Interview with Mike Vasquez, 3Dgrees

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Dr. Mike Vasquez is a 3D Printing expert specializing in pushing the boundaries of advanced 3D printing technology. He is the Founder and CEO of 3Degrees, a Chicago-based consulting company focused on helping organizations maximize their investment in the technology. Over the past decade, he has worked side-by-side with some of the top machine manufacturers, material producers and end-users in the industry, consulting with them to identify novel applications, test new materials, and develop frameworks to maximize R&D efficiency and boost ROI. In the past 18 months, Mike has worked with a dozen companies to help them set up successful and safe facilities. He has also created a software tool called TRACE. It aims to assist companies formalizing their use of 3D Printing to ensure they can meet quality and technical standards outlined by their supply chain and industry requirements. He completed his Ph.D. in Additive Manufacturing at Loughborough University and received both his Bachelors’s and Masters from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering.

Mike will be speaking on the material science panel at 3DHEALS2020.

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

Mike: I had my first experience with 3D Printing while at MIT in the early 2000s. We were looking at ways to leverage the technology for high-speed customization as well as novel designs for sports equipment. 

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Design iterations of a 3D Printed infant helmet (Photo Credit: Mike Vasquez)

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

Mike: As a materials engineer, I saw the 3D Printing space as a space filled with materials challenges. What was also exciting to me was the challenge of moving a new manufacturing technology from prototyping to production. Not only are there technical challenges that need to be addressed but also (maybe even more important) was how do you address business and people issues when a new technology is introduced.

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

Mike: I was very fortunate to join Neil Hopkinson’s research group at Loughborough University. He was instrumental in showing me all the potential that the AM industry holds along with giving me a rock-solid technical foundation to build on. Along the way, I was also fortunate to learn under Ryan Larson and John Cross while we were together at Burton Snowboards. 

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Mike: Since 2012, I’ve worked to build my own company called 3Degrees. Every day I try my best to serve our customers implement winning 3D Printing solutions through practical insights and material expertise. I’m motivated every day to learn something new to ensure that our customers find value in our partnership. 

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work?

Mike: I think the biggest challenge in our business, is managing the projected potential of 3D Printing with the technical reality. While there is certainly no shortage of great examples of 3D Printing, I tend to think the implementation of large scale solutions is still quite challenging.

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Design iterations of a 3D Printed infant helmet (Photo Credit: Mike Vasquez)

Jenny: What do you think is the biggest challenge in 3D Printing?

Mike: I always come back to materials. As more smart people get into the space and a growing generation of designers/engineers grow accustomed to working with 3D Printing I believe there will continue to be exciting breakthroughs. 

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

Mike: Be humble. It’s ok to have setbacks as long as you’re willing to put in the extra work to improve. 

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

Mike: A few years ago, we invested part of our companies profits into a new software venture to help with the challenge of documenting critical variables within the 3D Printing process. It has been very exciting to build something from scratch with end-users in mind.

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

Mike: Starting a company directly out of school. It has been 8 years and while the first few years were incredibly challenging I’ve grown in so many different ways professionally and personally. 

Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time?

Mike: I love being active. I try to work out at least 5 times a week and have been playing baseball in the summers for the last 25 years.  

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

Mike: Community of passionate folks interested in helping to push the industry forward. 

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