Tom: [00:00:00] It is a gray kind of miserable day here in Oregon today. And, uh, so I’m hoping we’ve got a really good topic to sort of brighten our mood. What is it?
Camille: [00:00:11] I was thinking after our last conversation, uh, when we were kind of walking through the product A to Z, basically from a security lens, I was thinking, well, what kind of a company are we in? We’re in a manufacturing company. And I started thinking about how interesting manufacturing is and how we take, you know, we take sand and then it becomes like a server chip that’s now processing Artificial Intelligence and it’s very perplexing to me and very impressive. Um, and so I’ve started kind of just Googling some stuff on manufacturing and here’s the thing that just really outdid Silicon manufacturing.
People are now printing food.
Tom: [00:00:55] That’s crazy. That’s like Star Trek stuff there.
Camille: [00:00:58] Right? I mean, I remember watching the Jetsons as a kid and they would like push a button and food would come out, but this is actually happening. Now people are using 3D printing to extrude, various things like proteins or vegetable substances and actually printing food. And that made me think how important security is going to be in 3D printing.
Tom: [00:01:23] Hmm. Yeah, I guess, you know, when I think of 3D printing, what I’m thinking of are those like printing up little cheap bobbleheads or something like that. Just plastic, really super inexpensive cheap stuff. You’re right. The printing now has evolved well beyond that. There’s the food element of it, but there’s also just printing really sophisticated things that can’t be made any other way. Metals with various resins and plastics or biological material too.
So that’s pretty interesting. And then thinking about it from the security angle, which is obviously the point of why we’re here, uh, how do you protect that? How are you sure that what you are making is safe and, and it hasn’t been tampered with in some way.
Camille: [00:02:20] Yeah. And in a lot of these 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes, a lot of them involve multiple people. Each of whom has their own IP and who may live in completely different parts of the world, transferring IP around to get things done. To even 3D printers that are remote themselves. You know, it’s not just the security of the facility, um, when it comes to manufacturing in a 3D printing or additive sense, it’s the security of the files that are coming in. Um, so it’s very interesting. I think very in depth,
Tom: [00:02:57] I think this is going to be a great topic. We’ve got a whole lot of really interesting aspects. One is obviously just the nature of 3D printing, which I find fascinating anyway. I think this is it. Let’s, let’s go with this topic today.
Camille: [00:03:11] I think this is going to blue sky the gray day.
Tom: [00:03:14] That’d be great. All right. We need it.
Tom: Our guest today is Tim Simpson. Tim is a Paul Moreau professor of Engineering Design and Manufacturing and Pennsylvania State University. He specializes in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. He contributes to Modern Machine Shop in a monthly publication and as a technical advisor for Exact Metal focused on development of low cost, high caliber manufacturing.
So Tim, welcome to the podcast today.
Tim: Great to be here. Thank you.
Tom: So Tim, I thought it would be good to maybe start off with just a little bit about your background and what kind of interesting things are you working on?
Tim: [00:03:57] Sure. My background and training is going to mechanical engineering, uh, a lot of product design development, sort of research and the courses that I teach. And the big push now, uh, that we’re here to talk about today is on Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing. If you might be more familiar with that. And so the goal with additive is that you are adding material sort of layer by layer versus subtracting in a way like from machining or casting for instance, where you’re pouring all the material into a mode. So it’s a new, new manufacturing technology that’s really changing what we design and how we design in fact.
Tom: [00:04:33] Yeah, and before we get to the security angle, I thought it would be good to– when we met earlier, you, we talked a little bit about the types of devices. So when I have thought about 3D printing, as an example, just to use that a more broad term. I think that these sort of cheap little bobble heads that you can print or whatever; it’s kind of throw away stuff, but it’s quick and it’s, it’s kinda cool that you can build up that way, but you’re talking about additive manufacturing, these are not cheap throw away parts. So can you just describe them a little bit more of the caliber of what it is you can build now with these techniques?
