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Heading into the world of 3D print aerospace with Donald Godfrey of Honeywell. There are so many lessons any 3D printing business can take from look at the model of success in this additive manufacturing industry segment. Donald showcases how rapid prototyping provides astonishing cost and time savings that produces safer and more reliable parts, as well as detailing what engineering students need to know and be doing now in school to find success in the workplace after graduation.
We’re really excited because it took us a while to set this one up, and I’m so glad it has happened. We’ve been able to get someone from Honeywell Aerospace to come on the show and really talk about these high level companies.
I know we’ve actually been doing a few more of these episodes because I think we can learn so much from these larger corporations that have adopted 3D printing earlier than most of the smaller businesses and more frequently and sooner than education as well. They’ve been more advanced in promoting and understanding its value so that all of us can get a better perspective on the opportunity that exist there, but also on ways at which you didn’t realize you could really be utilizing it.
Another thing that I think will be of great interest too, especially the students and educators who are listeners to this podcast, is that toward the end of the interview, you’re going to want to pay attention. Honeywell gives us, Donald Godfrey, who is our guest, and he gives us some real insight into what they’re looking for from students to become prospective employees when they get out of college. I completely love his answers.
For those of you who don’t know Honeywell, Honeywell’s a diversified technology and manufacturing company that does global aerospace products. They do things in all sorts of industries. Sensing and security, buildings, homes, automotive products, specialty chemicals. I know that they’re even doing a lot of refining in petrol chemicals. You’re talking about being in the oil and gas industry and things like that. This is just an amazing broad range of experience they have.
Don is the chair to the Honeywell Aerospace Intellectual Property Steering Committee for Additive Manufacturing Technology. That’s quite a mouthful. He’s basically a champion of 3D printing. He’s responsible for the integration of 3D printing into the business cultures, really trying to find ways to put that into different areas within the company. Really it’s almost his entire time at Honeywell, except for maybe the first year, has been involved in additive manufacturing. It’s been his responsibility. Which he’ll tell you. Let’s go straight to the interview with Don, which is sponsored by the team over at MakerBot.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Print Aerospace with Donald Godfrey of Honeywell Aerospace
Hi, Don. Thank you so much for joining us on WTFFF to talk about Honeywell and 3D print aerospace.
Thank you for inviting us. It’s a pleasure to be part of this.
Honeywell, it’s such an amazingly large company doing so many different things. I want to get to know you a little bit. Can you tell me how you came to work for Honeywell and what your role is there?
Sure. I was working as a plant manager in the state of Ohio. Our company merged with another company from Asia. They ended up closing our location. I began interviewing with various aerospace companies and I really liked what I saw in Phoenix. Plus, it was January and was 20 below in Ohio. It’s a family decision. We made that decision to come here and become part of the Phoenix and Honeywell family.
How long ago was that?
So quite some time. When did 3D printing become a primary part, or additive manufacturing in general, become a primary part? It’s been around a while. When did it become a primary part of your job?
Approximately, 2007 late, very early 2008. I was working on a project where we had a very critical schedule that had to be met. We made some components for an engine test. It took us nine months to get those components produced and delivered to Honeywell. The vendor did everything right. It was absolutely made perfectly to print in the CAD file.
The problem is the CFT models did not match reality. We needed to make four, five more of these components. The vendor told us it would be another year and we didn’t have a year. It was critical that we had to get this done quickly. I met Greg Morris and some people from Morris Technologies. These are the individuals that brought 3D printing of metal to North America.
They started talking about technology, the light bulbs went off. I went back to the program manager. I remember meeting him and saying, “I don’t know if this is going to work or not, but we ought to risk it.” We went ahead and kicked off the vendor to get new tooling and make the new part. We had four or five of these parts in our hands in eight weeks.
Isn’t that amazing, how fast? The impact of how rapid prototyping and rapid tooling and all of these things have just really changed our work process.
If you could think of a project where you have 100 engineers on your team and you’re going to have to make them go to another project because yours ran out of funding or you had a delay, we essentially, by using 3D printing, saved nine, ten months of a project that was costing nearly $1 million a week.
