Q&A with DiveDesign on DfAM vs DfaM
Empowering people, pets and 3D printers with DfAM services.
The guys at DiveDesign first came to my attention when images of dogs with 3D printed prosthetics started hitting my Linkedin feed tagging the software company I was working for at the time.
Realizing this was both a rare, heart warming application of our software and marketing gold, I reached out to the founders and we soon worked with our PR team to get a feature in Wired for their pet prosthetics.
Turns out the team at DiveDesign knew exactly what they were doing, both in solving a real problem for animals who are otherwise fit with very expensive, or very ill-fitting (sometimes both) prosthetics, or forced to walk without assistance putting further stress on their bodies.
They also understood how marketing works, by telling a story with a compelling narrative and visuals to draw people in, to explain in an honest and open manner, the value of AM and design for AM.
Following is a Q&A on how they got started, how their business works, and the difference between DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) and dfaM (Design for additive Marketing).
What led you to form DiveDesign, who are the team members and what is their background.
My partner Alex Tholl and I (Adam Hecht) started DiveDesign in college, where we were both taking on more freelance industrial design work than we could handle.
We were helping local startups design products ranging from 3D printed casts to wilderness survival tools, all the while hiring our friends and working from our dorms. Today our team consists of our Industrial Designer Vince, 3D Print Shop Guru Eugene, and Intern Josh.
What are some of your favorite projects you can talk about?
My favorite projects are always at the intersection of additive manufacturing and a time sensitive opportunity, or need.
For example, in order to help animal prosthetics clinics keep up with demand and offer a new kind of device that previously was too challenging to make, we developed an approach to creating custom 3D printed prosthetics for dogs, now under our new brand 3DPets.
It’s a classic story of using 3d printing to make something that previously wasn’t possible, very possible and scalable.
Another favorite project has to be the work we are doing with Braskem, a company who’s led the industry in polymers for decades, and only recently moved into 3D printing materials.
We worked with them to identify opportunities for their unique materials, put them to the test, all the while documenting the process to tell stories that would inspire others to explore what’s possible today with additive as well.
How does your design consultancy work, can you walk us through a ‘typical’ consulting process, and what is your business model?
DiveDesign consists of two pillars.
1. Helping businesses integrate and leverage the benefits of additive manufacturing “DFAM Design for Additive Manufacturing”, and.
2. Helping additive manufacturing businesses reach new audiences. We like to call this, “turning 3D printing jargon into marketing gold!”
Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing across industries.
We believe this takes helping businesses identify and design for the right additive manufacturing technology for THEIR needs, without the bias of the technology manufacturer.
And on the other hand, helping the additive technology manufacturers tell clearer and more compelling stories, that highlights their value proposition without all the fluff.
Given your company is known for design for additive manufacturing, (and pet prosthetics) how do your clients know that an AM design is the answer to their engineering requirements?
As a design studio that used to focus on developing products primarily with conventional production technologies in mind, we’re able to help our clients assess the pros and cons of numerous approaches even outside of AM from the very beginning, before committing to one production technology.
There are times we won’t even suggest AM if it simply is not the answer for their problem. But, when it is, it’s because it offers a benefit that meets a high enough priority for the particular client.
Once you identify a problem how do you determine which material and additive manufacturing process to design for, including which software tools?
Because AM technologies are advancing so quickly, we like to begin every new project with a clean slate. This prevents settling with what you already know, when there may be a far better, new solution.
After identifying the key design constraints, we look into all of the latest AM technologies and boil down to the best technology approach or combination of approaches for our client.
This process also includes a lot of ideation and prototyping, as we explore what their solution could look like tailored to the intricacies of each AM technology.
Once you have a design/solution that meets the engineering requirements, how do you also ensure the solution meets the business case?
Ensuring that the solution meets the business case is baked into the process from the very first phase.
Every concept that we present, is at the intersection of viable from a production standpoint, user standpoint, and business standpoint, to ensure that we mitigate the need for backtracking later on in development.
Who are the key stakeholders that must be aligned to approve a design to move to manufacture?
Depending on the size of the business, there can be many stakeholders who influence a design before it moves to production.