Tim: [00:05:10] I think that’s sort of the shift from what has historically been sort of 3D printing to this notion of additive manufacturing is you are using an additive process to make a real part. And so it could be a, you know, a, a bracket that holds a component on an, on an airplane. It could be hip implants, or a knee implant or something like that. This is not, not a cheap plastic part that you want to break heaven forbid, uh, while it’s, you know, uh, keeping you safe or helping you walk, for instance.
Tom: [00:05:43] Right. And not necessarily plastic either right? Some of the stuff you showed me was like literally holding the helicopter blades together.
Tim: [00:05:48] Yeah. So I, I love, I love the example here. If you can see that this is the, uh, the, the link-in fittings. So this is made out of titanium. It’s printed and then machine down, just meet their specifications. And then this is the first flight critical item that the Navy flew on one of their helicopters. So we, our lab was fortunate to work with them to figure out what what’s the process? How do we know it’s strong enough? What’s the best orientation to build it? all those sorts of things, uh, before they went, you know, stuck it on a chopper. But when they did it, instrumented it up, then. You know, it was as strong as and durable as sort of traditionally made part.
Camille: What is that? It looks like a wrench?
Tim: It does, right? It is a, it’s a link that holds it helps hold the, uh, the engines on a helicopter. And so you get up, you got a big bolt on one side and the other, and this is literally, you know, pull it apart as it’s, as it’s vibrating and flying and, uh, and those sorts of things. So.
Tom: [00:06:47] Yeah, this is, this is, this is real stuff. Uh, the listeners can’t see it, but there’s a big chunk of metal that is certainly, there is no joke now. And I think that again, before we get to the security angle, I think it’s important just to sort of background that the move towards this type of manufacturing, it solves a bunch of other challenges, right? Not security related challenges, but challenges like having to store apart or having the rights widget that you need instead of having to do that, as long as you have the specifications, you can just print one and you know, you’ve got it within a matter of, uh, you know, hours, minutes, or days, however long it takes to build.
Tim: [00:07:33] Absolutely. So yeah, now if you have that ability to print apart, when you need it, then spares, replacement parts–actually you can use additive to repair parts, there’s another way of doing it. But even think about, um, Jay Leno, when he’s doing his, uh, repairing the old cars, their old legacy cars, or even, you know, some of the airplanes and military equipment, right that was designed 30, 40, 50 years ago, the company that made that bolt widget may not exist anymore. And so you could take that part and, uh, and, you know, scan it or recreate it and then, uh, manufacturer with additives. So you do it often a lot quicker, uh, than in some situations.
So we’ve seen companies we’ve worked with that they used additive to more quickly iterate on designs by being able to print a functional part, Piston crown, for instance, Hey, we’ve got this new design. It’s going to take me months to get it versus with additive, I could do it in days. I’ve seen other companies instead of a, I think it was Siemens with some of their gas turbines. Instead of two years, they were iterating every two months because of additives. So significant time savings there, as part of that.
Tom: [00:08:46] Interesting. And, and I mean, even, even things just like, uh, even if the part does exist somewhere in the world, you don’t have to ship it around the world and wait for days or whatever you can just kind of build one.
Tim: [00:08:56] And that’s, you know, and, and the discussion we’re going to have it been security, I think part of additive is create some new security challenges that we’re not used to in manufacturing. So now, as you were saying, if I could print anywhere in the world that has this 3D printer all I need to do is send them a file and boom, they can hit go, right? I mean, it’s not that simple, but in theory, that’s what we can do now. I don’t have to ship my tooling or my mode around the world. And all I need to do is ship a file. And so that frees you up. And so we do a lot of work with the Navy. If you’re stuck on an aircraft carrier at sea, right. Man do I need, how do I get the parts out there? Could I print a replacement part and do it if I had material and the right systems around?
