Real-World Impacts of Additive Manufacturing with Andre Wegner
Carpenter Additive's, William Herbert, Director of Corporate Development, sits down with Andre Wegner, CEO of Authentise for an engaging discussion on the real-world impacts of additive manufacturing. Authentise was founded with the purpose of improving supply chains via data driven workflow management. He retells unusual stories about how both a Nigerian plane crash and an instance of corruption were the reason for his entrance into the AM industry.
You can read the transcript or listen to the full episode below.
Hi everyone. And welcome back to PowderHeads, a Carpenter Additive podcast. With each episode of PowderHeads, we bring you the minds of industry experts and delve into topics that are defining how additive manufacturing is making an impact on our world. We've got a great conversation today on PowderHeads, Andre Wegner, CEO of London based Authentise sits down with Will Herbert, Director of Corporate Development for Carpenter Additive. Authentise was founded with the purpose of improving supply chains, via data to driven workflow management. Andre is an entertaining and articulate bloke who retells unusual stories about how both a Nigerian plane crash and an instance of corruption was the impetus for his entry into the additive manufacturing industry. It's a super engaging exchange that references some real world impacts of AM. Thanks for listening and enjoy the conversation.
Will Herbert (01:05):
So Andre it's good. Um, it's good to have you on the show, uh, thanks for, for coming on. Uh, what's the backstory then? How did you get into this whole additive thing? How, what was the origin story for Authentise?
Andre Wegner (01:18):
Uh, I, I, I led a past life, uh, uh, involved a lot of crime and, um, ended up here. I feel like I'm, I'm, I, uh, it's been 10 years of stocking it, so I must have done something wrong in a previous life. Um, but the, the really the reality that got me into it was, was being in Nigeria and seeing that plane crash and realizing that there's gotta be a better way of making sure that spare parts get to planes. And at the same time, we were also running, uh, uh, an analysis on a bad bank portfolio. We closed down 25,000 jobs. About half of the jobs we closed down, started with the company, um, defaulting on the letter of credit. They issued buy a bank for the import of new equipment that got stuck at the port because some corrupt port official wouldn't let it out. And, and I, you know, both of those instances made me realize that there's, we've gotta, you know, there's a, there is a future it's inevitable that we will me making parts local the on demand. Um, and yeah, that's, that's, that's how we started in the additive journey, whether or not that actually ends up, um, you know, the, the, the path to that goal has turned out to be, you know, a lot more of a warrant than I had hoped for, but it is kind of our guide star.
Will Herbert (02:49):
So pretty distressful, uh, distressing origin story there with the, with the plane crash. I mean, you, you were actually at the site of the plane crash and, and it was related to a piece of faulty equipment.
Andre Wegner (03:02):
It was, it was, yeah, it was in, in, uh, in Lagos. I, I wasn't at the site. Um, but a lot of my friends were impacted kinda these, the tragic story of the time in Lagos and, um, uh, yeah, it wasn't publicly made, uh, um, kind of knowledgeable, but the part broke and the company kept playing fine, cause it takes a minimum of three days to get a spare part into the country. Um, and I met an investigator later who confirmed the story, so that, that is what I know. Um, and yeah, and, you know, it's, it's a, it's a, it's a bad corporate choice to make for sure, but no corporate should have to make that choice, you know? And so this distributes manufacturing opportunity is, is a, a real opportunity to, to complete disrupt the way we, um, we work as a society.
Andre Wegner (04:01):
I mean, you know, economies can be more resilient if the factories can stay open, you know, um, and parts can be made locally. Um, we can really change the dynamics of, of, of, of whole economies. But unfortunately the reality is that we still a lot of work to do. And so the last 10 years have been sort of a, trying to figure out where does this, where, where does the vision and the current market need meet, you know, where, how can we reverse engineer that trajectory to a current kind of business that pays? And so we're, we are really proud of Authentise, because last year we made the cut the corner and we're a profitable company now. And, you know, having still some hope that we can attain that in the future, we've obviously come way down to, to the market, but still on that trajectory. So that's really exciting.
