The Use of Gaming Technologies in Additive Manufacturing with Jason Jones
Listen in as Ben Ferrar, VP and General Manager at Carpenter Additive, is joined by Jason Jones from Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies to discuss all things additive. This episode covers a range of topics, from Jason's additive journey starting in the UK, to printing with polymer and metal, and the use of gaming technologies in additive manufacturing.
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 the world. We've got a great one for you today, Ben Ferrar, Vice President at Carpenter Additive sits down with Jason Jones, CEO and co-founder at Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies. I think the best PowderHeads discussions are ones where the people talking know one another and this one doesn't disappoint. Jason's an old school powder head in an industry that's still quite young following his journey to Additive that began in the world of subtractive is an interesting ride. Thanks for listening and enjoy the conversation!
Ben Ferrar (01:06):
Jason, welcome to PowderHeads. I, uh, um, it's a privilege to have you on the show. We've obviously known each other a while. I be good for our listeners for you to give them a, a bit of an explanation of how you got into am AM, and talk to them talk them through your journey.
Jason Jones (01:21):
Perfect. Ben, great to be here. I'm honored to be a part of this first season and thank you for the invitation. My entry point into additive really came from subtractive. And so I was studying my undergrad needed a job. I'd worked various jobs, eventually found CNC machining and was a part-time machinist while I was studying. And that then as I got a full-time job also in CNC machining, and we added laser cutting and 3D printing to our product lineup. And that was my first intro to 3D printing. Really.
Ben Ferrar (01:55):
It's uh, it's crazy, really, right. There's so much, uh, so many people in the additive industry that has such good experience with additive. Yet such a big part of the challenge with making additive parts is around the machining and the subtractive element of it, which somehow gets glossed over or missed at some at some point. Right.
Jason Jones (02:16):
For sure. And I think people are becoming more aware of it and willing to talk about it, but, you know, there's the phrase that well begun is half done. And from my perspective, when you talk about additive manufacturing, the printing portion of it is only half of it typically. And so I'm really pleased to see more and more coming to light. And, you know, just the acknowledgement that this tends to be quite a process chain as virtually all at, you know, types of manufacturing are.
Ben Ferrar (02:44):
Yeah. Great. So talk us through your journey then, because we obviously met well over 10 years ago in, uh, probably in the lab at the Montfort University. Right. So tell us, talk us through the journey and some of the projects and, and how you ended up where you are now.
Jason Jones (03:00):
Yeah, perfect. So after an undergrad, I moved to London, England, uh, with my wife and had a phenomenal experience there got engaged with industrial work. And that's the point at which 3D printing really entered from the center. I was technical manager for a company out of London and we took on multiple lines of 3D printers. This was the early two thousands. And while the potential was super clear and I could hear the music, right. It was just so tangibly it's so tantalizing and amazing yet what we delivered to customers sometimes fell short and I was the guy who ended up apologizing for it. Right. I was, you know, they pulled me in when it was a big mess and I'd come in and I'd use my I'm. I just felt really bad for them, frankly. And often it was out of my hands and I got tired of apologizing, right. There are some skills you only want to progress so far. And I got to the point where I was like, let's, let's deal with this some other way. So we connected with a local university DeMontford and started an R and D project collaboratively where we could hopefully solve some of these issues before they ended up on the customer floor. And eventually I actually transferred to the university full-time as senior research fellow. And that's when you and I met.
Ben Ferrar (04:19):
Yeah, no. Great. I remember that the days in the lab with the, the old SLP machine, are you willing to give people an explanation of that technology that we were working on then?
Jason Jones (04:32):
Sure. Yeah. We've we laid the foundation for scaling up what you would call laser printing or electrophotography essentially the same technology that that's in a Xerox copy machine, which is now actually some of the work we did made its way eventually to Stratasys and now into evolve. So if you know, evolve additive, all of the foundational pieces for that Ben and I were very actively developing and understanding the fundamental physics. And we're thrilled that it's now spun out and become its own entity with the significant amount of funding. And we expect great things.
Ben Ferrar (05:06):
Yeah. I mean, it's, it's tricky. Right. And add it in the additive space. There's so many similarities between the polymer and the metal, but yet there's so many differences as well. Right. It means that, you know, that you find that there's some people that metal only and I've, I've fallen away from, uh, from polymer over the years as well. Right.
Jason Jones (05:28):
Yeah. And, and it is fun. I mean, we do both and it, to me, it's interesting what you learn from one that does apply to the other and sometimes what doesn't, but I think more often than not, as we understand super clearly one, then we know what to watch for in the other.