So it creates all sorts of new opportunities. I think the other, the other big one there, and that you see a lot is, is customization and personalization. So I don’t know if anybody’s used the Invisalign, uh, bracers and denture. Those are all, they’re not dentures (laughs). The Invisalign braces, those are all those molds are all custom 3D printed, uh, and that whole set of them. So they use 3D printing to create the tooling, to then create the insert that you put in your mouth this week and update next week in the next.
In the ear, hearing AIDS are all now custom and 3D printed based on your ear canal and, uh, level of hearing loss and those sorts of things. So it’s creating, you know, I think that’s the real killer app for additive is just being able to print exactly what we need sort of when and where we need it, right?
Tom: [00:10:30] Yeah. So let’s, let’s try to jump now into, now that we have the background of this additive and 3D printing, into security. And I wonder if you could speak just generically about now that we have this capability, what are the new sort of emerging security concerns or threats in this new world?
Tim: [00:10:50] Absolutely. So I think additive is the first of a wave of sort of digital manufacturing technologies and that’s everything from the part that we’re designing to the tooling that we’re using, to the process plan post-processing and inspection. Now everything is, is digital. We talk about the digital thread or this digital twin of the part, of the process creates all sorts of new challenges. And how do you make sure all of those steps are secure? Right. So how would, you know, if somebody hacked your file or your, your, your part file, how would you know if you were transmitting. No instructions, uh, to, uh, to another distribution center around the world to make your part, how would you know if those got hacked?
Uh, it’s challenging. I think it’s quite an open issue. In fact, that we’ve seen some studies with just sort of these, you know, sort of the consumer desktop 3D printers. Uh, I’ve seen and read some studies of taking, you could take a cell phone and just record the motors, sort of worrying and whizzing around. And from that, you know, recreate what it printed with about 80 to 90% accuracy. So now talk about espionage and counterfeiting of, of a part. I could just be sitting there holding my phone next to a printer, getting the beeps and boops and whirs and turn around and do that.
Like (12:09) in our lab, for instance, we actually, our machines are not on the network. You go, you’re transferring on a file, but then when the machines running, you cannot get to it or access it. Right. But take a machine shop or a job shop, if they’re plugging in a 3D printer now to connect to the internet, now you’ve got a new entry point for cyber attacks and hackers.
Think about a wasn’t it a refrigerator that helped bring down the, the network at Target, right. That then led to all the credit card things? Who thought plugging a refrigerator could lead to a cyber attack?
Camille: [00:12:40] You’re talking about interfering with the printer itself once it’s in the middle of, of the print job. But I mean, prior to that, you, you may have a series of different inputs–the thermal analysis and the initial design, and then the different materials that are being- So if you’re, if you’re manufacturing in this distributed way that you’re now allowed to do. And it’s not all locked down in a giant factory with a giant brand name, there’s files coming together from all over the place.
Tim: [00:13:13] Yeah. And you’re starting to see folks talking about, okay, well, how do we use blockchain technology for instance, to help secure the various files or the different steps in the process. And we’ve been working with some companies on how do we embed tags, uh, in the files or in the parts themselves that then get, read and authenticated to say, yes, this is a, you know, a, a genuine Intel part that’s being printed or a file that’s being printed, you know, that sort of thing.
Tom: [00:13:43] So I, you know, the interesting element from, from my perspective here is when I think about printing or just purely additive, I have this mental image of literally a printer, just kind of building up in my mind, plastic, but it could be metal or whatever, but the way you, you, you described it to me earlier and educated me was it’s actually a combination of, of doing just that, you sort of build up layers. But then you also have lasers that are heating the material up to a very, very specific temperature.
All of these angles, you have kind of two basic threats. One is somebody could steal my recipe. You know, it’s like my, my grandmother’s cookie recipe, right, that I’ve, I’ve defended for my generation. Somebody could steal that cookie recipe or the second thing they could do is when somebody else is making it, because you’re going to send this file to Lord knows where on the planet that somebody could actually change the recipe.