Think of it from cost avoidance standpoint. Think of it, what our customers would have said if we told them, “Oh, our engines going to be a year late.” That would have been a disaster. It was recognized by a lot of people in the company, that this is a technology that can be used to reduce schedules and we should embrace it more. It basically caught fire after that.
We frequently highlight aerospace and other industries as being a success model on how 3D printing’s been integrated into many aspects of the operations, design engineering and manufacturing. We look at that, and it has gained traction because of that cost and time savings. I think, in the last few years, we’ve been really seeing it being adopted and implemented in the industry for more than just that. Are you using that as well at Honeywell?
Of course, yeah. When you look at 3D print aerospace, it really influences what we do in three areas. One is prototypes. When I say prototypes, since it’s not plastic, it’s metal that we’re talking about, we are talking about making parts that I could put on a test rig and test. These parts represent or reflect real mechanical properties of a casting or a forging or a weldment. They give the design engineer and the test engineer a pretty good idea of how the parts are going to perform long before they get a real part.
Let me give you an example. When we do turbine blades, we don’t do turbine blades and it’s not our intention to do turbine blades in production. But for prototype, we do. It may take three years to get your hands on a production blade. Typically, what happens is that after you get that cast blade and it’s machined perfectly to print, you’ll flow air through it or you’ll put it in an engine test. Some engineer will want to go and change it.
That is a real problem because the tooling, to get to that point, you’ve already spent $600,000, $700,000, you’ve waited three years and now somebody wants to go change it. That means that tool that you just spent three quarters of a million dollars on, somebody’s out there machining on it. With this technology, what I can do is print those blades in about two weeks.
I can print what we call a rainbow of blades. Meaning, I can make some just a little bit different than others. Maybe the openings are a couple of thousandths larger or maybe the shapes just a slight differentiation from the baseline. I can do all of that in less than a month. Then, I can, say, if I made five different shapes of blades, I can take the best blade and then take that CAD file, go back to the casting house and say, “Make this.”
That’s just amazing.
I’ve saved two and a half to three and a half years and I’ve saved all rework that would be associated with that project.
Not just that, but you’ve now expanded it into being something that has been tested more.
Maybe it functions better, it’s designed better and informed. We hear a lot that the general public’s nervous about the idea of a plane with 3D printed parts. They have this mistaken idea that it’s what we get out of a desktop 3D printer, which is just not at all the same as what you’re using. It’s highly tested. It’s incredibly well designed at this point. I think I’m going to be happier flying on that plane.
The public should not be nervous. First off, aviation is, like the medical industry, one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. The FAA oversees everything. When we move into production, that’s what we’re doing now, what powder you use is a fixed process. That’s controlled by our quality organization, our engineering chiefs and the FAA and our customer.
How that powder is ordered and received is all controlled by fixed processes. How that powder is loaded into the machine, how that part is built while the powder is in the machine, how that part is manufactured after you take it out of the machine, all of that is controlled by the FAA. Honeywell has made a decision that we’re going to do non-life critical components, which basically means no rotating parts.
If the part were to fail, and it’s not, but let’s say, worst case scenario, it did, it would have no influence or effect on the flight. The pilot would just have the mechanic fix that when the plane lands. There are tens of thousands of parts on an engine that fall under that category. It’s real easy for us to pick parts along that line.
That such a huge operational savings too though, because you’re not inventorying those parts.
That’s correct. It’s interesting, our first part that we put in production last year, December 18th, 2015, was an oil splash guard. Right now, because these parts are so small, I can make six months of production in a weekend.
It’s real easy. The supply chain is changing. We’re in the embryotic element of that in that when you order a part and it takes months to get, that’s eventually going to go away. It’ll be print on demand.
Love that. A little Honeywell factory right in every airport.
Actually, we’re not too far from that. The Department of Defense is already printing some parts in Afghanistan for parts on demand. I envision the Navy and the Air Force having this equipment and this technology on ships and at airports around the world and they will print parts when they need them.
That’ll be a huge improvement because I know at least two or three times, I’ve been delayed sitting on a tarmac because there was a mechanical issue and they had to fly a part in from a hub because they didn’t have it locally.
I don’t know if we’re going to be that fast. There was an article late last month about some Air Force planes not being able to fly because they can’t get parts. I’ve spoken personally with Air Force personnel across North America on this, especially these repair depots. These repair depots are buying these machines and they will print parts. They are not going to wait a year or seven months to get a part.