Ben Ferrar (05:44):
Yeah, no, that's a, that's a really key point. So how are things a hybrid now?
Jason Jones (05:51):
They're good. We're thrilled to have a new year. Like everybody 2020 was more exciting than we for, and that drew out both good. And also, you know, all of us, I think experienced some degree of nervousness to say, I mean, when it first started with all this will blow past in two months and we'll be fine. And now here we are nearly a year later.
Ben Ferrar (06:12):
I remember thinking two weeks, I've got to stay at home for two weeks, you know, and one year down the line, right. You're, you're still, I mean, in Pennsylvania, we're still home, but, um, what's the, what's the situation being with the more broad machine tool market like the machining market is that, has that seen the same impact that we've seen in other markets?
Jason Jones (06:37):
Well, with, it depends on if you talk about the use of machines or the purchase of machines and as 2020, you know, as the reality unfolded, most people put a ban on all travel and capital spending. So machine tools saw a dip in purchases, and then after people realized, Hey, we're still going to be making stuff. And especially here in the U S as people tooled up to a lot of mold and dye work, especially to address the shortages, then those orders rose. And then at the end quarter four, as I understand, it had really quite an increase in capital purchasing.
Ben Ferrar (07:14):
Yeah. Great. I mean, that's exactly what we need to, to get back on track. So you alluded a bit to, uh, to working on metals and polymer, how, what, what are you guys doing? What's the latest, the latest inventions, the latest applications that you guys are working on right now?
Jason Jones (07:32):
Well, you obviously know cause we've had a history, but we essentially modularized directed energy deposition to fit inside of a CNC machine. And we literally did it to where it's another tool in the carousel. So you can switch back and forth between adding and removing on the fly. We had a lot of requests for polymer in the same format. And so we essentially miniaturized what is sort of the bam technique, right? That Oak Ridge has refined and then worked with Cincinnati and Thermo and Ingersoll and others to perfect. So we've now got deposition heads that do that, that also fit in the machine tool. And so it's been really fun now that we've got both, we literally will do parts made of metal and polymer together in the same build, which is pretty unusual for, for additive.
Ben Ferrar (08:18):
Yeah, it definitely is. I mean, and so what applications does that open up?
Jason Jones (08:25):
So you have to look at it one direction or the other, if we talk about adding polymer to metal, often you're looking at overmolding or, you know, you think about almost every product you have this metal frequently, there are polymer parts with it or attached to it, or seal or other things embedded. This is an all-in-one setup that allows you to do all of it together. So that's exciting. And then in reverse, if you do polymer, excuse me, if you do metal onto polymer, you get some really things that are still quite researching. And we've got a couple of partners who are exploring out, can you use it as a support material? Can you do other things with it? And the answer is in theory. Yes. And now we're trying to check if it will scale up. So I think that it's a super exciting future development that will become a thing.
Ben Ferrar (09:15):
I just would have thought the heat would have, would have caused some problems. Right.
Jason Jones (09:20)
Totally counter-intuitive right? But the thermal mass of what you deposit is small enough and focused enough and Palmer doesn't transfer heat very well. And we've, we've played with the polymers in some of the, uh, you know, essentially the chemistry of it to get to something where it does survive the interface. We don't know what to call the interface. And so you're still in an aspirational phase of, Hey, we can do it in principle and does this really have industrial application? So it was just a for fun thing on the side. That's cool. And, um, sometimes they start fires too, which is kind of exciting when we first started doing it. You'd light the polymer on fire with a laser, and then you'd be trying to put it all out quickly and lots of fun stories.
Ben Farrar (10:04):
So, uh, so tell us one of those fun stories then, have you, have you ever been really close, close to getting in trouble?
Jason Jones (10:12):
Well, the, all of our systems have inner locked doors, right. For safety. And so inevitably you've got doors locked and there's a timer that counts down so that it evacuate anything that's Asher, you know, but if you've got a fire going on inside and you want to put it out, you're, you can't help, but bang on the door and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it's pretty exciting.
Ben Farrar (10:39):
I, I mean, so when I think about what you just said in terms of supporting with polymer, you know, and you can burn out afterwards, it offers a huge, huge amount of opportunities in terms of tooling from DD, which, which typically you haven't been able to do. That was one of the major benefits of the layer based technologies over a D D technology. But if you can, if you can get that to work successfully in jewel deposit, then that's a huge opportunity, right.
