Though 3D Printing is a reality today, large format 3d printing poses practical challenges for industries in terms of design and engineering.
Bharath Lavu, our next pathbreaker, works as Applications Engineer at Massivit 3D Printing Technologies Ltd (Atlanta, US), a company that is transforming manufacturing of large parts by leveraging its proprietary technology.
Bharath talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his first experience with 3D printing at Michigan Technological University where he worked on a project to build a machine to 3D print in large format using waste plastic.
For students, Additive Manufacturing technologies are redefining our future by reducing lead time for production of parts, imparting freedom for design, and promoting distributed manufacturing, while reducing overall carbon footprint !
Bharath, tell us what were your initial years like?
I am Bharath, an Applications Engineer for a large format 3D printer OEM company. I am originally from Hyderabad where I grew up for most of my life. I have had an immense love for cars and machines since my childhood. I used to break a lot of stuff when I was a child though none of it was intentional. It was just that I always wondered what’s going on with that specific object and how it functions. I still remember one thing my parents always said when I was growing up – everything I use should be made from steel, else I would break it. My dad was a SAP analyst and mom was a homemaker. I never believed in getting good grades, and ended up doing a software job just like many other people of my generation (no offense to anyone here, It’s just my opinion and what I followed to lead my life) because I think studying hard before an exam and getting good grades is not real education. Real education is when an individual gains hands-on practical experience through projects or any other real-life applications. Unfortunately, by doing this, you don’t get good grades because most schools and colleges just want you to sit in class, take notes and repeat them during an exam to get good grades. (Again, no offense to anyone here, this is just my experience)
What did you do for graduation/ post-graduation?
I got my undergraduate degree in Automobile Engineering from VNR VJIET, Hyderabad (India), and my Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Michigan Technological University, USA.
What were some of the influences that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
While pursuing my undergraduate studies back in India, I worked on a huge project during my final year of college. I and my group of friends who were a part of this project are extremely proud of what we achieved. We built an 8 seater electric van which was based on commercial passenger autos in India. We worked hard day and night, got our hands dirty, did intense research work on EVs and their future in transportation. None of our team members were top scorers or top rankers, we were just a bunch of people who had passion for what we were doing, and always worked hard and believed that practical education and experience is real education. We never felt we were working too hard because we loved what we did. This is when I realized Electric Vehicles are the future, and the key to successful commercialization of EVs is the battery pack in them. I decided to pursue Materials Science and do research on Battery materials and electrochemistry. I came to the US to pursue my masters degree from Michigan Tech. I started looking for a good research team and related projects. I did a little research, but wasn’t able to find a solid research project. At that time, I met a professor doing research on 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing, Open-Source hardware development and plastics recycling. I liked the work done at his lab and was really impressed by the lab’s goals and activities. They were all working on different projects with the sole objective of doing something good for the environment. I made it to that lab and worked on a project where I had to build a machine to 3D print in large format using waste plastic. By the time I completed and graduated with my Masters degree, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in this industry.
A 3D printer is a machine used to make objects/models by laying material in layers along X, Y and Z axes and curing the material after laying it. A typical/traditional 3D printer works based on the principle of heating plastic in an extruder and cooling it after it is extruded while moving the extruder in X, Y and Z axes. This is one of the initial technologies of 3D printing known as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) which has been in existence for over 30 years now and is the most common desktop 3D printer. When there is a requirement for large parts, these printers cannot handle them. That is when we need a large format 3D printer with which you can build life size parts. There are many companies out in the market that build machines which can print in large format, but most of them are scaled up versions of a desktop FDM printer, which results in the process being really slow, and there are also a few issues with the parts that are printed. To handle the need for printing large parts, there is a need for a technology and machine that is specifically made for large format printing and that is what Massivit 3D does. You can read more on this at http://www.massivit3d.com
Tell us about your career path after college
I did my first internship while I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree. It was on mold manufacturing for Aluminum Die casting of automotive parts. When I was doing this, I developed more interest in pursuing an industry career in core engineering rather than an IT/Software job.
As mentioned previously, after completing my education, I knew I should pursue a career in the AM (Additive Manufacturing) industry and started looking out for jobs with many AM OEM companies. I finally landed in one after many interviews with many companies.
How did you get your first break?
I don’t know how to say it, but I got my first break because each and every project I worked on during my academics was a big thing to me and after working on every project, I discovered something new and useful. Or I could also say getting my first job in industry was my first break.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenges I mainly faced are common to many international students in the USA (culture difference, visa, getting a first job etc.). I never lost hope, always had a passion for what I did and waited until I got a good opportunity to prove myself.
Where do you work now?
I currently work for Massivit3D as an Applications Engineer. Knowledge on AM processes, hardware, experience with 3D printing, CAD, materials etc. is something that helped me get this job. I acquired these skills through various projects I did during my undergrad and grad studies. One thing I love about my job is I always have something new to work on.
How does your work benefit society?
Implementing Additive Manufacturing on a production floor or any company’s workflow reduces lead time for production of parts, imparts freedom for design, promotes distributed manufacturing, reduces carbon footprint etc. I work directly on implementing this in various industries.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
One memorable work that is really close to me is 3D Printing PPE during Covid-19 Pandemic. During the initial days of the pandemic, the global supply chain broke down and there was a scarcity of PPE everywhere. I along with my professor and my university’s 3D printing facility at the library printed thousands of face shields and provided them to first responders of our community.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Follow your dreams, have passion in what you do, explore what you really want to do and believe in yourself.
To have my own company in the AM industry.