Will Herbert (04:59):
So, so, so help me, Andre, connect, the vision, I mean, where, where do you, it's taken 10 years to get to this point and congratulations on, you know, viable, sustainable business, but what, where do you want to take it? Where, where does the next five years go? How do you reach that mission that you started off with, which is the, you know, basically enabling the digital and distributed manufacturing?
Andre Wegner (05:21):
Yeah, I think, um, the more we know about more many, so we started off with, with Authentise thinking that the only thing that we needed to do was to secure the intellectual property, but as important as the intellectual property is really the integrity of the part. If we, if we can, um, qualify that the part was printed correctly, remotely, then we have a, then, then we, we're more likely to persuade companies to allow for the production of remote products, right? So the more data I collect about the manufacturing process, the more, the more likely I am going to be able to make that influence, um, at the same time producing a part in Lagos, isn't gonna be the same as producing a part in, I don't know, Seattle, right? There's different environmental conditions. There might be different machines, maybe different materials available. So actually in addition to the integrity of the part and measuring the quality, we need to be at a moment's notice, be able to redesign the part for the given circumstance in that location.
Andre Wegner (06:31):
So we are very interested in the process, not necessarily building the tool, the generative tool, design algorithms, but the process of deploying generative design to take an input and come up with a design, not necessarily as functionally different, but that is adapted to the specific environment. Um, and, and both of those problem sets, right? Measuring quality through data and organizing the process of turning an intent into a, a fully fledged design. Both of those are problems that the industry as a large has not only tributed manufacturing, but across the board. So we're solving some of the issues that the industry has anyway, but we're solving them in a way that allows us to enable the distribute manufacturing in case as well.
Will Herbert (07:19):
And, uh, so you're saying that the, the path to get there has been a bit of a zigzag, and luckily you've been on a zigzag up to the top. Right. And, and I hope it progresses like that, but, uh, I don't think anybody in this industry is experiencing a straight line at the moment. Can you use some of your experience to tell us what's been challenging? What, what did you learn along the journey that made you had to switch direction at any point, or, um, really think about how the tool gets deployed? What's been the most difficult.
Andre Wegner (07:50):
Yeah. Interesting. I mean, the, um, clearly what I've learned as a business person is that, um, you really have to listen very closely to the clients. And, but, you know, the, the first mistake we made wasn't was not to do that. We listened to the hype, we listened to what we thought was, was important rather than what the client was telling us that was important. And the first product we built was the security systems of streaming signs into printers. And, you know, that got all the press in the world, but there wasn't any actual kind of commercial opportunity there. And we could have known that at the beginning, had we asked the client more concretely. Um, so that, that was a major, major issue that maybe is, is one of the issues we have in the industry as a whole, if you think back to, you know, the 2000 50, 14, 15, everybody was about consumer, right. Everybody was thinking we're gonna have a 3d printer in every home. And I mean, the reality, anybody could have seen the opportunity for that was very, very limited.
Will Herbert (08:58):
I mean, do you, is there, do you use any 3d printed parts in your own life at home?
Andre Wegner (09:03):
No. I don't even have a 3d printer at home. Um, who does, you know? Um,
Will Herbert (09:10):
Well, some must do the, the real nerds have, have, have one at home.
Andre Wegner (09:14):
No, not only, no. I mean, some really, really, I, I, I love, I love mechanical engineers and mechatronics engineers are my favourite hire ever because they think really broadly. So I, I, I think there's a lot of people out there that have, um, you know, have the skill and the time to, to work with, you know, at DIY shop, whether that's a 3d printer or garage or whatever they have, but I, I don't, that's not what I do. So, um,
Will Herbert (09:42):
So where are you seeing the high value then? I mean, where, at what point did you say, hang on, we, we have something here and there's a customer really interested. I mean, what sort of applications was it, uh, you know, where, where are you seeing the high value?
