Expert Interview: RIZE’s CEO Andy Kalambi on Making Industrial 3D Printing Sustainable and Scalable
26 April 2019
RIZE is a 3D printer manufacturer with an ambitious goal: to make industrial 3D printing inclusive, sustainable and scalable. Founded in 2014, the Boston-based company has developed its proprietary Augmented Deposition technology, designed to enable the production of high-quality, digitally augmented 3D-printed parts.
This week, we’re pleased to talk with RIZE’s CEO, Andy Kalambi, about the unique benefits of RIZE’s APD technology, the future of industrial 3D printing, and how companies can get started with the technology.
Could you tell me a little bit about your background in AM and how you came to join RIZE?
I’m a mechanical engineer by training. I started in the software industry, mostly in manufacturing, and worked in the ERP space with SAP in the earlier part of my career. I then moved into the product lifecycle management space and worked at Dassault Systèmes for 17 years.
My background in additive manufacturing came through Dassault Systèmes, where we were developing design software for AM. I had many roles within Dassault Systèmes, and in my last one, I was the CEO of one of their brands, ENOVIA. I was also leading the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform, which is a digitalisation platform.
I joined RIZE in November 2017. One of the reasons I joined the company was that I saw additive becoming a space which was going to be transformative in terms of its impact on manufacturing, supply chains and design.
Secondly, I saw that additive is really a convergent platform where software, materials and hardware converge to eventually produce the part. I saw the convergence in my own experience in manufacturing and design here.
Finally, I chose RIZE because the company has a very unique approach to the market, one which I thought was very scalable.
What is RIZE’s vision?
RIZE’s vision is very simple: we want to make 3D printing inclusive and sustainable. By making it inclusive and sustainable, we believe that this technology can truly scale.
3D printing has been around since 1986 when Stereolithography was first invented. Since then, the technology has evolved a lot. However, the technology has largely been in the domain of experts, and many people didn’t have access to the 3D printers themselves. Even though I was working for the largest 3D software company in the world, Dassault Systèmes, we didn’t have too many 3D printers around us.
The reason is that 3D printing is complex. There’s a lot of complexity attached to the machine as well as the pre and post-processing of the part. That complexity creates the need for expertise and specialisation. It also creates the need for facilities where the printers are kept away from the users.
That’s why RIZE has focused on not just finding out new ways to create a part but also on the user experience. We set ourselves the goal of simplifying the user experience to make it easy and safe, and thereby allow any user to use industrial 3D printing.
We believe that with that kind of an approach, 3D printing can become a tool used by a lot of different stakeholders within an organisation. That’s why I believe RIZE is going to be different.
We won the IDC Award last year as one of four top innovators. This year, we won the Frost & Sullivan Award for zero emissions best practices. People are beginning to appreciate the value of what 3D printing technology can do if it’s made easy and safe.
RIZE has developed its proprietary Augmented Deposition Technology. Could you explain what the technology is and the value it brings to the market?
We developed the Augmented Deposition Technology to solve three key problems in the industry.
The first and biggest problem we wanted to solve was around pre- and post-processing. Up to 80% of the time and cost of the 3D printing effort lies not in the actual printing of the part, but in preparing the part for printing and then getting it ready for usage.
Support removal is one part of this process. Another part is ensuring that the object is properly printed so that it doesn’t fail. 3D printing is a process where the material is deposited layer by layer to create the part. This approach, however, creates some weaknesses around certain dimensions in the part. We wanted to solve that problem as well.
The second problem we wanted to solve was to make 3D printers totally safe for usage anywhere and by anyone. This means that the material shouldn’t emit any fumes when printed.
Finally, we wanted to solve the issue of authenticity in 3D printing. When you 3D print a part, it’s very hard to determine whether or not it’s an authentic part because anyone can take a model and print it.
To be able to solve these problems, we looked at all the existing technologies and saw that the only way forward was to create a hybrid process. We took Fused Filament Fabrication technology and hybridised it with an ink jetting technology.
