3D Printing – Science Fiction Becomes Reality

November 9, 2016 | Author: Clara Bigelow

When I was asked to present to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at its WE16 Conference in Philadelphia, Pa., I was both honored and nervous. 9,000 engineering professionals and thought leaders attend, and I was excited to introduce them to Additive Manufacturing Technology – or 3D Printing.

This technology is cutting-edge and the newest ‘big thing’ in engineering. The impact it will have on the aviation and aerospace industry is remarkable, and I could not wait to share this information with the engineering professionals at SWE – some of whom had not been introduced to 3D printing yet.

As a student at Virginia Tech, I focused my efforts on process improvement and efficiency engineering. For me, an interest in 3D printing makes perfect sense since the capabilities of this type of manufacturing provides an opportunity to be innovative, timesaving and economical.

After I graduated in 2015, I accepted an 18-month rotation at Honeywell. The program provided me the opportunity to work in three different locations within the company for six-month intervals. During my time in the Additive Manufacturing Technology Center lab, I not only learned about the revolutionary technology, but also learned a great deal regarding how to design for Additive Manufacturing.

I learned how to use the NX software and how to convert component designs to machine language. I also learned how to program the machines and lead small design teams with the goal of printing components using Additive Manufacturing Technology.


During my presentation at SWE, I wanted to convey all of the experiences I had in Additive Manufacturing to the attendees. My goal was to show them that the world of 3D printing is rapidly changing and expanding, and that now is the time to enter this field. The opportunity to make a real impact on the future of engineering and manufacturing is immeasurable.

My presentation, titled “Beyond Plastics – New Technologies in 3D Printing,” served as an introduction to the vast array of 3D printing applications, from rapid prototyping and designing to creating high quality production parts. I wanted participants to learn about the technological advancements occurring in the additive manufacturing field, how 3D printing is shaping the future of the aerospace industry and how powder bed fusion technology can turn something as simple as metal powder into complex solid metal parts.

Nearly 200 professionals and students attended my SWE session. They had many good questions about how Additive Manufacturing Technology works. I was also brought examples of items that we had manufactured which really helps people understand what is already possible. At the end of my presentation, I had a couple of college students ask about career opportunities in Additive Manufacturing.

Right now 3D printing is very much like science fiction becoming reality. It is unlike any past designing experiences. Engineers can get nearly instant gratification. We can create a part and it can be in our hands the next day versus having to wait weeks, months or even years for a prototype. It’s amazing!

Clara Bigelow

Clara Bigelow

Clara Bigelow is an Industrial Engineer who recently moved cross-country to join the Honeywell Aerospace Rotational Development Program in Phoenix, Arizona. A graduate of Virginia Tech, her recent projects include work across the value chain from metal 3D printing and manufacturing to integrated systems engineering.

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