Interview: Stephen Anderson, Renishaw

Stephen Anderson PhD CEng MBCS MInstP obtained his doctorate from the University of Lancaster, UK (1993) and worked at the University of Bristol, UK in research and as Academic Director of Computing. He joined Renishaw in 2000 as Internet Development Manager switching into Group Engineering in 2007 and becoming Group Software Director in 2011. With 17 years’ systems software experience, he delivered much of the Group’s Software portfolio across its Industrial Metrology, Healthcare and Additive Manufacturing businesses, from probing software to neurosurgery and Renishaw’s own AM build preparation software QuantAM. In 2017 Stephen took up a new role as AM Business Development Manager – USA where he is responsible for all aspects of Renishaw’s AM product line in the US.

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

Stephen: The first I encountered 3D metal printing I was immediately struck by its promise to change manufacturing forever, but also the significant challenges that would need to be overcome in order to make it mainstream productive. Until then my exposure to 3D printing had been through use of plastics machines for on-off development samples. But here was a machine that could make fully dense metal parts (almost like a digital casting) that could be used for mass production in industrial products – aerospace, automotive, electronics, energy and medical etc. once the machines could be made more accurate, repeatable and deterministic. So, what I was thinking was Wow! But wow what a lot of work to do! And at that point I decided to jump in.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your career in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?

Stephen: I have worked for Renishaw for nearly 20 years. Renishaw is one of the world’s leading engineering and scientific technology companies, with expertise in precision measurement and healthcare. The company supplies products and services used in applications as diverse as jet engine and wind turbine manufacture, through to dentistry and brain surgery. So what’s not to like!  I have had an immensely rewarding and varied career within Renishaw working on many game-changing products that use metrology to enable new ways of working – such as improvements to surgical planning, or creating sensors to allow manufacturers to make more accurate and novel innovative product designs. Not only am I inspired by our products, but by our customers needs and requirements that cause our new products to be made. Very often we are solving the complex “it can’t be done” types of manufacturing challenges that help our customers make things that were impossible before. This means industrial products that are lighter, consume less materials, are more fuel efficient and green. Or in the medical world products that enable new surgical procedures, that are quicker, less intrusive for the patient and often life-changing.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?

Stephen: Renishaw has a fantastic culture that allows its employees to grow without fixed linear boundaries. So, I have been able to move around within the engineering, software and commercial disciplines. In so doing I’ve worked under a number of managers and mentors all of whom have been generous with their time and who have added to my knowledge, experience and skillset. I’ve also worked with countless customers who constantly both teach me, and remind me, that their needs are the most real, immediate and important to address. I have learnt that customer engagement and team collaboration coupled with core engineering skills and constantly re-asking “What is the real problem we are trying to solve here?” is the key to great new solutions and not just “me-too” product.

Copyright Renishaw

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Stephen: A customer solution that has exceeded their expectation.

Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work?

Stephen: Lack of hours in the day. And if anyone has the answer please contact me.

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)?

Stephen: The biggest challenge(s) in metal 3D Printing for serial end use production implants are elimination of machine variability, improving machine productivity and reducing cost per part while maintaining highest provable quality standards in the metallurgy of the part. This will be achieved with continuously improving manufacturing processes and by making deterministic machines so that users can measure machine and process performance. For PSIs the challenges are different: Accuracy of the scanners to capture patient data from which the PSI is modelled. Accuracy of the segmentation software that today still requires humans (source of variation) to make judgments about bone boundaries. Better design of osseo-integrable surfaces while considering downstream implant removals. The desirability of on-demand printing and whether every hospital needs a printer etc.

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

Stephen: A 25 hour day. A 26 hour day. A 27 hour day….

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

Stephen: It’s not just about your score. Try and get as hands-on as possible. And of course you have to focus on your subject, but also try and maintain interests outside of your core field – it’s surprising how often this adds.

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

Stephen: Let’s grow together.

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

Stephen: In Renishaw it’s in our people.

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

Stephen: Sometimes you try projects that fail. But while that seems like a bad investment as long as the team / business learns and improves from that it is still money well spent.

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

Stephen: Moving overseas to take up this new role. Moving from a software engineering management role into a supported business start-up.

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

Stephen: Road cycling, though the Chicago winters are severely hampering my ability to get out.

Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Stephen: Don’t have one.

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

Stephen: A developing community of supportive collaborative experts who can network, team and deliver world-class new technologies, processes, and products.