The result is an innovative and patented technology called Augmented Deposition.
With Augmented Deposition, the extrusion technology creates the part by depositing melted polymers. The jetting technology deposits the inks. Augmented Deposition uses two types of inks, release and marking, each with its own function.
The function of a release ink is to create a thin layer separating the part and the support structure. This allows users to easily remove the supports like a Velcro strip. A marking ink enables you to put text and images into the part. Thanks to the marking ink, you can authenticate the part by putting brand information, revision numbers and QR codes inside the part.
Take QR codes as an example. You can link a QR code to any data source that you may have. For example, you may have information in an ERP, CRM or product lifecycle management system. You can basically connect your part to these systems, so when the part is printed, it prints not just the physical part but the digital part as well.
Our technology enables users to link their parts to a digital platform and create a digital thread between the part and all the digital information that is there.
You can also leverage things like augmented and virtual reality. With QR codes, you can see not only the part but also all the related information. For example, you can see how the part has to be assembled or what components are related to that part.
So exactly how does the Augmented Deposition printing process work?
The whole process starts with a CAD model. You take this digital model and export it into our software which prepares the model to be printed. For example, the software performs a slicing process automatically. Then our software quickly generates the supports.
All you have to do is to put in a build plate and send the part through either a memory stick or through the network. Essentially, it’s just a one-touch operation where you pick a part and press the print button.
The machine is completely automated in terms of aligning itself and getting itself ready for the printing process. Usually, with other 3D printers, you have to align a build plate and prepare it by putting some kind of glue on it. None of that is necessary with our 3D printers.
When the part is being printed, the inks are jetted inside the part. Then all you do is take that part off the build plate and peel off the supports.
This process, which used to take hours to accomplish, now takes only about half a minute. With other extrusion processes, you have to take the part and put it into a chemical bath, you have to use gloves, and manage and dispose of the chemicals very carefully. All of that requires a skilled technician and a separate room to manage that whole process.
All of these issues are eliminated with our Augmented Deposition Technology.
What industries or verticals can benefit the most from your technology?
First, let me address the three different application areas of the Augmented Deposition technology.
The first area is in prototyping. Currently, prototyping is where 3D printing has the biggest impact. 3D-printed prototypes provide a haptic experience and allow you to see what a part feels and looks like before deciding on further design iterations.
3D-printed prototypes are also a great way to communicate ideas and designs to different stakeholders. By being able to hold the part in their hands, designers, engineers and stakeholders can more accurately and quickly evaluate the part, compared to 2D drawings or 3D models.
To add value to this application, we’re moving the machine next to the engineer, enabling him to get the prototypes done much quicker. Typically, engineers have to wait anywhere between a day to sometimes two weeks to get the part in the hand. Now they can get it in a matter of hours — and they can do it right next to them.
The second area is in manufacturing, which includes the design of custom tools like jigs and fixtures.
The third area where 3D printing is being increasingly used is in service parts. When you need to repair something but you don’t have an immediate spare for it or you don’t have enough spares, then you can use 3D printing to produce replacement components.
From an industry perspective, our 3D printers are being used in the automotive sector extensively, both by OEMs and in the supply chain, in all three areas that I just mentioned.
Our machines are being used in life sciences, mainly for preclinical development activities, for example to 3D print custom equipment to test a drug formulation. Within life sciences, our 3D printers have also been used in the pharmaceutical sector as well as in the medical device sector, where they’re using it for prototyping applications.
The defense industry is another user of our technology. We have a recent case study by the US Army which is using it to produce custom parts that are required on the field when they have breakdowns. So they’re 3D printing replacement parts.
We have recently introduced a full-colour 3D printer and it’s becoming a significant breakthrough in this area. There are full-colour 3D printers on the market today, but they are very expensive and very difficult to create. The parts they produce are not very functional and are used mainly for visual applications.
Unlike these machines, our printer is able to create not only full-colour, but also functional 3D-printed parts.