Jason Jones (11:07):
That's why we're doing it. And so I guess stay tuned. It's, it's fun, right? It's aspirational, but yes, essentially powder bed has such a sweet spot in terms of internal complexity. We don't think we'll ever achieve quite the same resolution, but if we can scale up and be able to do bridge, you know, bridge over features and that kind of thing, it really opens up what DD is good for.
Ben Farrar (11:31):
Yeah. No. Great. Um, so in terms of, uh, in terms of other things going on in the additive interest additive industry that interests you at the moment, what's the, what's the most exciting thing that you've seen?
Jason Jones (11:45):
Well, I love the as electronics and embedding electronics and direct conformal printing of electronic. I love all that because it really, from, in my mind, there's three stages of industry applications. The first is prototyping everybody, you know, that's where the industry really cut its teeth. Next is production parts. And the third stage is really products that are multiple types of parts or materials that can be monolithic or not, but additives and assembly technique, you know, if you step way back, it's, uh, it can be used at as, as an assembly solution. And the more we can embed almost like lab on a chip type mentality, but it obviously the larger scale, I think that bodes very well for our future of smart products and making it practical to achieve.
Ben Farrar (12:34)
Totally agree. And I mean, I think it's, I think that you think about the, that that functional component coming out of a printer is what we've been talking about for, for 20 years, right? Not, you know, we have parts that we're, we're printing now where we print the part and it takes two, three days, right? The machines are pretty quick. Now it probably 15, 20 years ago that probably would have taken two weeks, three weeks to print. But then because of the geometries in the designs have got so, so much more complex, it still might take eight, eight weeks to machine, right? So you you're shortening such a, a small part of the process. And that's typically because you're mounting an additive part to probably a non additive part somewhere else where you have to hold those tolerances, tolerances and features to, to enable that connection. And like you say, if you can print a functional part with, you know, with more consolidated components in it, then that's an, that's an awesome opportunity.
Jason Jones (13:38):
Well, in our firsthand experience, so, you know, we address multiple types of additive, but we're a consumer of several others and powder bed fusion. We don't produce equipment for we're, we're a consumer. And we came to a point actually like 2013 or 14, where we had to reduce the size of our heads to fit in CNC machines. And we strategically chose to 3D print the entire deposition head minus a few nozzle components. So that is a powder bed fusion part. We tried binder jetting. We couldn't get the internal passages to survive the defining process. We went through all that. So, but it's a, it's a titanium powder bed fusion part. And if you divide it, you know, piecewise, you, you have a build that's like, you know, about eight hours per piece or maybe a little less. And then it goes downstream. And the first time through it was about 90 hours of machining. Wow. Inside these heads, we have requirement for very high precision. We're moving optics, laser optics around at about 10 G. And so it's at a very extreme environment. And that number has now come down considerably less than half roughly, but still it's a revelation to people who don't realize when I think 3D printing is only half the job of additive manufacturing. In this case, the printing is an eight-hour process and the machining is four or five times at least.
Ben Farrar (14:58):
And what's stopping you from now changing the design to, instead of producing it by powder bed, producing it, using hybrid manufacturing technology
Jason Jones (15:11):
From a DED perspective, getting high quality through channels is we're getting closer. And when that happened, we said, that's what we want to do. We want to be able to produce, you know, those more complex internal things and our heads being a very extreme example of them, I would say. So the answer is just a little bit of time and resource.
Ben Ferrar (15:33):
Yeah, yeah, no, and I mean, you can totally see it, a robot printing a robot. Right. You know? Um, so I mean, I guess when I think about like the technology that you guys have developed and how integrated is, I think about the challenge of getting designers into the mindset in which they're doing these processes concurrently, right. Rather than one than the other. How, how are you guys addressing that? And what have you seen within the industry that's addressing that, that design challenge that, that makes you think we're going to get over these hurdles, right. And get mass adoption.
Jason Jones (16:14):
I want to switch sort of focus for a minute and I don't want to confuse listeners, but we've talked a lot about aspirationally. What are we on the edge of? What are we working on? Let me talk for a second about what we actually do, bread and butter. What we look for is an opportunity where we can do end to end manufacturer finished component. And that means so all the data pre-processing right, thanks to everybody who does software for additive. We appreciate you. We love you, right? We don't longer have problems with STL files and all this stuff that we really struggled with a decade ago. Right. That's all gone. But once you've done the pre-processing, we want to put feedstock into a machine and get a finished part out the other end. And usually we do that on lots of products where we don't actually print the entire thing, right.
