineering.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
I`ve already mentioned bioprinting but it is much more than technical issue and special field incomparable with anything else. Any technology, new or improved existing one that will significantly reduce costs of printing, especially if the quality is better, will make great impact in popularization and expansion of 3D printing. Now, I am eager to see development in metal printing systems.
Where do you think the industry will move to in the next 10 years?
There are still many issues in metal printing to be resolved, lot of new designs to be developed. A lot of work is done in development of new materials, but maybe concentrating on specific user and application, responding to some special requirements and needs will be more efficient and more prevalent.
What advice do you have for women looking to get started in 3D Printing?
3D printing is great for many reasons but it is ideal tool for young designers. Formal technical education is not necessary for users of 3D printing technologies but before getting involved with them it is very useful to be well informed about all advantages and restrictions and realize how this fulfills someone needs and expectations.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with Additive Manufacturing?
There are a lot of printers that are easier to use than sewing machines. Sharing information is the key, presentation of additive technologies, their possibilities of implementation in many different areas of life will encourage more women to become involved (not just women). Although I am very keen to demonstrate industrial implementation of 3D printing, it is useful to present various interesting user stories.
Favorite 3D tool? Formlabs Form 2 printer (hopefully Form 3 in near future).
Favorite moment in your day job? When I test a newly printed part and am satisfied with the result.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? Desktop system form printing metals with satisfactory good performances and acceptable price.