Our full-colour machine is increasingly being used in consumer applications, architecture, engineering, construction and education. The latter is a very big sector right now for us in terms of focus.
To sum up, it’s a very broad cross-section of industries, and because our technology is universally usable, we see a lot of different customers and different industries adopting it.
What tips would you give a company looking to get started with additive but not knowing where to start?
First of all, look at additive as a continuous improvement technology. It’s much like a desktop computer. When you bought your first computer, you started looking at problems to solve with the computer and every day you found something to solve in terms of applications.
3D printing is more a practice-based technology, which means the best way to start is to have a 3D printer.
Look around and you’ll find enough applications where you’re doing things either in a very complex way or sometimes you’re not able to do them at all. With a 3D printer, you’ll find ways to do it much faster.
So a) use 3D printing as a practice-based approach and b) look for the low-hanging fruit, such as prototyping, jigs, tools and fixtures. As you start building up capabilities, you can look at the end-use parts.
I also think a common mistake people make with 3D printing is taking things that they’re doing in conventional manufacturing and doing them in additive.
The existing manufacturing practices are well established and quite sophisticated. They produce a high degree of consistency and quality. To take conventionally made parts and produce them with additive means trying to force additive into something that is not meant for it.
Additive manufacturing is meant for custom, one-off things, where you want to reduce complexity. As they say, with additive complexity comes free because you can produce very complex parts. For example, an assembly of 100 parts can be reduced to maybe five parts with AM.
So my advice is to look for problems that traditional manufacturing hasn’t been able to solve and try to solve them with AM, rather than trying to replicate what is there in traditional manufacturing with additive. That would be a far better way of using this technology.
Finally, look at it as a journey. You’ll probably do some things which will go well with additive and some things that won’t. But as long as you plan it like a journey for the next years that you’re going to be using it, you’ll always find ways to drive a continuous improvement approach.
How do you see additive manufacturing evolving over the next five years?
Additive manufacturing is headed for very exciting times because it’s gradually becoming mainstream.
The interesting thing about additive is that it has a more immediate impact in smaller organisations where it can bring significant cost savings. With AM, you can shave off costs by up to 90% sometimes, and that’s extremely important for small companies to stay competitive. We see a whole range of our customers being really small and medium companies.
So I think the adoption of additive is just going to widen. In some industries, it has quietly become wider if you look at it carefully. The dental industry, for example, has jumped completely into becoming additive. So there are some industries which are taking the leap, and others too will follow.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in the industry. You see a 3D printing company coming up every other day. Reportedly, the 3D printing industry had the maximum number of patents filed last year. The only other industry that comes close is the electric vehicle industry. The good news is that a lot of new technologies will come up.
You’ll see a lot of consolidation and you’ll see some companies not being able to make it because of either the technology not being scalable or just because of the execution challenges that they may have.
But it’s all good in terms of adding to the overall ecosystem and the mix that comes in. So the creative churn will create much more technology and capabilities that will enable more people to start using 3D printing.
What spurred the decision for RIZE to move into the desktop 3D printing space?
We saw the need for an industrial desktop 3D printing solution. There are a lot of desktop machines available today. But for us, a desktop machine has to be industrial-grade, simple, safe and portable. That’s when you will really put it on your desktop.
That’s why we introduced our first 3D printer, RIZE ONE™, in 2016. Our machine weighs only 60 kg, which means people can pick it up and take it around. It’s something that fits on the person’s desk. It’s large enough to produce industrial parts but not a big machine that takes up a lot of space.
One very important aspect of 3D printing technology is emissions. Most extrusion-based 3D printers emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles (UFPs), which are hazardous for health.
People didn’t know much about this till recently. Georgia Tech, a leading engineering school in the US, published a very detailed paper on how 3D printers emit as many as 200 different types of VOCs.
We consciously looked at how to select the materials with a zero VOC characteristic. As a result, our machines have zero emissions, so you don’t need to worry about ventilation. They’re totally safe for usage, for food and skin contact.
