While at IMTS 2012 in Chicago last month, I had the great opportunity to stop by the ExOne booth. ExOne has been a premier name in additive manufacturing since 2005, when it was spun off from Extrude Hone Corp., a supplier and developer of nontraditional machining processes. ExOne displayed some very interesting 3-D printed parts in its booth, from aerospace engine components to artistic designs. I had to meet their designer.
Tom Pasterik appeared, two years out of school and already actively working on rapid prototyping and final production pieces for ExOne customers. Tom’s story is an interesting one, especially as we look forward to Manufacturing Day on Oct. 5 and the big question manufacturers have to face in the coming years: How can we get students interested in manufacturing careers?
After Tom graduated high school, he headed for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with an abundance of creativity. He was “always drawing, designing things, trying to think outside the box” and felt a career in transportation design might suit him. He stuck to this plan for a few years but then was introduced to something new and very different.
“The first few years I was designing for traditional manufacturing,” Tom says. “It wasn’t until the last year of my schooling that I started using and understanding the capabilities of a 3-D printer… I was introduced to additive manufacturing in a fabrication class where we were trained on traditional machines and processes. Toward the end of the quarter we were briefly introduced to 3-D printing.”
The reason Tom took to 3-D printing late in his degree program was that the professors discouraged its widespread use. “No professors were big on it. They wanted us to use it to a limited degree in creating projects,” Tom recalls. “They wanted you to create a product, design it from the ground up, figure out how to prototype it with 3-D printing, then move on to traditional manufacturing processes.”
But Tom was immediately attracted to the possibilities of 3-D printing. The new process eliminated many of the limitations in traditional part design and production and allowed him to be more creative, all while freeing up a lot of his time to focus on other design issues and schoolwork. Tom liked the technology so much that by his senior year in college, “all my projects were 3-D printed.”
After earning his degree in industrial design, Tom landed a job at ExOne in Irwin, Pa., right away, where he works with customers to design parts often in ways they had not anticipated.
“Customers that do not have a background in a CAD program and/or knowledge of our process will work with me to create their ideas,” Tom says. “I could start a project from blueprints, the part that will be replaced or a napkin sketch. I work with our engineers to produce our new 3-D printing machines, as well… Every day is different, and it’s a great mix for a creative person like me.”
In his young career, Tom already has a great appreciation for 3-D printing, with the creative freedom it provides him and the way it is affecting lives on a day-to-day basis.
“I like knowing that the projects that I create have only a few limitations,” he says. “I can now design freely and have these printed parts on my desk in a week or two. Something that would be traditionally designed may take several weeks or months depending on the project. I especially enjoy working on technical parts for anything that will be used mechanically or that people will use on a daily basis.”
Tom is looking to spread his love of 3-D printing to a new generation of students. Working with ExOne and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he has created an 11-week course on 3-D printing at his alma mater. He says the students were immediately interested in 3-D printing design and production for many of the same reasons he had. “The kids wanted to come in and see their parts printed, and they were constantly asking questions.” To further encourage his students, Tom posed to them a challenge: The top three performing students would get their final projects printed for their portfolios. That kind of incentive pushed the students to think and work harder in the classroom.
Looking forward to the future, Tom wants to continue teaching at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh but hopes to expand his educational efforts to other schools. It is something he says ExOne owner Kent Rockwell encourages. But he also confirms that he couldn’t leave the machine shop for teaching full time, as working on actual products that go out into the world is too much fun.
Says Tom: “This is a completely new way to design and engineer parts. Set aside all of the traditional ideas and processes and start designing for the future! The possibilities are practically endless when it comes to 3-D printing.”