That’s really going to change the business model for companies that manufacture components for the government. Because as you know, whether you go to an auto dealer or wherever, if you buy a spare part, it’s expensive. A lot of profit and a lot of revenue is generated through the sale of spare parts. If you have your customers printing parts, that revenue stream is going to shift. They’re not going to call you up and ask you for a part. They may call you up and ask for a license to print a part, but they’re going to print a part.
I definitely think that’s where it needs to go. Now, is it just an advantage of shipping, logistics, availability and print on demand or are there other aspects that make a 3D printed metal part like that better than a traditionally manufactured part?
It’s not just logistics. Also, it gives you the opportunity to redesign a part to remove weight. I was working on a project with Honeywell Florida, Clearwater, Florida, on a project for a space satellite. This little component, we were able to redesign because we have additive and remove 50% of the weight, which if you’re putting things in the air, such as space or aviation, removing weight is always a good thing.
We have components that have openings on them for the sole purpose of getting a wrench into a bolt or a nut. If you print multiple parts as one assembly, we have some to where we’ve taken eight different details and printed it as one, then you don’t need to weld. You don’t need to tighten a bolt, you don’t need to adjust any washers. Therefore, we can make the part smaller, thus we can make the part lighter.
Very cool. There’s a lot of growth in this additive and metal 3D printing market. An acquisition of Arcam was just announced by GE recently. Why do you think there’s so much movement in this metal 3D printing in particular?
General Electric purchased Arcam and SLM. Arcam is located just outside Gothenburg, Sweden. SLM is located in Lübeck, Germany. They bought them both on the same day. I think the activity that we’re seeing there is potential. It’s hard to envision where this technology is going to take us 10 years from now or 20 years from now.
The fear that companies have is they don’t want to be left behind. You have that element of it, but also you have the opportunity to remove weight from components that would make … I’ll pick a, since you mentioned GE. If they could redesign an engine and remove 100 pounds, it gives that sail of that engine much more opportunities in the marketplace. You have a lot of that going on. We’re doing that, MTU is doing that, GE is doing that.
Also, in the medical industry, is using a lot of metal. Particularly in area of titanium. There are companies now being formed in China and in Korea that print hips, elbows, knees. These are all done with titanium material, the electron beam technology typically. I’ve been fortunate enough to tour some of these companies in Europe. They just see this massive growth opportunity because as hip replacement, as knee replacement becomes less expensive, doctors are prescribing it more and more.
With this technology, they can print a component that matches the contour of your body as perfect as the actual hip bone itself. We’re seeing hospitals use titanium and cobalt chrome plates when they have to do skull surgery. They’ll be able to print those plates for each individual patient. If you’re a dentist, if you’ve gone, most high tech dentist offices have a CT scan where they scan your jawbone. How dentists are using that technology is that they can actually scan a tooth in your jaw and print it, and a day later, put it in your mouth.
Actually, I have personally experienced, yes, the jawbone scan. My dentist has that technology and scanned a tooth before they did all the work on it and rebuilt a tooth with a crown that was 3D printed in porcelain right there in their office the same day. I walked out of there with essentially the same shape tooth I had. It was amazing. High tech.
You’re seeing growth in metal driven by aviation and you’re seeing it driven by medical. Some of the early adopters of the technology was actually Formula 1 race cars where they could print parts right there in their trailer as they drive around Europe.
That’s really cool. I did not know that.
The technology has some great advantages but it also offers some unique benefits. One of the limitations is that the technology has not matured enough yet where Honda or Ford or GM could print a part. They make 2000 cars a day typically at a factory. If you look at what Rolls Royce is doing or what Bentley is doing, where they might print a component with the owner’s name written on the engine.
See, when you make one car a week, that allows them to do that. The technology in the automotive industry is being used for low volume, high value components. It’s also being used in the area of car restoration where somebody might need a part that’s 40 or 50 years old, they can’t get it but they can have it printed.
Or have it made safer in some respects if you need to.
That’s the reason why it’s growing so much in metals.
Do you have a sense of what might be one of the biggest factors that is holding back the technology from being even more significant in the 3D print aerospace industry?