Andre Wegner (09:58):
Um, well, we went from enabling distributive manufacturing to realizing that the market was really about understanding where the like centralized production and, and organizing that centralized production. And we did that. I was, I wouldn't take credit for coming up with the idea. We literally went to our clients and we showed them our technology. And we said, what do you want to build with this technology? And they all said kind of workflow management system for centralized and that, you know, so then we, we stopped making a mistake of not listening to our clients. Um, and yeah, that, that, that really helped us turn a corner. Um, since then we continued to follow the money. You know, if the client said, I really wanna build X, but they're not willing to pay for it. We, we don't work with them. We try and figure it out, but we, we end up not working with them if there's no money there.
Will Herbert (10:55):
So they, so they wanted clearly a workflow control system where they could take this new technology. They were deploying additive manufacturing back in 2014, 15, and start putting some controls behind it in terms of processes and defining the, the product life cycle and things like this is, is that
Andre Wegner (11:15):
Right? Data making the process more efficient? Those were the aims. Yeah, absolutely. So actually the control element of it has only really recently come in, um, you know, as the, the systems become more rigorous and we're really moving towards production volumes, but at, at the beginning, it was really a bit more efficiency out of this to reduce the total cost of ownership and let's capture the day so that the knowledge doesn't get lost with every person that passes through our comp our company.
Will Herbert (11:44):
How do you find people are pre pretty ready to divulge the data and share it with you as a small, you know, relatively small competitor to these big aerospace and, and medical companies. They're willing to share the data with an Ahan ties and, and what do you do with it?
Andre Wegner (12:00):
Yeah, there's no, no issues at the moment. Um, we aggregate it and learn, um, kind of in meaningful, but small ways. So, um, like we use it to optimize our estimates for how long it takes to produce something and therefore our quotes, you know, um, we will use it to, uh, estimate that something is not printable or printable based on historical actual. So those are some, um, immediate use cases. Um, but also we capture the context that the client can then download as a, as a traceability file as a traceability document. And we make it available to third party applications that maybe have higher value, um, use cases. So we work with one that can take data and, and suggest parameters to use, um, for more successful prints with a specific material. Um, so our job is not necessarily to be the only, only ones using the data. Our job is to capture the contextual data and make it available to the business. Um, and, and, and to third parties and really, you know, there's too many problems to solve, to try and solve it all ourselves, which I think is one of the big differentiating factors of ATA.
Will Herbert (13:27):
And I mean, ultimately, Andre, is it the, is it the data that's valuable or is it the goods that are getting produced in a either centralized or distributed way?
Andre Wegner (13:37):
It's definitely the good, right. Um, the data's only as valuable as the application that you may layer onto it. So our aim is to qualify that the power was printed correctly. Right now, let's say I, I charged a, I charge a fixed fee for the usage of our, of our tool. If in the future I can charge if in the future I can qualify that the part was printed correctly, just based on the data that we collect, then I could hypothetically charge an insurance premium, a percentage of the value of the part instead of a fixed a fixed fee, right? Because I'm providing, essentially if I get a reins that insight, if I get that insight reinsured, then I'm providing, but the underlying value is still in the part it's still in the engineering that it's taken to design the part and to, and to make it, um, but we can a, we can a that process make it faster to which we get a fee. Um, and we can get a percentage of the value that they're generating if we can deliver additional value on top of that, um, data, which we're definitely trying to do, but I'm realistic about the time horizons that it will take us to.
Will Herbert (14:52):
So you clearly, you're exploring these different business models to be able to capture more value and share that value with the customer later on. But I mean, today, what's the situation. Are you charging seats per, per software seats, licenses? I mean, what, what are the constraints there?