Jason Jones (17:01):
To energy deposition. You don't have to often it's a, you know, a wear surface or corrosion resistance, or oxidation resistance that you need. And if you add it to a portion of the part, that may be all it requires. So if we can then print five or 10 or 15, or even 20% of a part, finish it with milling in situ, and then come in and even inspect it, right? Whether it's surface inspection or sub surface that he currents or ultrasound, then that part leaves that machine completely finished. So we have here two extremes, one of printing, entire things from scratch finished, fully assembled. That's still aspirational for most things. On the other hand, we can do it for areas of parts. And so give me a casting, a forging of something else where you need an additional material added and easy to do. And it's easy for the designer because the design doesn't change usually.
Ben Ferrar (17:54)
Okay. Yeah. No. So they, so you've found that people have been able to adapt fairly readily to, to adding a feature rather than a complete component from scratch. Right? Oh, that's so, so what level of adult, I mean, at what point will CNC machines come with a D D head, a standard
Jason Jones (18:19):
We've always said over the next 10 years, we think virtually all machine tool builders will have to make a strategic choice about offering at least a hybrid-ready machine. And they'll only do it as fast as people adopt it. Right. And they only adopted as fast as people make a business case for it. And they only do that as fast as they're able to figure out a design that works. And so we're really trying to whittle it away from the lowest hanging fruit, which is, Hey, you've got to design already. Let's see if we can make it work with maybe a material substitution along the edges on the surfaces. Then once they have confidence, you go, okay, now you're going to add a feature or you're going to update this to a new revision of a part, right. Almost a remanufacturing approach. And that's the end. We're approaching it from, I know there's a bunch of other ways to do it, but from a hybrid perspective, that to us makes the most sound financial business sense.
Ben Ferrar (19:08):
Yeah. No, totally agree. So switching, switching topics, what unrelated to the hybrid business have you seen out there that you think is really cool right now?
Jason Jones (19:22):
So many of the software developments I love seeing the whole, okay. Let me back up a little bit, because we live in this world that sort of spans CNC, machining, which I always joke the controllers are like the best of the 1970s and best in the 1980s. Right. In terms of other operation, you have to kind of know how to program. And then we do additive where 3D printing is, is very much a digital age interface. Right. It feels more like using an iPhone. I'm so pleased to see all of the software work at an enterprise scale of automating all of it to offload so much of the nitty gritty that so many people have managed for years in a variety of ways.
Ben Ferrar (20:00):
Uh, I, I, I remember, uh, trying to recruit machinists right earlier on in my career and it, it it's incredibly tough, right. I mean, before, you know, before the 3D printing and the digital cool side of it, right. It was, you know, the NC coding and it became impossible to, to find apprentices and to find people and bring them into the technology. So I think 3D printing to some extent is also feeding back into the more traditional technologies and giving a new lease of life for, uh, for those technologies as well. Right. In terms of interest,
Jason Jones (20:38):
For sure. And I'm especially pleased with the work people like Oak Ridge national labs is doing on trying to make machining easier, easier to let's move the whole thing up into the digital age so that it feels like playing a video game. Right. We live in a time where everybody, I mean, most people have tried playing video games on their phone. And that to me is what all this manufacturing equipment should feel like.
Ben Farrar (21:03):
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I, uh, have a Nintendo switch at home with my son. He beats me all the time at, you know, Mario Kart and things like that. But I mean, if it was a, if it was it, I do feel that I see the huge amounts of positives in those types of gaming technologies and logic, because it's, you know, it is really coming to that in terms of manufacturing now. Um, no, go for it, go for it.
Jason Jones (21:32):
I can't wait. We, we were gifted a VR set pretty early. And so that's virtual reality and, and we've had a great time doing three-dimensional puzzles and figuring out stuff and with my kids. And I just see that as migrating naturally, I'm so excited for all the progress in augmented reality, because I think that's really where we're going to see a huge impact, uh, you know, commercially, especially.
Ben Farrar (21:57):
Yeah, totally agree. Um, we haven't talked much about parts or applications. Is there any, is there any parts or applications that you've worked with throughout your career that have really stood out as being the ones that, you know, being world beaters?
Jason Jones (22:15):
That's a fun topic and there are a number of things back when we were researching it DaMontford for, you may recall, we worked extensively on customized helmet liners. And what we found is that the materials and the systems weren't quite ready for it. And so I'm excited that over the last year or two or three, we've seen carbon and others come forward with these materials where now customized safety products becoming far more accessible and easier to, to achieve so well done to everybody. That's been part of that process chain, but it's fun to see fruition right. Of these things that are long time in the making.