And I wouldn’t know, and my customers wouldn’t know. And so maybe they don’t heat up the metal to exactly the same level or whatever, and that causes quality concerns. So I guess my question to you is (15:00) Data security in general is not a, a new topic, but are there specific, you know, security approaches that we’re doing for additive in this industry? Is there something that’s more kind of unique, or does this fit more into data security in general?
Tim: [00:15:15] I think there are certainly elements of data security in general there, but I think people are now just realizing additive is sort of grown up sort of on its own Island, so to speak recognizing, “Hey, we’ve got all these issues” and we’re just now at the point of looking around and saying, “Hey, What do I, what can I learn from the data security experts from the cyber security experts?
How do I use blockchain to do this? How do I secure and encrypt my files. How do I, uh, you know, do that for my part? How do I do it for my process and how do I do it for all the data that’s coming off of that that I want to use for quality control or eventually certification qualification–if I’ve got a medical device or a, or an aerospace component.
Camille: [00:16:01] I think it’s interesting, this point kind of, that you brought up Tom of, of this merger of manufacturing and data files. I’m also interested in how, as you were describing how these things are coming together and that you’re actually merging the product with the design and the materials kind of co-creating simultaneously. How is that affecting design in general?
Tim: [00:16:27] Uh, quite a bit. I mean, that’s what excites me most is, uh, you know, mechanical engineer and design guy, right? That’s sort of new, new parts shapes, things that we could do that we could not, you know, print. We could conceive of them before, but there was no way to make them, but now it’s additive, we can. And so I think, uh, you know, a great example, there was some of these processes. Now I can literally, as I’m building my part, because I can control material and design, I can literally put a different material at almost any point in that three-dimensional space in my car. Right.
So I have young kids that play Minecraft, right? So they’re building literally cities block by block. You know, I need some concrete here. I need some grass there. I need some additive allows us to do that. And so now I can, from a design perspective, I can, I can change the composition, I can change the material properties all within a single part or component that previously I couldn’t do, or it was too expensive or I had to assemble a bunch of different parts together.
Additive creates this whole new, it sort of expands your design space, right?–all of the design and material options that you have out there. And so it’s, it’s really exciting and sort of how it benefits, say a medical device or implant is different from, you know, an aerospace part, is different from somebody who’s, you know, in motor sports. Right? So it’s all about speed. So the lighter, my part, the faster I can accelerate my race car and shave, you know, yet another second off of each lap or something along those lines.
So the benefits vary remarkably, depending on, uh, you know, what you’re just trying to design and additives enabling that.
Camille: [00:18:12] So, how do you think this is going to change, or do you think it’s going to change manufacturing? I guess the, the I’m thinking of the assembly line going all the way back to our famous, um, Henry Ford example, uh, in America. Do you think that we’re now with this gonna ahead, away from that to batches of one customizable items, is everybody ultimately going to have in their garage, a 3D printer?
Tim: [00:18:38] (laughs) It could be. Yeah. And I think, you know, uh, you know, I don’t think, additive is going to replace mass production and sort of the lines that we’re used to out there; but it certainly is going to co-exist with that a lot, you know, much like casting and forging and sort of these other manufacturing technologies that were new, sort of found their niche and fit in there.
I think what additive is doing, though, from a mass production standpoint is now the usual mindset of economies of scale–we need to make hundreds of thousands. Now that decision point, you know, or that the break-even point can potentially shift a lot lower and say, “Oh, well, if we use additive now, you know, maybe I can make a business case on a thousand instead of 10,000 or a hundred thousand.”
So now I think it’s going to allow you to go after smaller markets after more customization, uh, you know, after niches that you have by the economics of it been forced to ignore or not pursue. But that’s where I think additive is going to have the biggest change here in the near future.