Yeah, I do. One of the roadblocks that we, in aviation, face is that we are just now beginning to develop the mechanical property data for the material itself. We’re talking about metals here, not polymers or ceramics, we’re talking about metals. It’s impossible for a design engineer to design a component with certain mechanical features if he or she does not know what the tinsel properties or the crit properties or the life cycle properties of that component’s going to be. That is holding us back.
For each alloy that we use, it’s going to cost about $1.5 million to get that information. That’s what we call B basis data. Meaning that, an aerospace engineer can take that mechanical property data and say to the FAA or say to our customer, whether that’s Boeing or Embraer or AirBus and say, “We have the mechanical knowledge, mechanical property data knowledge, to ensure you, Mr. Customer, Mr. FAA, that this component will perform as designed.”
And perform that way over time too.
See, when you put a part in space, and we did that in June of this year. Essentially, it has to survive for 20 minutes. Once it gets up in space, there’s no gravity, there’s no friction, it just is fine. If you build a part for an airplane, it may have to last 20 years. Look how old the B-52 is. You, as a designer and as a company and a maker of that part, you are legally responsible for how that part performs for as long as that part is in the marketplace.
I think that a lot of credit needs to be recognized here. I don’t think that, when these planes were engineered and all of those things by companies like yours, that we expected them to last that lifespan that they have. It’s such a credit to the amount of engineering power and manufacturing and quality that you guys have built up over time.
You just reminded me of a story that I was told about four or five years ago when we were developing 718 material. I had to go do multiple tests, different tests. I did understand doing the tinsel property test and the yield test and creeping test and the lighting test. They had some others in there that I had never heard of.
I asked this gentleman who had been with the company 40 some years. He just retired, had his master’s degree from Stanford, brilliant man. I was looking for data comparing cast data to the DMLS data. We didn’t have this other data. I said, “Why don’t we have this data?” He said, “Look, at the end of the Korean war when we made things, we didn’t have the ability to test them. We bolted them on airplanes. If they didn’t fall off, they were considered good.”
Now, we have a situation where a part might be 50 or 60 years old that’s on the B-52, but we don’t have that mechanical knowledge that we would on a brand new part. The engineering has progressed a great deal in some of these mechanical components. The requirements that the FAA puts on us, that the chiefs put on us, that the safety group puts on us, is enormous. That’s one of the reasons it costs $1.5 million to do every alloy that you pick.
I’m so glad that at least in those days, they probably had artisans, in reality, as engineers who had hundreds of thousands of hours of experience making that decision because they were probably way better decisions than anyone else would have made at that time.
Remember, we didn’t have computers back then. We had slide rules.
Actually, that brings me to a final question, really. We have a large portion of our listening audience that are students. Whether they’re a college students or they’re teachers. What kind of design experience or what kind of engineering experience do you think really needs to happen for them to come and take significant and important roles at a company like Honeywell?
Honeywell is connected to professors at the University of Texas El Paso, at Louisville, at Penn State University. We’re very intimately connected with Arizona State University, which is just down the street.
My dad’s Alma Mater.
Honeywell helped build an additive manufacturing lab at ASU. We are very involved with the students there in their capstone senior projects. I personally am mentoring two projects for about nine students. We have a third project that’s being mentored by another person. Then we’re mentoring a young lady who’s a recipient of a NASA grant.
What we do there is we bring them to Honeywell, we show them the labs, we explain to them how it’s used. As they move into the marketplace, we have been very clear to them, the skills that they need are the ability to use CAD software, like iNext or AutoCAD or something like that. That is critical. You can’t print anything without having the geometry in an electronic format and know how to manipulate it. That is one of the critical skill sets.
Also, we like students who are very hands on, who can go out there and pick up a torque wrench or pick up a wrench and help clean out a machine, help load a machine. Work ethic is just as important, I think, as intellect. We bring a lot of students in here from around the world, but we also want work ethic. That’s critical. When they get out of college, they should be able to manipulate data, they should understand the technology, and they should be willing to come to the lab and go to work.
Love that. Thank you so much Don, for joining us today. We really appreciate your insights and your experience in the 3D print aerospace industry.
