IndustryWeek celebrates Manufacturing Day by celebrating the industry’s workers, from the C-Suite to the shop floor.
Name: Brandon Sweeney
Job Title: head of R&D for materials and co-founder
Company: Essentium Inc.
Years with Company: 4
Industry of Your Company: Additive Manufacturing
Training/Education: Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, Texas A&M
What made you decide to pursue a career in manufacturing?
I've always been building stuff. Even before I was in kindergarten, my grandfather, who was an engineer, would babysit me and we would make steam engines on his lathe and mill in his basement. I was also totally fascinated by how things were made; I would take apart nearly anything I could get my hands on to see what was inside and how it all worked.
What does your job entail?
I am the head of research and development for materials, which means I oversee all new material development and the certification of those materials on our High Speed Extrusion 3D printing platform.
What is the most interesting part of your job? Your proudest moment?
I really enjoy seeing the final applications our printed parts are used for by our customers. It brings me great joy to see a customer shocked that we could produce a functional part in a tenth of the time for a tenth of the cost they would have spent making it with a traditional machining process.
What do you love about manufacturing?
I love inventing and creating new things that can change the world. One thing I've learned is that invention is only a small fraction of what's needed to bring a product to life. The real work of commercializing an invention starts when you have to invent hundreds of new processes required to fabricate parts, and assemble them into the final device.
What advice would you give to kids considering a job in manufacturing?
I have three pieces of advice: 1) take apart old electronics and appliances to see how they work (with adult supervision of course). 2) One of my favorite shows is How It's Made. When you watch the scale and complexity required to make something as simple as a toothpick, you really start to understand what manufacturing is all about. I think any kid who wants a job in manufacturing should watch as many of those episodes as possible. 3) Start learning about mechatronics and 3D printing. Manufacturing is only going to become more automated with robotics over time, most of the jobs that will open in these areas will be related to mechatronics. Learning 3D printing will teach you a threefold lesson here: a 3D printer is a mechatronic device so you will learn the basics of robotics, 3D printing will show you what a small scale manufacturing operation looks like, and 3D printing will play a huge part in the future of making parts for robotic assembly lines.