Andre Wegner (15:09):
So I, you know, as I said earlier, that kind of number one value that companies were looking for was to make the process more efficient. And if we make it more efficient, they produce more parts. If they produce more parts, then we should benefit in some way. Right? So our, um, incentive is aligned with the customer. We get a, a fixed fee based on how many parts they produce. So it's kind of tiered consumption model. Um, and that is kind of the best approximation of the, of, of that alignment that, that we could come up with. But we're quite, we're actually, because we are an independent better to small company, we're quite flexible. So if somebody comes to us and says, I produce millions or small parts, or, you know, I need a different way to align what value you bring to us, because it's not about efficiency, it's more about something else. Then, then we'll talk to them about it. But at the moment, that's the best approximation that we, we could come up with. And it seems to work with most people.
Will Herbert (16:12):
So we, um, and we saw each other in FormNext, you know, COVID protocols and safety notwithstanding, um, that we had to apply at the site. What, what did you see at the show? What caught your eye in terms of trends and other people doing interesting things in this area?
Andre Wegner (16:28):
Yeah, actually there were quite a few, I, you know, the names escape me, but I did see the, the kind of rise of software algorithms that are, you know, dotted along that value chain, digital thread is definitely rising, you know, sort of exponentially. And, and that's good, you know, there's a lot more solutions needed. We need better simulation engines. We've been need better generate to design algorithms. We need better AI that, that detects quality or predicts parameters. We, so I, I saw a lot more of that than I had in the past. Um, I'm not,
Will Herbert (17:08):
Is this coming from the big guys or is this coming from startups and, you know, companies like, like Authentise,
Andre Wegner (17:16):
It's a, it's a mixture, but the ones I noticed were definitely on the startup side, you know, there were no kind of new, big names on the, on the, on the kind of larger side that would've surprised me. Um, yeah, but the, the big guys tend to try to build Walled gardens. Um, my opinion is that doesn't work. You, you can't try and kind of capture all the value yourself. There's too much innovation that needs to go on here. And the customer doesn't want to be locked into some system that they have to pay for and is second best. So, so generally speaking, um, if large companies can avoid walled garden scenario, then, then they, they may be a valuable stakeholder, but, but generally speaking to large guys, try to exclude rather than include.
Will Herbert (18:08):
So what, what about from the customer's perspective then? Is it, is it a challenge around having all these different suites of software to manage and to run a new workflow? What, how do, how we solve for that?
Andre Wegner (18:20):
Well, that's one of the, the values that we, we think we can provide by integrating, you know, applications. So we have 11 third party algorithms integrated already. That's anything from file conversion to meshing, to nesting, um, to two parts creation. And we have a lot more that we can integrate. Um, so, you know, by integrating these algorithms, we essentially take a, a piece of software. That's a desktop kind of user interface that they have to learn. And we put it behind the curtain that, that, you know, works automatically. They can still see the results. They can still dive into that and, and correct it if necessary. But most of the time they don't have to learn a new user interface. They don't have to buy a separate license. They don't have to. So there's benefits to that integration. And of course they reduce the time it takes to download the design, upload it somewhere else, uh, click a button, you know, make the upload the wrong file, make an error. Um, so, so absolutely that's one other way. So we have, I think, 80 different ways of kind of criteria to measure return on investment and, and that's 80.
Will Herbert (19:31):
Andre Wegner (19:31):
Will Herbert (19:35):
80, 80 0, 18.
Andre Wegner (19:35):
Andre Wegner (19:35):
Where we can, where we can save money and it can be anything from like, wow. It identify materials that are close to the expiry date and suggest that you use those instead of, you know, the other materials that to, to, to eliminating the kind of errors and, and time that you just talked about. So a lot of opportunities to, to make the process more efficient. And as I said, that reduces the total cost of ownership and therefore makes the process more viable.
Will Herbert (20:02):
So, I mean, what are the, that's a lot of KPIs. So what are the top two or three that customers are screaming for?
