THE 2013-2014 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
How did you find the position?
Through an email sent out by a Penn Engineering professor.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
To have experience being a part of a start-up, to learn how to start a start-up, to apply some of the skills that I have been learning as an Engineering student, to expand my knowledge of 3D printing.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Find a startup that you are interested in being a part of and believe in. This worked well for me and made it a very enjoyable and educational summer.
3D printing is a manufacturing process that allows us to digitally produce very custom parts from extremely uniform material. This technology has always interested me as it allows things that were once difficult or impossible to manufacture easily possible. My interest in manufacturing technology like this led me to study Mechanical Engineering at Penn because I enjoy making and designing objects, products, and machines and I wanted to learn how to more effectively do so.
During my freshman year, I spent a lot of time in the machine shop learning to use the milling machines, lathes, 3D printers, and other manufacturing equipment. I set up an anodizing line to anodize aluminum parts that I made, and I learned how to use 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to design parts for manufacturability. With these abilities, I manufactured a heat-powered engine for a final class project.
When I heard about the opportunity to research 3D printing technology and potential business models with two Wharton MBA students, I was immediately interested as I could combine my interests in design and manufacturing with a third interest – entrepreneurship. This combination was something that was particularly difficult to find when looking for internships and I was thrilled when offered the opportunity to be a part of the project.
Over the course of the summer, I conducted technical research on the capabilities of 3D printing and possible applications in the industrial spare part market. I talked to industry specialists and machine manufacturers. I applied what I knew about design and manufacturing to communicate effectively with these people as well as describe what I learned to other members of the team.
To research 3D printing and rapid manufacturing, I compiled lists of printers, capabilities, materials, and other properties and analyzed it to determine costs and properties of printed parts. To compare different manufacturing methods to 3D printing, I created a CAD model of a broken part from the Yards Brewery in Philadelphia and sent the model to different custom manufacturers to produce using different methods. These methods included 3D printing from plastic and metal, casting, manual machining, and computerized machining. I also made the part in the engineering machine shop. This side by side comparison of manufacturing methods made the strengths and weaknesses of 3D printing apparent. The 3D printed parts were more expensive and didn’t have a very smooth surface but they were made without having to generate complicated tool paths or have a highly skilled operator. This means that a 3D printer could be located in a remote location to produce parts when needed without having a fully staffed and dedicated machine shop.
I enjoyed the day-to-day work in the office but my favorite part of the internship was the large outside-of-the-office component. I machined parts in the engineering machine shop and went on frequent trips with other team members to talk to people about possible applications of 3D printing. The first trip was to the RAPID conference in Pittsburgh, PA – one of the largest annual 3D printing conferences. It was a great way to learn about new technologies as well as learn many things that helped me with research throughout the summer. We also toured many local companies that use 3D printing to create usable parts. They showed us how they operated the printers and helped us to better understand current and future applications of the technology. The most exciting trip was when Grainger flew us to their headquarters in their private jet to talk about how 3D printing could be used to disrupt their distribution model.
I learned a lot about 3D printing technology and applications, but I also learned a lot about running and creating a startup. From evenings spent talking about and brainstorming business models to attending talks about legal issues, to learning about Porter’s Five Forces and talking to CTOs at large companies, I saw a large range of what is required to start a company. These experiences and what I learned would not have been possible through any class.
This summer internship was a rare experience and I feel honored to have been selected for it and that my skills were recognized. It was a great fit and allowed me to apply my skills to benefit an extraordinary startup. I look forward to continuing to learn about 3D printing and applying what I learned over the summer to future engineering and entrepreneurship ventures of my own. I am excited to see where this technology goes and hope to be a part of its path.