Tom: [00:19:46] Yeah, something that you said earlier to me, really struck a nerve, which was that additive manufacturing is much like “foundary-in-a-box.” And so when you think about something on a scale of, let’s say at Intel, right, at our company, of a manufacturing fab costs on the order of about $10 billion. So these are massive, massive, massive machines developed, wafer items. Um, but in order for us to do that manufacturing process for Silicon manufacturing, we ended up using lots of different kinds of chemicals, you know, and we need to track all that.
And so the, you know, the supply chain associated with manufacturing for us is something that, uh, we take extraordinarily seriously. And hearing you talk through this at a, you know, an economy-of-one or a scale of one. That same sort of secure mindset needs to exist in this world as well. Even though we’re building just one, but if you don’t know where the elements that went into build that thing, that widget, you’re not entirely safe. I think that’s what I’m taking away from this conversation.
Tim: [00:21:06] Absolutely. Right. As you. As you scale down production quantities, right? The data security needs and whatnot are, are not going to change. And to your point, how do we do this in a, a cost efficient, economical and environmentally friendly way, uh, to be able to, um, produce that at those numbers?
Camille: [00:21:28] I would say it’s even more important because when you get down to really individually customized files you’re designing something that’s very particular. So you held up the link, I think you called it a link for the helicopter, but you know, if you could even get into that system and understand what was being printed, you would know a lot more than I’m sure the Navy would want you to know.
And similarly, if you were printing something medical for a person it’s very, very personal. So. Uh, you know, no longer are you’re just understanding what the marketing department thinks people are going to buy, you’re understanding really personal information.
Tim: [00:22:08] about? Absolutely. Yeah. And I think to that point, I mean, you know, take a look at medical implants, right? You get a knee implant or a hip implant. They size you do your x-ray figure out what you need. And, but then still when they go into the operating room, you know, they’ve got four or five or six different sizes just in case, right. When they. When they opened you up or chisel it out or whatever they’re doing. I agree. That’s not what that anytime soon, but you now have companies that are saying, “Hey, let’s, you know, as we’re scanning and getting all of this data from all of these patients, how do we then start designing the implant so that it is easily customized. And you know, when we take that final x-ray and plan out the surgery, Oh, which by the way, is now going to be done with a robot instead of a human, because a robot can be more precise, how do we then, you know, customize it, is that in print, the specific implant that he or she needs, that’s going to last them for the next 20, 30 years of their life?” (23:15) It’s sort of this cascading effect of like, well, now that we can do this with manufacturing, what is that then? How does that trickle all the way down and impact what we design, how we design, how we install, how we implant.
You know how we interact with the customers, sort of what we offer. We tend to think about from a, from an engineering standpoint, you know, it’s materials and process, but all of that, now the data security issues, the ability to sort of get in there and, and hack any of that and modify any of that is just sort of stop and stop and step back and think about that.
And you’re like, Holy cow. There’s so many places this could go wrong now. Right. And how do I secure all of this?
I mean, the other, we were talking earlier and I think that the big thing was additive now is, is the data is, is the tooling. Companies, keep these things locked up so that nobody can steal the tooling because that’s, it costs tens of thousands of dollars and it makes millions and millions of products. All I need now is a file that tells my printer what the recipe is. You know, when I have this material and this alloy, boom, melted at this temperature for this long and voila you’ve got, you know, titanium part. All I have to do is get that file. And then I could theoretically print that anywhere. So
Camille: [00:24:24] I have a pressing question, that’s a little bit of a non-sequitur, but can we, can we print, um, biological material yet or print things at a molecular level?
Tim: [00:24:34] Uh, yes. Yes. So I have, I have a colleague who. Who specializes in kidneys and livers. I mean, they’re, they’re at that level where they’re, you know, they’re figuring out how to do specific cells and lattices and then, uh, you know, gels and grow cells and how do we trigger them and all that sort of stuff. It’s unbelievable.
