Insights from an Additive Veteran: 5 Questions with an Expert

5 Questions with an Expert title card with Stephanie Barberree photo.As one of the trendiest sectors of manufacturing, 3D printing has made some major strides over the last couple of decades, especially when it comes to enabling Industry 4.0. However, a fully digitized additive workflow cannot be achieved without one key component – an automated post-printing solution. To gain some perspective on the past, present, and future of additive, as well as the value of automated post-printing, we sat down with our West Coast Territory Business Development Manager Stephanie Barberree, who has been in the additive industry virtually her entire career.

You’ve worked across a variety of different realms within the additive manufacturing industry. Could you tell us a little bit about your background in additive, and touch on the biggest ways you’ve seen the industry develop over the years?

I began my career in additive manufacturing at a service bureau based in Southern California and stayed there for a number of years. Eventually, I followed one of my coworkers who left the company to begin his own service bureau, where I worked even after it was sold to a large print manufacturer. Once that acquisition happened, I leapt to printer sales before eventually joining the PostProcess team. I came into this company with experience in parts and in selling printers themselves, and now I’m on the post-processing side of things.

As an additive manufacturing veteran who is now an employee of PostProcess Technologies, we can assume you saw clear value in automating post-printing. Can you speak to this a bit more?

When I was at a service bureau, I’d witness technicians spending hours upon hours cleaning parts, such as with SLA (Stereolithography). It was very messy, very time consuming and extremely expensive for the company since we were shipping parts out on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any alternatives available back then like what PostProcess offers today.

On the other hand, when I was selling printers, I saw so many of my customers struggle with post-process bottlenecks – one of the main issues that PostProcess works to alleviate. These bottlenecks could really negatively impact engineers’ workflows and general productivity. No matter how fast they moved, it seemed that parts would just pile up waiting to be cleaned. Breakage was also a big issue, as every broken part requires the printing cycle to be restarted once again. Since PostProcess’s technology is designed specifically for additive parts and offers intuitive software settings, they add a lot of value when it comes to breakage mitigation.

Can you give me an example of a situation in which you saw software-based post-printing solutions really revolutionized or dramatically improved an additive workflow?

Service bureaus are probably the place where I’ve seen our solutions make the most tremendous impact. By freeing up manual labor and thereby allowing technicians to spend time on more valuable tasks, our support removal and surface finishing solutions effectively help to streamline and automate workflows.

I’d say that another major benefit to our solutions is that they are able to work with a variety of materials, making them ideal for large labs that utilize 5 or 6 different types of additive solutions. Generally, our automated post-printing technology enables service bureaus and manufacturers alike to boost throughput and significantly reduce lead times.

In what areas do you see additive manufacturing making the most impact over the next 10-20 years? How does post-printing play a role?

As the benefits of additive manufacturing become increasingly clear, I’ve noticed a movement away from traditional subtractive manufacturing, and a larger push towards additive.

The field where I’m seeing additive make the most significant impact would have to be medical. By utilizing additive, medical companies don’t have to deal with the frustrating lead times (often 8-10 weeks’ worth) that come along with thermoforming or injection molding. Additive, when equipped with automated post-processing, simply allows products to get to market so much faster than any traditional manufacturing technologies. Speed and quick implementation of product improvement is everything when you’re dealing with the medical industry, and at the end of the day, saving lives. The improved production speed that automated post-printing enables is essential here.

Taking all of your experience into account, what advice do you have for a company just starting out in additive?

My number one piece of advice is simply to do your homework. There are so many different types of products on the market, and you need to ensure that you choose the one that will fit best into your workflow. Don’t rely on what someone else tells you – sample an array of different technologies and materials. Also, set clear expectations upfront on what you expect your 3D printer to do in order to avoid surprises.


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