Andre Wegner (20:09):
Well, uh, one is, as you say, you know, they, they don't want to use as many different pieces of software. The, the other is they want transparency in the operations, so that it's easier to identify where, and any part is at any given moment. Um, without having to call Fred down, down the workshop or Hugo who's designing something, um, and, and we can provide both of those. So that one customer site we reduce the time they spend in their daily operations, um, by, I think they were daily operations meetings from one hour to 15 minutes a day. Um, another client, uh, Boeing, actually this is public figure phase. I think they said 41 hours for every development for a new build plate with Authentise. So there's some really cool KPIs that, uh, come out of this.
Will Herbert (21:05):
So we, I once were taught by you where you said, uh, you need, you need to have buy-in from the shop floor, shop floor team, those who are gonna be using the software every day. And also you want to provide, you know, pretty nice, uh, graphs and statistics for the management to play with. So in the end, who are you selling to? Who, who do you really need to have adopting this software?
Andre Wegner (21:30):
Well, the operations managers are always number one, the, the guys on the shop floor without their, their buy-in and their willingness to use a system, you are not getting anything nobody's up, you know, there's no data to, to update any manager with. Um, so at the end of the day, our first, our first customer is always the, the person that is, um, working on making the process more efficient. And there's the guys that are doing that already have that kind of instinct that, that lean improvement, uh, opportunities that they're seeing. And, and so we're just building on that. Of course, the manager signs the checks and, and they need to know that their data is safe. They're not losing anything, they're gaining more insight. Um, but that's a secondary sale always.
Will Herbert (22:15):
And so you, if I'm not wrong, you are a chair of manufacturing at the singularity university. Is that right?
Andre Wegner (22:22):
Yeah, that's right.
Will Herbert (22:24):
Can you explain to the audience, you know, what, what is that and what are the learnings that you've taken from maybe from other industries that, that you're applying to the world of additive, or you think can be applied here?
Andre Wegner (22:36):
Um, the singularity place where, um, you know, we talk in 10 to 15 year time horizon, maybe 20 year time horizons. We talk about abundance and, and not being constrained by ideas that, um, uh, that's something, you know, some resource might not be available. Um, so generally we think that for example, computing, the cost of computing, the cost of energy is dropping towards zero. And so what are we gonna do with that op that new opportunity? Um, and so with that, you know, that mindset is two things. Uh, first of all, it allowed me to, um, keep faith in what we're building. Cause you know, it's incremental and it's a small industry and we, we are we're, we are as far away from the vision today, as I thought we were when we started building Authentise. Um, and the second, uh, and the second thing is it gave, it gave me access to understand where the kind of potential like our chief head of AI at singularity, you know, gave me insights into where AI algorithms are going and how, you know, the, this, we are not building a general AI, but they they're more specific AI and, and specific areas in which quantum computing, for example, may have an impact.
Andre Wegner (23:59):
You know, so specifically in scheduling, quantum computing might be a particularly interesting tool to use, um, or parameter development. And so, you know, just having a broad understanding of the general areas in which we can apply these new technologies as we move down the track. But, um, really the biggest benefit was the fact that I got to stand back every two weeks of three weeks or so, and have a conversation with a room full of people who were interested in the long term future and not in incremental feature improvements that we, we, we do for our clients every day.
Will Herbert (24:37):
Yeah. I, I also like this. Yeah. I bet. I, I also like the engineering, uh, thought process of working towards limit, you know, where are things gonna start as toting, uh, long term. It's really hard to consider that when you're in the day to day, but what, so if you think about the additive manufacturing industry, what else, what else are we looking at in terms of things getting to their, their maximum limit or minimum limit, uh, over the next few years, and what's that gonna do for us?
