Metal 3D Printing to Biofabrication: Interview w/ Dr. Herderick

Dr. Edward D. Herderick serves as the Director for Additive Manufacturing at the OSU Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME).  His team is leading a research program including industrial metal printing, biofabrication, and biomedical printing activities.  He has held AM leadership positions at GE, Avon Lake AM startup rp+m, and EWI.  He received his PhD in MSE from OSU.  In addition, Ed serves as the Industrial Editor for JOM and is the industry chair for the 2019 International Society for Biofabrication meeting in Columbus. He will be a speaker at our upcoming 3DHEALS Cleveland event on October 17th, 2019.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Dr. Herderick: My first additive manufacturing project was a long time ago… I remember joining a project meeting and the team asked me to lead a new project on additive manufacturing; at the time I didn’t even know what the term meant!  And then I was blown away by the ability to print metals, ceramics, biomaterials, you name it.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing?

Dr. Herderick: Most of my career has been spent in the heavy industry doing metal printing for aerospace, automotive, and power generation customers.  When I was at GE I had the opportunity to meet some very passionate individuals interested in creating new patient therapies and it really piqued my interest in trying to improve the lives of patients using 3D printing.  When I came to OSU 2 years ago it was an opportunity to begin that journey and in particular through the collaboration with a colleague, Dr. Xu Zhang, who leads the biofabrication effort on my team.  
Maybe a fun take on this is that I always loved the scene in Star Trek IV where Dr. McCoy gives the dialysis patient a pill to grow a new kidney.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)?

Dr. Herderick: A colleague in our biomedical engineering department, Prof. Cindy Roberts at OSU.  She has been a friend and mentor for many years and is a world leader in understanding and developing new eye therapies and ophthalmology approaches.  Her passion for improving people’s vision around the world is very inspiring to me and we always have high energy discussions!

I think the other person I would mention is Prof. David Dean who is a collaborator and colleague here at OSU and spent a lot of time in NE Ohio at CWRU.  He has introduced me to this field in exciting ways and we’re very excited about our upcoming International Society for Biofabrication meeting in Columbus later in October.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Dr. Herderick: Improving the lives of patients all over the world.

Jenny: What are the biggest obstacles in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?


To me there are two big obstacles:

  • Helping people understand how much progress has been made in biofabrication
  • Defining the right customers to develop pathways to the industry in this new field

Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Dr. Herderick: A little different riff on the question but what we think about a lot is how to translate all of the progress in metal printing for the heavy industry into lessons learned to benefit biofabrication.  And this is a real challenge, it’s essential to work with the clinic to translate lab successes and stay grounded in what success looks like, but the community needs to engage a whole other group of folks—mechanical designers, equipment designers, materials scientists, who historically have been working on other problems like printing for jet engines.  

At a more on the ground level—in printing for eye therapies there is a real challenge in that material that tends to be transparent is not strong and materials that are strong are not transparent.  So coming up with a strong and transparent cornea is a really difficult and valuable problem that I hope the community solves.

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

Dr. Herderick:

A printer that can print tissue and vascularize it at the same time!

A tricorder for diagnosing patients

A printer that could print hard biomaterials (eg bone), soft biomaterials (eg collagen) and cells all at the same time vis a viz Westworld.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?

Dr. Herderick: 

The best advice and coaching I have ever gotten is to always think about the customer when looking at jobs—what I mean is when interviewing for a company or thinking about working for a given group, think hard about the industries, number, quality, location, health, etc. that their customers work in, and not just about the company itself.  This will clarify lots of questions about working for particular companies and is something I didn’t really learn until 10 years into my career.

Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. 3DHEALS), what message would that be?

Dr. Herderick: Bio-fabrication is going to change patients lives in ways we can only imagine today…

Jenny: What was the best investment you made in 3D printing/Bioprinting?

Dr. Herderick: Building our own syringe based bioprinter using a Lulzbot with the open-source plans from Prof. Adam Feinberg’s group at CMU.  Pete Gingras at Viscous Biologics deserves a shout out for sending me that paper.

Jenny: What was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing?

Dr. Herderick: Ha!  Will only share that over a beer at the reception☺

Jenny: What was the biggest risk you took in your career?

Dr. Herderick: Definitely leaving the industry to come back to academia two years ago to try and build a new center at my alma mater!

Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Dr. Herderick: Riding roller coasters! Camping with my kids. Cooking new recipes.

Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Dr. Herderick: 

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” -Tom Bodett

I always laugh when I read this quote… it perfectly encapsulates how we need to flip the pedagogy of learning for young people and advanced students alike!  And also just makes me feel better when the trials and tribulations of life come along too.

Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you?  =)

Dr. Herderick: Combining patient-specific physiological data with real biological materials is such a powerful construct, it’s interesting to me because I think that there are two camps of people that think we’re either way ahead of where we are or that it will never happen, then there’s a smaller third camp that is grinding on making progress and improving patient outcomes with a dream of really changing the status quo in tissue engineering… 3DHEALS to me means that we’re working together to realize that vision as a cohesive yet diverse group of stakeholders and researchers (the third camp).