Thank you for inviting me. Honeywell’s very pleased to be part of this.
3D Print Aerospace – Final Thoughts
Gosh, where to begin now? My goodness. There was a lot of great information there. I think that that’s so the case. You need companies like this to be investing in that, what he called that B basis data, which we asked him about afterwards to make sure we really understood it. That is baseline information on how a material performs and just property information.
Before they can go manufacturing a part in a different metal material that’s going to be used in an airplane, they have to go and collect a large volume of data on that material and how it’s going to perform over time, how it’s going to age and many different aspects to it because they have to confident. They’re liable for those parts that are flying around.
We think too often, I think that’s really where when you’re not in the industry and when you’re not in the understanding of how this process and product development and engineering happens, you get this sense of, plastic is plastic and metal is metal. It’s going to perform the same way. But the way that it’s processed also impacts all those performance and strength characteristics and all the different things, qualities that it has. We have to understand that.
When you’re dealing with a technology like 3D printing, which is so new, you don’t have that years of performance data built up to understand that. The expense to go through those testing processes and build that up is going to change all of our industry information and going to make it more valuable for all of us.
Especially because the form in which the material starts is so much different, being a powder metal material for 3D printing metal, than it is in a traditional sense when they would have metal alloy bar stock that would be machined and maybe formed and welded and all that. It’s really been a bit of uncharted territory until now with certain parts in how that material’s transformed from the powder into a physical part.
I think it does the company a lot of credit that while they have a very strong belief in the power of the 3D printed parts and the qualities of them, they’re not willing to proceed into the riskiness of doing anything but non-life critical parts, like he said. That they’ve made a corporate decision to stay on the safer side and more conservative side. I think that says a lot about the kind of qualities of the company.
It certainly was a prudent move for them as a company, to really crawl before they walk, walk before they run. I actually have faith that in time, the performance of these parts will be proven. The material consistency and properties will be defined and known, that they actually find in time that the parts that are life critical end up being better because they’re 3D printed.
I love that story that he was talking about the Korean War. The parts, the test of flying over, then it was good enough. I think that that’s the case. We have the ability right now to be cautious. I feel very confident myself in 3D printed parts, especially these metal parts. I feel very confident that if push came to shove and an emergency happened and you needed to use one of these, that it’s going to work.
I’ve studied quite a bit and read quite a bit about the history of engineering. The reality is the way, the only way, that engineering, the strength of materials and certain structures, the only way that they were proven to be good enough is if something failed. When something actually failed, then you know, “There wasn’t enough material or it wasn’t the right structure,” and you beef it up. That’s the limit.
I think maybe we mentioned in the podcast once before, but there was a very famous accident of, I think it was either B-17 or a B-24 bomber in New York City in the 1940s, I believe, that flew into the Empire State building. It wasn’t intentional, it was in fog because there was not the radar capability we have today or the flying under instrumentation that we have today. It flew into it and it didn’t explode, it didn’t take the building out. Obviously, the building is still there today.
The building was hardly fazed. In fact, there’s a famous photo of the tail of the plane sticking out of the Empire State building. The building was just fine because it was so overbuilt in terms of the structure of the building, all the steel girders and everything that hold it up.
Engineering of the past for large structures, architecture and all these, and I’m sure with airplanes in the earlier days, things were overbuilt because they did not have the kind of CAD data and information and strength of materials testing and everything that we have today. It was sort of, “When in doubt, beef it up. Use more material than scoop it down.” Err on the side of caution.
I like their approach. Too often we rely on just critical data coming off of our computers and not real world, which is why I really was so pleased when he said that one of the things that they like best when they are attracting talent is someone who’s going to roll up their sleeves and be hands on and go in on the floor and do what is necessary. That’s what we love here. We want somebody to go into a factory and learn everything you can about how something is made.
I believe that designers and engineers who don’t go, get into the factory, who don’t get their hands dirty, are really not worth hiring and are ones that you don’t want to work with. You learn so much in a faster time period and become such a much better person at your job, your abilities increase tremendously when you actually go there. Some designers especially, I think designers maybe more than engineers, I think some engineers as well, just stay out of the factory. They’re hands off, they throw it over the fence. Or things that they develop that are to be made in a factory half a world away, they don’t go over to that factory half a world away and really understand what’s going on there and how it’s being done.
