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Possibility Makers (Episode 1): Nora Toure

Possibility Makers is an interview series hosted by John Nanry, co-founder and Chief Fulfillment Officer at Fast Radius. Each episode, he’ll talk to inspiring people who are doing interesting things to advance industry 4.0 practices and technologies. 

In this episode, he sits down with Nora Toure, a Director of Sales and Service Factory Operations at Fast Radius, to talk about additive manufacturing’s role in healthcare and the changing landscape of the manufacturing industry. Watch the full episode below and scroll even further for highlights from their conversation.

John: We all know how critical manufacturing is to the way we live. As manufacturers, we have to keep innovating the way we do things to adapt to a changing world. That’s why I’m hosting these interviews. I’m always inspired by what others are doing in manufacturing. It’s a great chance for me to learn new points of view, and hopefully, you’ll learn something too. With that, I want to introduce my first ever guest, Nora Toure. Welcome, Nora.

Nora: Hey, John. Thanks for having me.

John: Nora currently works at Fast Radius as a Director of Sales and Service Factory Operations. I feel so lucky to have you Nora as a teammate.

Nora: Oh, thank you.

John: Nora has been an additive manufacturing expert since 2010 and is particularly skilled at building strategic alliances and strong business relationships. Besides her career achievements, Nora founded the nonprofit Women in 3D Printing in 2014 to promote women leaders in the additive manufacturing industry. She has since grown the platform to 15,000 plus members, spanning over 25 countries through 65 local chapters.

Nora also joined 3D Africa as a board advisor and sits on various other advisory boards, such as 3D Heals, the Journal of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, TCT group, and De Anza’s Design and Manufacturing Technologies Department. Nora has been recognized with numerous awards and most notably has been named among the 20 Most Influential Women in Additive Manufacturing every year since 2015.

I’m going to ask you four main questions with the goal of getting to know you and your take on Industry 4.0. I’m actually going to ask everyone these same four questions. So, let’s give it a go.

Nora: Yeah, sounds good. Let’s do this!

Question 1

John: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever made or had a hand in making?

Nora: I would say one that’s really stayed with me and that I know I can talk about is that back in the days, with my previous job, we worked with Unique, who are making prosthetic covers. We used 3D printing to create those; specifically, we were using denim SLS to print the covers. And the thing is, they needed to be finished to be really, really nice. So we really had to work on what a great finish should look like and what the end-user expects from the final product.

It took quite some time — a few months — to get to the point where the quality was there. It was a really good project overall, but it took a lot of work to get it right because we knew the stakes were high. And it was a really, really interesting project for me to work on because those were production parts. It was really my first foray into mass customization with the end-user, who is a B2C. So again, stakes were high, expectations were high, and it was high quality, but that was really a great project I worked on.

John: Beautiful, no that’s great. I think prosthetics, if you think about, actual, just immediate human impact, I think prosthetics is one area where I think there’s just such an opportunity. If you look at what has happened over the last 10 years in the prosthetic space and how it’s gone from it’s still customized, but now incorporating technology and 3D printing to get these shapes you couldn’t get before. I think it’s really incredible.

Nora: I totally agree. I’m into the healthcare industry; overall, it interests me. 3D printing has been used in ways that no one was really expecting, and at a pace and speed that no one was expecting. That’s indeed an industry that’s always been interesting for to me to follow and see how we can innovate in this particular industry.

Question 2

John: No one wants to be the spare parts manager or the commodities manager that’s holding up a massive ship or order for a $10 screw or a $50 hinge or something. Next question. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry since you began your career?

Nora: Starting in 2010, it was mostly B2C, and I think people forget that, but I saw this shift going from B2C to B2B. The first thing I saw that highlighted this shift was a piece of a model for an architect. I’m blanking on the name, but I knew I remembered the name of my first customer ever, which is pretty cool when you think about it.

John: It’s your first, there’s something cool about that. And what do you think has driven that shift? Is it education or awareness amongst businesses of what 3D printing can do? Is it, they’re building more capabilities in the area or is it the underlying technologies? I’m curious to get your take.

Nora: I think it’s sort of the above, but it’s really multiple factors. I think technology is a big driver, and the fact that those [additive] machines now can do production runs because again, it wasn’t always the case and now we know they can.

John: It’s interesting. There’s kind of this paradox where additive kind of funding fundamentally enables smaller production runs, mass customization and that kind of stuff, but that is also inherently harder to audit, to automate the post-production of. So it’ll be very interesting to see how technology evolves.

Nora: We’re getting there. I mean, there are already automated nesting tools. We are getting there, and things that two years ago seemed impossible and were not already widely available for additive manufacturing professionals are now available. So I think we’ll get there.

Question 3

John: What do you think will be the biggest change in manufacturing or supply chain over the next five years?

Nora: I think additive manufacturing is a manufacturing tool, and we should know about the other manufacturing processes; becoming familiar with them, embracing them, and not seeing them as competitive technologies. Especially for me coming from sales, I have a really heavy sales and business background. I’m always looking at selling additive manufacturing over something else, and I think that’s the wrong approach and we should be more collaborative.

John: I think that’s a big challenge across the board with not just additive, but other industry 4.0 technologies, whether it’s embedded sensors or others. It’s about teaching, manufacturers have to learn and the engineers, the actual hands-on people doing the work need to learn how to leverage these technologies. And when do you use it versus not. And how do you think about this material set engaging with this other material set in a final assembly? That’s absolutely it.

Well, this is great, Nora. Thank you. Thank you for joining me this morning. Bright and early. I think this was a great conversation. I certainly learned a lot and enjoyed it and very much appreciate you taking the time.

Nora: Thank you again for having me. And those were great questions, so thank you.

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