Ben Farrar (22:51):
Yeah. And Lee, all the lead into other, you know, prosthetics and Uh AIDS, right. Uh, is really interesting. And, and on the, on the hybrid side, on the metal side, what would you say is the most interesting part or application that you guys have, uh, been involved in?
Jason Jones (23:11):
A lot of the remanufacturing work is just fascinating, right? Anything that goes in a jet engine or in a turbo
Jason Jones (23:17):
charger, or, you know, a diesel engine, those types of parts, the standards are so high and so fixed, being able to bring all of the tooling and instrumentation and measurement together to really make a single setup work has been very challenging and very rewarding as well. So that again is a low-hanging fruit application. That is just perfect for hybrid.
Ben Farrar (23:40):
Yeah. No. Great. And is there, is there any, uh, is there any materials, limitations, or, or conversely, is there any materials that you guys can process that you may not be able to process in other additive technologies
Jason Jones (23:57):
Fundamentally? It's right. We do either micro-pastoring or micro-welding. When we talk about additive, it's kind of how we envisage it. So in terms of limitations, it's really down to metallurgy for new materials. We alluded earlier that the mixture of polymers, so often we get mixtures of metals, which is creative into different alloys, but being able to mix different families of materials together is something that's not been practical before that a hybrid approach easily enables.
Ben Ferrar (24:27):
Yeah. Um, and like functionally grading components as well. I mean, so, I mean, I, it's just not feasible in a, I mean, my background's in 99% powder bed, it's not feasible. Right. Because you can't recycle the material. Right. You're effectively contaminating as you build. Right. Even though there were patents, you know, many patents in, in the early days around having multi-material systems. So I, I mean, what is the latest thinking on those, those functional materials and functionally graded materials? Is there, is there been, is a big applications that stand out there?
Jason Jones (25:05):
I wish I could tell you there's amazing applications everywhere. And I think that there are, but the practicalities of designing and programming for functional grading are the design tools are still a little bit out of reach in my opinion. So if you're, if you can script and if you can do whatever, or if you have a repeat part that you're going to make lots of it's worth doing, but if you use additive in a, it's a generic machine, I'm going to print something different every day of the week, the tools aren't quite refined enough that the average user will do it. So there's plenty of, you know, research-y type, I'm a Ph.D., you're running this thing and I can do it. And it's super cool.
Ben Farrar (25:43):
I'm good. I'm going to stand and change the vowels on the powder feed and manually. So it goes 50%, 60%, you know, crank up the percentage. Yeah.
Jason Jones (25:53):
Yeah. And you would laugh in the early days. We literally would have people, man, different things to test it out before you actually go to the work of programming. And I think for us getting directed energy deposition into a lower cost, easier to access format is really what's enabling, you know, on the backside of that is the software developments that are needed. We do a lot of software in-house for control, but we don't, you know, do our own design tools. And I have to give credit to a lot of different CAD cam companies now, but especially in the early days, there were only a couple of CAD cam companies that decided, okay, we're going to take on hybrid as a topic, right? You've got Siemens, NX and Autodesk and a collection of others, but over time, people are starting to see, okay, this is a real thing. And so I'm really grateful for all of the software work that's going to enable those next-generation products
Ben Farrar (26:49):
And what modifications of the machine tool manufacturers had to make to accept these types of heads to be able to accept powder environments. Cause I would have thought they would be, could be potential issues with, you know, wear and cooling within, within the machines. How, how much change does that have to happen to the machine to be able to accept it?
Jason Jones (27:11):
The biggest change depends on the energy source. If you use a laser, you've got a light type that machine, right? If you use an arc, you have to have the appropriate windows in terms of powder. We were very nervous early on about powder and lots of people were, and we've found that actually the powder size we use, depending on its composition, usually it's not any worse than chips. And especially if somebody is in an extreme machining environment where they work on graphite or ceramic or all of those are far worse than the powder. So actually the machines handle it pretty well.
Ben Farrar (27:44):
Yeah. Great. Well, uh, really appreciate you coming on and joining us, Jason, it's been great catching up with you. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Thanks very much to Jason Jones for participating in the PowderHeads episode. Some really great insight into his own additive journey and that of the industry in general, where else are you going to hear stories about setting polymers on fire? If you have questions or comments about what we discussed in this podcast to PowderHeads, send them to email@example.com or visit our podcast page at www.carpenteradditive.com/powderheads. We'll be building an archive of all 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 customers solve their most challenging material and process problems. Learn more at CarpenterTechology.com. Thanks again for listening and keep building.