Andre Wegner (25:06):
Well, you know, the, the trajectory of additive manufacturing ends in nanotechnology, uh, nano nanotechnology assemblers, right? So we're gonna see a lot of change in the types of machines that are being deployed. So one thing that's always struck me as completely unreasonable is that we are still, um, you know, we, we've just gone through this process realizing how hard it is to redesign parts for additives. So D a M is really important. And, and, and we know that there's a lot of innovation coming down the track in terms of materials and machines. And yet we're not optimizing the way DFA is happening. What we are doing now is we are still saving the result of DFA in a geometry, which by the, by the virtue loses all insight of the designers that the, the designer had into why that geometry ended up being as it is, you know, the intent of that geometry.
Andre Wegner (26:04):
And if we are going to innovate, you know, a a if in a significant way, our machines and materials, we're gonna have to redesign parts every couple of months, right? So let's come up with better ways to, to do that process. Let's start storing, not geometries, but intent let's have a practice of running generative design algorithms across those intents every couple days. So we can come up with better designs. Let's, let's have standards that approve the, the way in which generative design algorithms do that instead of approving the design process for geo geometry in a manual way. So there's, there's, there's limits that we're building ourselves rather than limits in technology. And, and that's a bit frightening as something I would really like the industry to fight, but, um,
Will Herbert (26:56):
Yeah, yeah, no, super in, I agree is very interesting, sort of codifying the knowledge into the part and, and melding the human and the AI, uh, intelligence and knowledge over the next 10, 15 years will be, will be huge. But, um, we need to jump into a,
Andre Wegner (27:14):
My singularity conversation, talk about the engineer as a constraint manager instead of a designer. And I think that's a really important framework to think about. Um, and we'll continue to, to evolve in that way, but sorry to interrupt you.
Will Herbert (27:29):
Not a problem. We need to jump into a, a quick fire round, cuz we're, we're reaching the end here, Andre, but so the, are there any books that you'd recommend from the last year that have really interested you? This is the quick fire round.
Andre Wegner (27:40):
Okay. Sorry. Quick, quick fire round secretly. I'm read enjoying Ben Ben dich, I think is, uh, he's um, published a series of books that are kind of, uh, uh, magic crime novel. So I've really enjoyed that. Um, but uh, I've also been interested in how we got to our, uh, kind of populist movement, been reading a book called on the origins of Arianism, uh, is, is also quite interesting to me. So, um, depends what you are asking me, whether you're asking me in a serious way. Um,
Will Herbert (28:17):
Yeah, no, he's a clearly a polymath. Um, who would you like to work with in the world of manufacturing or even the world of business in general?
Andre Wegner (28:26):
Um, I think what Victoria did at, um, pro labs get a surname now, but, um, was really interesting. And if I had a choice, I'd like to have her on my board one, one of these days.
Will Herbert (28:38):
Yeah. Good response. What has the pandemic taught you?
Andre Wegner (28:42):
Um, that working from Portugal in the winter is a really good idea.
Will Herbert (28:45):
Yeah. And the, the final one here is you've got these Authentise gilets that on the back, they say, got data and you're walking around with them, very prominently. How do you get your hands on one of those? You have to be a customer. Do you have to be an employee? Can I get one?
Andre Wegner (29:00):
You have to move to Europe. I'm not allowed to sell them in the US yet. All of these days when you come back to back, Europe will, uh, then, then you get your hands on.
Will Herbert (29:09):
All right. Thanks Andre. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Thanks very much to Andre Wegner for joining us on PowderHeads, his ongoing additive journey, perspective, and passion is certainly one to remember If you have questions or comments about what we discussed in this podcast PowderHeads, send them to email@example.com or visit our podcast page at www.carpenteradditive.com/powderheads. We continue to build an archive of all of our interviews there as well as additional material that provides insight and perspective on modern day additive manufacturing. PowderHeads is managed by Carpenter Additive and its parent company Carpenter Technology, a global leader in specialty alloys for over 130 years. Our goal is to help solve their most challenging material process problems. Learn more at CarpenterTechnology.com. Thanks again for listening and keep building!