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As the president and CEO of Proto Labs, a Minnesota-headquartered rapid manufacturing prototype company, Vicki Holt is a major champion for the tech. We've written about Holt and Proto Labs a handful of times over the last couple years, and we check in with her again to discuss the state of additive manufacturing today, some of the challenges of the tech, and a survey the company recently commissioned that might give some hope for the next generation.
IndustryWeek: Additive is increasingly important, of course, and there seem to be some key areas to focus on in 2017, including speed to market. Engineers and designers need to be able to move, they need to be able to order 3-D printing when it's needed, mostly for prototype development. Where are we in that respect?
Vicki Holt: Let’s step back for a minute. Speed to market is critically important and there are lots of ways that companies can accelerate innovation. 3-D printing has really become part of the development process for many engineers and a lot of them have tackled them by purchasing 3-D printers and putting them in their operations. They’ll make you a part from your CAD and you have something in your hand. That alone accelerates innovation. We continue to see our 3-D printing grow as well for prototypes, and we’re more in the industrial kinds of processes, and that gets a part in their hands that’s a little more functional, particularly if you’re looking at an SLS or a DMLS, where you can get a part made in more of an engineered resin — a nylon part in SLS, metal parts that are fairly dense in DMLS.
IW: In terms of pace of innovation, Moore’s Law seems to be getting faster and faster. What’s new, where could we be going, and is the pace increasing at a faster rate than Moore’s Law’s recognized two years?
VH: It has gotten faster. The pace, I think it’s accelerated just in the last three to five years, with the use of different technologies, digital models like ours, the use of simulation software — all of those things are accelerating innovation.
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