These requirements became an essential part of our desktop story. When we entered desktop 3D printing, we didn’t want to keep anything which could hurt a person in any fashion, whether by emissions or any other contaminants.
To enter the industrial space, our 3D printers also had to produce parts which were strong enough to be used in end-use applications. So that’s where the industrial side of our solution came about.
What does RIZE’s future product roadmap look like? Are you looking to continue developing desktop 3D printers?
Currently, we have two 3D printers in our portfolio. One is a monochrome machine and the second one, XRIZE™, is a full-colour machine.
We will continue to look at putting new materials on the machine. When we started, we had one material, called RIZIUM™ ONE, and two inks, release and marking. Then we brought in a black material called RIZIUM™ Black.
Our next material coming this year is called RIZIUM™ Carbon. It’s a strong carbon composite material for high-strength applications. It’s even used to replace metal parts in industries like aerospace and automotive.
Furthermore, we intend to bring out another material sometime this year called RIZIUM™ ENDURA.
And of course, we’re bringing in multiple CMYK colours. So we will continue to expand the portfolio of materials.
Our idea is to make a 3D printer like a platform, in a similar way to a smartphone that allows you to add as many apps as you like. We want people to simply be able to put materials on our current platform.
RIZE passed a Series B funding round earlier this year. What does this mean for the company going forward?
It’s great news for us. We raised a substantial amount of funding — more than we had planned, in fact.
We had four great investors join us, each bringing something unique to the table. The round was led by Innospark Ventures, a very well-known Boston-based venture capital fund, promoted by people who are experts in artificial intelligence.
They invested in RIZE because they recognised the unique nature of our technology, which can create intelligent parts by 3D printing QR codes inside a part. We also have the ability to put in conductive inks which means that we can put in electrical circuitry inside a part.
We had another investor called Sparta Group LLC. Sparta Group is led by Desh Deshpande, who runs the Deshpande Center of Innovation at MIT.
The third investor was Converge, which is an all women’s fund. Manufacturing has traditionally been a masculine profession, but we believe that 3D printing can be a gender-neutral technology. So that’s yet another our message on inclusiveness.
Finally, we were supported by Longworth Venture Partners, which is our existing investor, and Dassault Systèmes.
Each of these investors is bringing not just money, but a lot of value that will help us grow our company. The adoption rates are good so we are poised for good growth. But there’s a lot of work ahead.
RIZE has also recently partnered with Dassault Systèmes. What do you hope to achieve from the partnership?
This is a very unique and deep partnership. I think it’s the first of a kind both for us and Dassault Systèmes.
Dassault Systèmes has invested in RIZE as a part of our Series B investment. We raised $15 million and Dassault Systèmes became one of the four investors that invested in the company.
We’re also working with their SOLIDWORKS brand and will offer a SOLIDWORKS license along with our 3D printer. Through this partnership, we want to promote the idea of 3D printing as a part of the design experience. This is a solution package that we launched at SOLIDWORKS World in February.
We’re also working with their other brands, like CATIA, as well as with the 3DEXPERIENCE® marketplace, which connects different users with AM service providers.
So we’re really working with Dassault Systèmes on a broad range of solutions.
What’s next for RIZE in 2019?
All I can say is watch this space.
At AMUG last year, we introduced the concept of a digitally augmented part that no one in the industry had seen before. At Formnext, we introduced the full-colour machine. At SOLIDWORKS World, we talked about how to increase the value by packaging in a fully safe unified user experience with Dassault.
So we’ll continue to introduce new technologies. Currently, we’re making our machine completely IoT ready. The first IoT ready platform will be introduced later this year. Furthermore, we’ll introduce a whole slew of new materials.
The 3D printing industry has a history of being over promised and we want to avoid that. Hence, we’re introducing things that we’ve been talking about. We don’t try to create too much hype in the market and then figure out that we’re not able to live up to it.
So you’ll see a lot of innovation with our technology going forward.
To learn more about RIZE, visit: http://www.rize3d.com