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From Prototyping to Production - The Evolving World of Additive Manufacturing: A Conversation with Tech Soft 3D’s Director of Strategic Accounts, Kayla Schlensker

By Robert Beyer • 
March 13th, 2023

From Prototyping to Production - The Evolving World of Additive Manufacturing: A Conversation with Tech Soft 3D’s Director of Strategic Accounts, Kayla Schlensker 

Kayla Schlensker is one of our in-house experts when it comes to discussing additive manufacturing workflows and engineering SDKs. Throughout her career with Tech Soft 3D, she has worked with some of the industry’s most recognized names such as Desktop Metal, Xerox, GE Additive, and Xometry. Below we explore the ongoing growth and adoption of additive technologies and the innovation in software applications that have made it possible. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started working in the world of engineering SDKs? 

A: Prior to joining Tech Soft, I was working as a change management consultant for a technology project management organization, making sure that their processes aligned with the people side of changes. Knowing the software development life cycle really assisted me in my transition to Tech Soft 3D. I've been with Tech Soft for eight years this February. When I first started, I was working predominantly in sales and specifically with startup organizations. I found an industry that really spoke to me, and that was additive manufacturing, I spent most of my first, four to five years really honing in on that industry and understanding the workflows and how our development libraries worked best to solve the challenges that teams building additive software were facing.

Q: You’re considered a go-to expert within Tech Soft 3D when it comes to discussing SDKs for additive workflows. What originally drew you to this market? 

A: I think it was because of the widespread use cases for additive manufacturing. It's utilized in medical, dental, general manufacturing and fashion, but there are also many different materials that can be utilized as well.. It's cool that the industry is focused on getting younger generations involved and making it more accessible. 

This is something that my kids are already being introduced to and have a good understanding of. For example, they know what a MakerOS printer looks like, and they're able to use that software to code up or design something that they can then carry out once they're able to 3D print the actual part. So, I think it was just the widespread usage throughout different industries and the fact that we (Tech Soft 3D) hadn't had a ton of traction in additive at that point, that and the market was really starting to grow.

Q: The industry has seen a lot of change and growth over the last decade. What are some major transformations that you’ve seen since you’ve been involved? 

A: When I first joined Tech Soft 3D, the conversation was still around prototyping and that was predominantly what the use cases of 3D printing were. I remember the first conference that I went to, they talked about being able to 3D print production parts, and that seemed like a lofty goal. Then the GE Additive fuel nozzle project came through and GE created an entire infrastructure for additive manufacturing to be able to support their aviation business.

In my opinion, I think that's what really catapulted additive manufacturing into mainstream conversations. It's not just a commercialized, ”this is fun to have in your house” type of thing. No, this is truly accelerating the manufacturing process and empoowering vehicle and aerospace manufacturers. To be able to take an assembly that was originally 57 individual components, scan it, optimize the design, and 3D print it as one component is amazing. 

Another thing that has evolved is the use of STL files. STL is king, but it's extraordinarily unreliable. I saw hardware-centric companies take a step back and start focusing on software and realize that STL had significant limitation. They needed native CAD files because of their accuracy. Using native CAD files they decreased print prep time and increased print success rate.  The move away from STL really opened up a door for us, so it was great timing because that's our sweet spot, being able to import any type of native 3D CAD, and we were able to provide that component widely among the additive manufacturing space over the last 8 years.

Q: How have other file formats evolved to support 3D printing? 

A: If you're working with production-level 3D printing, you're going to want a format that supports specific workflows and use cases. The 3MF file format that was created to specifically support additive manufacturing processes. 3MF was released in 2015 and each year it continues to gain adoption. It's a slow roll in engineering software and we are still waiting for 3MF to really take off.

Q: Are there certain advantages that the 3MF file format offers specifically for additive versus using a native file format?

A: Yes, it’s an industry-backed format and it's a higher fidelity format that can store a ton of data that the printer utilizes; units, colors, and properties. It’s also super compact in comparison to other standard file types. 

Q: What do development teams stand to gain by working with someone like Tech Soft 3D who provides engineering-specific SDKs? 

A: There's a lot that goes into developing an application specifically for additive manufacturing. When you have a very lean software development team, you want them to be able to focus on what is going to differentiate your product from others on the market. Developing a CAD reader for any type of engineering file format, in addition to developing a graphics engine from the ground up,  are heavy tasks to put on any team, let alone a lean one.

Licensing our tools expedites your team's development efforts, accelerates your ability to get into the market faster, and simplifies their maintenance. Your team isn’t focusing on updating a file reader or creating visualization compatibility for the latest graphics driver but instead can focused on the next great feature of your product. 

We focus on providing you with the latest and greatest 3d graphics and rich data access. This allows our Partners the freedom to focus on their core technology. You should be working on how your organization will change the additive manufacturing market, not how are you going to build a reader or visualization engine from the ground up. 

Q: What are you most excited about that we’re working on here at Tech Soft 3D specifically for the additive space? 

A: For me, it’s the bridge between HOOPS Exchange and Polygonica. Whenever I'm working with a potential partner in the additive manufacturing market, Polygonica, alongside HOOPS Exchange provides a critical piece of the build prep workflow. 90% of our partners use both of these toolkits. This bridge makes it easier for developers to import CAD data and start manipulating it inside of Polygonica. Building bridges and integrations are tough, so it's highly anticipated. 

Also, seeing how the new CEETRON CAE tools are going to be utilized in the additive manufacturing market is exciting to me, especially in generative design. I'm looking forward to seeing what's to come there. 

You can learn more about Tech Soft 3D SDKs for additive manufacturing here.

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