And it’s been really interesting. There was, there was a noticeable shift in, uh, we, we, with our Hershey– College of Medicine down in Hershey, I’ve been talking to the additive folks there. And right now additive is big for like surgical training tools and those sorts of things. You know, you take a, take an x-ray of a patient and sort of print out the, the heart or the lung and sort of, you know, train on that before you go in and do the real thing. But now they’re saying it’s, it’s not an if, it’s a win in terms of when, you know, when will we just take us blood sample or a skin graph from a patient and then turn around and print his or her new kidney or gallbladder or whatever, and install that the next time we have surgery, it’s coming. (laughs)
Tom: [00:25:43] It sounds like science fiction, but that is really, really cool.
Tom: Before we let you get out of wheat, we have a segment on the podcast that we like to do around something that you’ve learned recently that you want to share. Do you think that listeners of the podcast would find interesting?
Tim: [00:26:03] Um, so for my, my, did you know, most of the time we’re talking about, um, large scale and how big can we 3D print things? Uh, on the flip side, we’re fortunate we have a, it’s called a “nano scribe” here. And so we’re literally printing at the nanometer scale. And so with that, we’ve actually from a security standpoint, we’ve actually printed custom dust. So I have a unique, 3D shape that I could print it, that scale that I can now have a specific dust particle if I so needed something. How about that?
Tom: [00:26:39] That’s awesome. My own personalized dust.
Tim: [00:26:42] Exactly.
Camille: [00:26:44] Take the most exciting technology and you make dust with it. Yeah.
Tim: [00:26:47] The funny story of that is because you’re, you’re literally the machine is. You’re printing literally on like a little microscope slide there. And when it’s said and done, you know, your liquid dries up and you get that off, but then note to self when you hand the slide to somebody with the parts on it, and they took the slide to look at it, there goes your dust!
Tom: You sound like you’re speaking from experience,
Tim: I’m just saying, I’m just saying that’s sponsor, you know, there’s, there’s a thousand dollars worth of custom dust somewhere in his carpet (laughs)
Tom: [00:27:24] That’s fantastic. So Camille, uh, what do you have for us today?
Camille: [00:27:28] Yeah, I don’t know that I can beat nano dust (Tim laughs)
Tom: [00:28:10] I am going to, uh, uh, build off a theme that I started a few podcasts ago, where I was talking about, uh, this fun fact about dogs and how they use one nostril at a time. And I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, I just find that so fascinating.
And as I was doing some more research, um, showing you how interested I was on this dog nose thing. Uh, I actually came across the fact that is not unique to dogs, and in fact, humans, when we breathe in and out of our nose during the day one nostril does most of the work at a time. And that duty switches every several hours. And it’s called a nasal cycle and it’s dictated by the same autonomic nervous system that regulates our heart rate digestion and other unconscious body activities. That’s one of the reasons by the way, when we get a stuffy nose it usually does so one nostril at a time, I guess that’s the nostril is doing the work at that time. So anyway, I just wanted to, uh, you know, deepen my understanding about the note.
Camille: That is fascinating!
Tim: [00:29:26] It is as I, as I’m thinking about my one stuffed nostril now.
Tom: [00:29:34] Who would have known, I thought it was like two holes that went to the same spot in your head. That’s not the case there actually.
Tim: [00:29:39] Well, Hey, we’ve uh, there, there have been people that have studied dog nostrils and have 3D printed versions to then use for detecting explosives and stuff. So a guy, a guy at Penn State with a team at NIS was looking into that. So, so dog nostrils have inspired 3D printed devices for, uh, you know, for detection of unwanted goods.
Tom: [00:30:03] That’s very cool. So, Tim, thanks again for joining us today. I know it was fascinating, you know, the topic that most people probably wouldn’t have thought was directly sort of security related, but you know, as we uncovered, there’s a whole lot of security relevant elements here. So thanks for joining us today.
Tim: [00:30:22] Nope. Great. Thanks for having me much.