I think what we’ve experienced and that’s why I’m sure that Don feels the same way and why he is, is that you get better design, you get better engineering, you get better innovation happening when you have all that information and an intimate understanding of that information. We talk about this all the time and we’ve talked about it before in terms of even plastic feasibility studies.
We have had it happen so often where a company gets so relied on checking their parts and doing all this things and they say in the computer, “It can’t work. It won’t work.” We build it and it does work. That’s because we have a different understanding of the process than just what the computer can analyze. Or what the person who programs the computer assumed.
Because there are decisions that are made. If you don’t understand the processing of something or you don’t understand how it’s actually being made in the real world, as Don put that, the real world experience of building something and testing it, like their turbines and all of those things, if you aren’t actually checking it and you just, because it took you three years to get this thing out in the market, the only thing you were capable of doing was running simulations. It’s not good enough.
I’m super excited. We talked briefly after our call with Don to say that we would like to connect up with ASU and see some of these student projects that they’ve been involved in and work with. We look forward to bringing you some of those towards the end of the year and maybe the beginning of next year. That’ll be quite something. I’d love to see what kind of exciting interesting work that come out of those types of senior projects. I think that would be really inspirational for all of us.
I’m so pleased. We can’t thank Honeywell enough for participating, and Don Godfrey especially. I hope that you guys got as much out of that as we did. I thought that was just an amazing both insight into big corporations, but also insight into how much opportunity there is. Opportunity and the fact that this is really a new world that we’re living in.
What was it? I forget the famous quote at some point. Maybe it was in the early 20th century or was even earlier than that, that “why did we still have a patent and trademark, because everything has been invented.” We’re living In exciting times. It’s just so far beyond that. Obviously I know that general common knowledge is that that’s not true, but still, I think that the curve of innovation is just steep and climbing so fast.
I’m so excited about the future. We can hear that other people like Don are passionate about it as well. I do want to throw it to you. All of you guys and girls out there, there are a lot of links because Don’s written some really interesting articles that is on the Honeywell blog. We’re linking to some of those that we thought you might find the most interesting.
There’s a lot of good information on the Honeywell site as well. You can imagine how big a company Honeywell is. You want to go and get the right links and get to the right place. We cherry picked a few that we thought you’d like. There’s a lot more information on what they do and some other articles and things that you may be interested in that are related. Definitely check that out.
We hope you enjoyed this one. This was a bit of coup for us to get this interview. This is a huge corporation and getting someone’s attention to come on our little podcast, that was very nice of them. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks very much, everyone.
- Honeywell Aerospace
- One Man’s Dream to Bring 3D Printing to Aircraft Engines
- Honeywell Brings Futuristic 3-D Printing Design Skills into Focus for Student Engineers
- Additive Manufacturing is Speeding New Turbocharger Designs into Testing
- Honeywell Brings 3D Printing to Life for Visiting WritersAn Insider’s View on 3D Printing in Aerospace
About Donald Godfrey
Donald Godfrey is an engineering fellow and the chair to the Intellectual Property Steering Committee (IPSC) for Additive Manufacturing at Honeywell Aerospace. As an engineering fellow at Honeywell Aerospace, Godfrey is responsible for the operation and strategic direction of the company’s additive manufacturing product development. He is responsible for founding the laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona, and also provides guidance and oversight to laboratories in Brno, Czech Republic; Shanghai, China; and Bangalore, India. Godfrey also oversees the integration of additive manufacturing into Honeywell’s commercial and military aerospace product lines, and promotion of the technology across other Honeywell business units, including Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies, and Honeywell Transportation Systems.
Within his role as chair to the IPSC, Godfrey is instrumental in helping shape Honeywell’s intellectual property strategy for additive manufacturing. He reviews and approves all Honeywell additive manufacturing patents. Since starting at Honeywell eight years ago, Godfrey has been an avid advocate for additive manufacturing. He works with teams across the globe and across Honeywell to incorporate additive manufacturing into their businesses, and determine the company’s global strategic vision for the technology.
Godfrey currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona, where he likes taking walks during the fall and winter seasons, and enjoying the arts with his family.
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