Industry Trends

Fireside chat: How data is changing manufacturing

By March 24, 2022
Fast Radius expert using a computer

As manufacturers strive to collect and integrate data, designers, engineers, and buyers will be able to gain insights about every part of the manufacturing process — from manufacturability analysis to supply chain efficiency. Data-enabled manufacturing is the future of the industry. Fast Radius Chief Scientist Bill King and Chief Executive Officer Lou Rassey recently got together for a fireside chat to discuss the possibilities data and the cloud are creating for our customers and the industry as a whole.


Bill: Hi, I’m Bill King, Chief Scientist at Fast Radius. And I’m here with Lou Rassey, Fast Radius’ CEO. Hey, Lou. Great to see you.

Lou: It’s great to be together, Bill. I’m looking forward to our conversation on the future of manufacturing.

Bill: Future of manufacturing. Here we go. I want to talk about the link between designing things and making things.

So the structure of the industry is that the people that design things, the people that make things are separated. Very frequently, they’re in different organizations. It’s hard for them to collaborate with each other. They don’t exchange information. The designer doesn’t know what the maker can and will do, the maker doesn’t always know what the designer wants to do. Getting these things connected, that’s really part of what has to happen here.

Lou: The challenge is all of that data siloed. You have data from the design. You have data from the machines when things are being made. You have data from logistics when things are being moved, but all of that data is fragmented.

I think there’s an opportunity to connect that data and create visibility for all of the participants in those supply chains and those value chains, allowing them to make better decisions. So if we can gather data and knowledge from making things and provide that to every engineer who’s designing things to help them make things better, it shortens the time to bring good products to market, it improves the performance of those products, it can improve the sustainability of the carbon footprint of those products.

When you think about improving the decision-making, Bill, talk about what kinds of decisions you think access to this data can help.

Bill: I’m so excited about the way that data can enable intelligence and better decision-making in design and in procurement. So when you are thinking about designing a new product, you have so many choices to make about geometry, materials, how the product will be made, where it will be made, how the parts will move from one location to the next, through the supply chain. So many choices, it’s almost overwhelming. What happens when we have software that is smart enough to tell you what you should be doing, to help guide you through the process of making those choices to get to your desired outcome?

Lou: In our consumer lives, we’re familiar with so many of those types of experiences. So if you want to go on a vacation and you want to explore flight options or hotel options, you can go to any one of your favorite travel sites and they will stack those up side by side to compare hotels, to compare flight options, cost, time. Translate that into providing insight for designers of physical products. What does that feel like?

Bill: You know, as you said, Lou, we have so many parts of our lives where we have a job to be done that was formerly so complicated, like booking travel reservations or getting a mortgage, for example.

So many manual steps, so many people have to get involved and touch the process. Now that those things are just streamlined from one end to the next, all enabled by software, and all of the choices that you have to make along the way, you get counsel, and guidance, and suggestions.

So in manufacturing, this is really potentially transformative to think about how can you as a designer approach a manufacturer and work with them, assisted by software, to guide you through all of the choices that you have to make in a way that helps you be smarter, and make better choices, and get the things that you want when you want them and also at the lowest possible cost.

Lou: Yes. You can imagine you’re an engineer and you’re figuring out what’s the right material to use, what’s the right technology to use?

Can we provide a software-driven experience to help them make those decisions easier? That’s one of the things that we’re building at Fast Radius, but it speaks to the power of digital experiences.

Bill: You know, Lou, what we’re building really enables engineers to make better decisions. It’s so exciting to think about how we can take expertise and manufacturing knowledge and put it into software so that a user can come to our website and get the advice, counsel, recommendations that they need to make good choices and get what they want.

Lou: So we are building this software-driven network of state-of-the-art factories around the world. I think it’s that combination, empowering engineers in design and empowering them with the ability to make what they need that is so exciting about what we’re building.

Bill: So, I’m incredibly excited about all of the designers and creators in the world that have things that they want to turn into reality. There is a universe of new, wonderful ideas out there that could get turned into real stuff in the world.

Lou: We’ve seen that challenge overcome in other parts of the digital economy. If we think about cloud computing, what cloud computing has done is it has given access to anyone with a browser, the ability to design and make something in a digital space anywhere in the world. Look at the innovation that we’ve seen over the last couple of decades as access to digital tools of creation has been enabled.

Through cloud manufacturing, we are similarly empowering a new generation of creators, of designers for the physical world. We believe that the impact of cloud manufacturing will be as profound in the physical world as cloud computing has been in the digital world. And that has great impact in driving innovation and progress.

Bill: And think about all of the people that can now express themselves and create real impact in the world. I’m excited about the potential for our company to create the tools that will enable and empower these creators and designers.

Lou: Bill, it’s great spending time together, and it is so exciting to reflect on what is possible and what we’re building together. Thanks for taking the time.

Bill: Thanks so much.

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