Because of this, we work in phases to visualize the design and findings at numerous levels of fidelity, to ensure alignment through to the very end. In the early phases, we present many approaches and lay out the pros and cons of each, in order to bring all stakeholders into the discussion. This way, key insight is factored in from various viewpoints, and towards the later phases of development, there are far less surprises!
Once a project is complete and a component is in production, what are typical next steps with the client?
Once production is running for a client, we either begin to address their next need (which is very common as much is uncovered throughout the process) or, if they are open to it, we help them to build a marketing case study with the AM company who’s technology they integrated.
AM companies appreciate this as it can be hard to find businesses willing to show how they are using the tech, and the business using the tech appreciate the exposure!
What are some common themes you are seeing emerging from clients, what is driving adoption of additive manufacturing and the realization that design is key to success.
A common theme we see is prior bias to additive manufacturing technologies.
For example, a non AM business may be very hesitant to explore AM due to prior technologies having not worked for them, or being oversold on something that didn’t actually meet their needs.
What is working however, is marketing that transparently shows an application and provides education, rather than hype, and offering a low risk starting point to help a company explore AM for their needs. This combined with design support, is lowering the barrier to entry for more businesses.
Do you also train a client’s employees on DfAM principles as you go through the process, such as feasibility studies, part/feature/performance consolidation, manufacturing constraints?
Every client is different, but there have been cases where we’ve trained teams to rethink how they approach solving problems with access to AM, especially if they’ve brought the technology in-house.
What are common misunderstandings clients have of DfAM and additive manufacturing in general on initial engagement?
Because of misleading marketing, we see a lot of clients believe that anything is possible with AM, yet nothing at the same time. “Can’t you just print it” is interchanged with “you could never print that” just as often.
In this event, we remind our clients that there is no one size fits all solution in AM, and they have to find the right “tool” for their job.
So you need to help them understand the difference between DfaM (Design for Additive Marketing) and DfAM (design for Additive Manufacturing)?
Yes, unfortunately what is marketed, isn’t always reality, or it's a very small part of it.
It’s easy to show a flawless looking part on video, but what isn’t shown might be the countless hours of post processing that nullifies a fast print speed.
With a process similar to product development, we help companies navigate the options and identify what is truly the best combination of a design and a technology for their production needs.
What are some issues you see arise that block the adoption of additive manufacturing as a solution.
A very common challenge we see block the adoption of AM is cost.
There are many applications that could benefit from AM, but the cost prohibits it. Right now, the best applications are for lower volume, higher value parts, but like any technology, it would come down in price, opening the door to even more applications.
The design tools, additive manufacturing materials and processes are evolving relatively quickly, how do you stay up to date with the latest offerings?
We stay up to date with the latest AM offering by researching the latest at the start of any new project, attending trade shows, and through building relationships with AM companies, where we even help to design machines and test materials.
We are also in tune with many of the companies that have technologies or are soon launching it.
What do you think a designer or engineer needs to understand DfAM potential and constraints?
Understanding constraints for AM is no different than learning the constraints for something like CNC machining. It takes educating yourself, but also experimenting to learn the boundaries in many cases.
There are ways to get started at home on entry level machines, or, you can submit parts to companies with top of the line AM machines who will run the parts for you at a fraction of the cost of owning the machine.
Going through the process of getting parts, even for a personal project, is a great way to begin learning about the different technologies and how to design for them.
How can companies enable their staff to better understand when and how to adopt additive manufacturing?
Easy, go to a trade show! This is the best place to fully immerse yourself in what’s possible with AM, with tons of experts to answer any possible question.
This is also why we work with AM companies to design more engaging assets for their trade show booths!
We want to help inspire the new generation of designers and engineers, because they’re the ones who will change their industries.
Finally, what most excites you about designing for additive manufacturing and what are you looking forward to in the future.
What most excites me is the intersection of making something previously impossible, possible with AM, and sharing the story to inspire others to achieve the same in their own regard.
I want to see an AM industry where we lift each other up, inspire others, and ultimately all collectively help to advance the technology for a better future.
I would like to thank both Adam and Alex for taking the time and endless enthusiasm. To explain more about their business and their approach to consulting to both end users and the companies providing additive manufacturing machines, materials and services.
Be sure to reach out to them if you have a project that could use their help on either. side of the equation.
Also be sure to follow their DiveDesign and 3D.pets instagram and TikTok for all the warm AM inspiration you need.
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